He beats the Germans, gets his girl

billanddelores1William Charles Johnson was born on Oct. 5, 1925. After he was graduated from Hadley Technical High School, 3405 Bell Ave., in May 1943, he became a sheet metal worker, building gliders for the Robertson Aircraft Corp. at Lambert Field. His parents, Charles and Dora Johnson, moved to 1318 Weleba Dr., just a couple houses away from the Herman family. The Hermans’ younger daughter, Delores, would become Bill’s sweetheart.

Bill was drafted, and reported to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. On Jan. 18, 1944, he left for Camp Fannin, Texas. After completing basic training and a short furlough in St. Louis, Bill reported to Camp Van Dorn, Miss., in early June 1944, for additional training. Two months later, he transferred to Camp Breckenridge, Ky. On Oct. 22, 1944, he left Kentucky for Camp Shanks, N.Y., then boarded the HMT Franconia, bound for Wales.

Bill was part of the Second Platoon of the 289th Infantry Regiment of the 75th Infantry Division.

The 75th played a critical role in several campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge. The 75th landed in Le Havre, France, in mid-December, just before the Germans began their surprise offensive; the infantrymen, youngsters who had never seen combat before, were rushed to the front on Dec. 23. They played a decisive role in stopping the German advance, and retaking Grandmenil in Belgium. The Bulge — or “Battle of the Ardennes” — effectively ended on Jan. 22, 1945, but the Germans would attempt another advance, known as the Colmar Pocket, threatening Strasbourg. The Germans were driven out of France on Feb. 8. The next assignment for Bill and the other infantrymen was to relieve the British along the Maas River, in the Netherlands. The 289th moved into Germany in March, and remained until early June.

Johnson was honorably discharged in November 1945, but reenlisted. He finally left the service, with the rank of corporal, in May 1947.

As soon as Bill left St. Louis for basic training, he began writing Delores almost on a daily basis. Most of his letters to her, numbering about 375 in 1944-45, were preserved. Most profess his love for Delores — the two agreed to marry in early 1944 — but they also offer a glimpse of life for a typical G.I. Bill writes about the tedium of Army training, his desire for the war to end, and his hopes for his yet-unborn children. His early letters reveal all the braggadocio and confidence of a young man, who sees the war as an unwelcome intrusion on his life.

As one reads the letters chronologically, it’s clear that 18-year-old Bill was forced to grow up quickly. He had no choice. As he writes Delores, in March 1944: “Just think — a year ago I was nothing but a happy care-free high school punk kid and now I’m a man.”

Those who knew Bill Johnson will recognize him in these youthful letters –- his sense of responsibility, his desire for a home and a large family, his ability to keep things in perspective, and his ever-present humor.

Here are excerpts from the letters.

TEXAS (Camp Fannin)

1/20/44 “Dear Fat … All that’s out here is sand, sand, sand and sand.”

1/21/44 “Dear Miss Herman … How’s the old man? Is he still going to join up? If he does he’s a bigger fool than I am. … Tell your darling cousin Tommy to stay home where he belongs if he doesn’t want to lose hope. Tell him to wait till he’s drafted and then to commit suicide.”

1/22/44 “Dear Delores … Are you still going to school — or are you getting the big head and working? You better not …”

1/23/44 “Dear Fat . . . Are you afraid of ruining your fingers by writing?”

1/24/44 “Dear Delores … Boy, I’m in the Army. It’s now 8 p.m. and I’ve got a million things to do before I go to bed. … I was really moving today; in fact, I haven’t hardly had time to breathe. We have been marching and learning all day. We have just learned something new at 8:30 in the evening now: I’ve got to do two million things to do before I can go to bed. … bill-johnson-with-buddies2Army regulations, my God! I’m plowed under with them. I’ve got to do something this way and then another way. It has to be perfect. I’m going crazy…. I’ve darned near finished the first day of my basic training. How time flies.”

1/24/44 “Dear Fat … This is getting terrible. I rush like a fool to mail call and then when I don’t get any letters I crawl sadly away to my hole.”

1/26/44 “Dear Delores … Whoever told you that you were a humorist? (The word humorist is found in the dictionary under the letter “h.”) Don’t think that you’re through writing because if I recollect right I seem to recall you owe me eight letters and one postcard. … On the whole it was an interesting [letter] but why in the world was it so short? Is there a shortage of paper in St. Louis?”

1/27/44 “Dear Delores … Tell your Dad these rifles pick up dirt like molasses picks up flies. That will make him feel that his advice was on the level.”

1/28/44 “Dear Delores … As an artist you’d make a good cook. Since you can’t cook you aren’t a very good artist.”

1/29/44 “Dear Delores … I guess the war won’t last long when I get overseas. I’ll really give them Japs he_ _ (fill in the missing blanks). … Say, when are we going to be engaged? I’m waiting for the engagement ring. I’m so excited. My! My!”

1/30/44 “Dear Delores … I expected to get to bed early tonight but here I am at 9:30 still sitting, writing, and talking. Mostly talking as you can probably see. I wish I was sitting in my father’s Ford with both arms around you squeezing the living daylights out of you. You old fat thing you. Man I miss you. … I wish I was home so I could start raising them 40 children I told you about one time. No, not two — but 40.”

1/31/44 “Dear Delores … We had physical training today for an hour. Man, am I getting in condition. I won’t take no more stuff from you when I get home, young lady. A week ago, I was a child; today, I am a wreck. … For the first time the sergeant got on my tail. He also told me to shave the fuzz off my chin. Imagine him telling me to shave. If he wasn’t so little I would beat his head in. Then we had a talk on gas. The Army is like a school. Only you can’t go to sleep in this school because if you do you might die for not listening when you get over there.”

2/1/44 “Dear Bill . . . No there’s no shortage on ink … just nothing to talk about. This town Ferguson is a very dull place, as you know. … Mom’s fine and so is dad. They’re still arguing and throwing things, we’re going to have to buy some new dishes soon. The only thing is she always manages to miss (darn it)…. Say babe, what do you mean when are we getting engaged. Are you asking me or telling? (Joke Joke). Say if I lose ten more pounds I won’t be nothing but bones…. P.S. Daddy said don’t work too hard cleaning those rifles. Oh yes, and Alice is a riveter. They call her Rosie.”

2/3/44 “Dear Delores … I found a new location to write my letters – it’s in the day room. I decided it wasn’t very romantic in the shower room as I can’t get the proper sentences in my letter in the middle of a bunch of guys in their birthday suits…. How’s the Herman chicken business doing? Does your father still sit in the chicken house and try to catch his hens laying? Is he getting any balder than me, that is?”

2/4/44 “Dear Mom and Pop [he meant Delores, he writes later] … You know what I was thinking of when I sent that letter with Delores Johnson on it don’t you. Well if you don’t your mind isn’t working right. Your darned right Delores Johnson sounds good but any name would sound good if it had Johnson on the end of it. Don’t you agree with me? If you think I was cute when I was three you ought to see me now…. I’ve been through two weeks of basic and it don’t feel like I’ve been here more than two million years.”

2/4/44 “Dear Babe … I’m writing again from the latrine…. I’ve learned something in the Army anyway. I’ve learned how to go to sleep anytime and anywhere as long as I’m sitting or laying down. I’m trying to perfect my standing technique. So far, I’ve only succeeded in making my nose flat only for the simple reason I can’t keep my balance when I go to sleep on my feet. But I’ll get it or you won’t recognize my face when I get home.”

2/6/44 “Dear Delores … Well babe, when are we going to get married? I really wish I was home in my own home with you as my wife. Cooking, washing dishes, and scrubbing floors and woodwork while I sit in the overstuffed chair reading the paper and smoking. It’s really a wonderful dream.”

2/6/44 “Dear Delores … We had gas drill today. I got a good sniff of one – boy, is that stuff terrible. It goes up your nose and down the throat and gags you. Then we had to take off our gas masks and go through some tear gas. Your eyes water and your face burns like somebody threw hot water on you.”

2/7/44 “Dear Delores … I went into Tyler Sunday afternoon and what do you think I saw? That’s right. Women and girls, big ones, little ones, fat ones, skinny and nice-looking ones, too. hotdogBoy, did they make me lonesome for you. After, of course, I stopped chasing them. Talk about Texas hospitality – yikes. I never seen any of it. All I saw was a bunch of civilians making a hell of a lot of money off us poorly paid soldiers. They talk about inflation they ought to see the prices they have down here. Well have you thought over my dream yet? I think of you and home every night I write letters home. Also I lay in bed and think of you.”

2/8/44 “Dear Delores… I’m over in the day room trying to write to you and listen to Red Skelton, too. Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard are singing The Daughter Of The Mademoiselle from Armentiers. I hope that you are listening, too. … I hope you’re feeling better by now. You have got to if you’re going to be my wife and help me raise that family. You know that word sounds good to me. How does husband sound to you? Do you still love me? Has your mother ever told you any facts about life yet? That’s all right — I don’t know anything either.”

2/9/44 “Dear Delores … We learned how an infantryman can knock out a 60-ton tank by himself. After learning, I’m glad I’m in the infantry instead of the tank corps. There’s a guy in the dayroom now who’s playing the piano. He just got through playing the St. Louis Blues and now he’s playing boogie woogie. Can he play? Wow! … The boys turned Kay Kyser off in favor of this guy.… P.S. Send me my engagement ring.”

[can’t read date] “Dear Baby … To people that asked me to write to them I’m kind of tired of writing. But I left yours till last because I love you so much. I’m now through with three weeks of training. campfannin1It seems longer than that. I’m only kidding. It’s been short because we have so much to do. What scares me is the fifteen weeks ahead. But they’ll be over pretty quick and then I’ll be home to you and my folks and will I be glad. I guess I’m just a homebody at heart. Man after this thing is over and if I come home I’m gonna buy me a nice home and never go any farther away from home than a hundred miles.”

2/14/44 “Dear Delores … I haven’t enough time to hardly breathe. I’m telling you baby we’re on the move out here. The most you can expect for this week is a half-page letter. I’ve got lots to tell but no time to tell it. I just wanted to let you know I am thinking of you even if I am practically worked to death.”

2/15/44 “Dear Delores … There’s a guy here who’s either punching my arm or jabbing me with a bayonet point. So I can’t write very well. … That guy is now tickling me, and now he was shaving my neck with the bayonet.”

2/16/44 “Dear Delores … When you get your picture taken wear that black dress and have your hair down. Don’t forget as these are orders from headquarters. … Well babe, are you losing any more weight or are you up to 121 again? If you are that’s all right — just so you don’t go over 121.”

2/18/44 “Dear Babe … I got your letter and I told the fellows your moron jokes and now they won’t talk to me anymore.… Babe, I’m really sorry about these short letters but there’s nothing I can do about it. Don’t blame me, blame the Army – for after all I only work here.”

2/18/44 “Dear Delores … I got your letter today. Some girls are always talking about men. Why don’t they come down here? There’s plenty of men here.”

2/19/44 “Dear Delores … The fellows are nagging me to go wash so I’ll guess I’ll have to cut this boring letter. I’m sorry baby, but I hope you understand. I miss you. When are we going to have the soft patter of little feet in our house?”

2/20/44 “Dear Honey … The fellows just told me that we would go over as soon as I finish my letter. We’re now discussing our scores in rifle shooting. I’m a sharpshooter. That’s next to the top. I could have made expert but my sights got mixed up…. Boy, they’re talking about their wives and what they acted like when their wives have kids. Some talk. I ain’t beating my gums, either. Say, when are we going to start raising a batch of Johnsons? The best I can settle for is 64 now.”

2/xx/44 “Dear Babe … I had a nice long day today and did I get a working over. I sometimes wonder if the Army is trying to make a man of me or if they’re trying to kill me. I guess it’s a half and half proposition. … I thought that I would like to come to Texas at one time but I’ve decided that Missouri is good enough for a Johnson. Also my son will be named Missouri not Texas as I said before. See there, I went again giving out with a tale of woe. I forget that I have to keep up the homefront’s morale, too.”

2/22/44 “Dear Babe … I don’t know if I’m losing any weight or not. I also do not even drink soda pop as it is too strong for my system. I’ve had one bottle of root beer since I’ve been down here. I had some more physical training today and boy was it tough…. One of the fellows just went after some ice cream. That’s all we eat is ice cream, ice cream, and more ice cream.”

2/23/44 “Dear Baby … I went on sick call today, but all they did was give me two pills and some cough medicine. Tonight I am in the guardhouse. No, not for anything I did wrong but because I am on guard tonight. I don’t go on till 3:30 in the morning and then I get off at 5:30. … Oh, I almost forgot we learned how to crawl and creep. Some stuff. We go moving around on our stomachs when they’re empty, which is worse. Baby, how do you like the job? Are you president of Biederman’s yet. If not, why aren’t you?”

2/26/44 “Dear Baby … They had us running around like mad men…. I have never been so tired for such a long time in all my life I don’t think. I haven’t got over 5 hours a night sleep in three nights so I am really in need of sleep. How’s the job? Are you an [scratched-out word] I don’t know how to spell the big word I want to use so I’ll just have to skip it. How’s the folks? I got a gig on my rifle butt today. It really made me mad as I haven’t had much time. I was on K.P. yesterday. We got up at 4:30 yesterday morning and I didn’t get to bed till about 12:00 and then I was so tired I couldn’t get to sleep till about 12:30. This was just another day. Well baby, only 12 more weeks to go. Man is time going by.”

2/27/44 “Dear Honey … Well baby, I went to town today. I wanted to get a good meal. There was three of us that went. Boy, they must have saw us coming for they cut us deep and let us bleed. It’s a lucky thing that we got out of town with our pants. But we did, lucky for us as they have a regulation that says no soldier will be permitted inside Camp Fannin unless he has his pants on. Silly regulation, I think, but that’s the Army for you. … campfanninBoy, I wish I had one of my mother’s dinners. Boy, could I wolf it down.”

2/27/44 “Dear Bill . . . I spent almost all of my money, but I bought some war stamps. Then my girlfriend from school came down after work and we went to the Statler Hotel and had dinner and took in a show. We seen ‘A Guy Named Joe.’ Gee, it was a wonderful picture. I cried all the way through. I used one side of the scarf and she used the other side. You ought to see it.”

2/28/44 “Dear Delores … You know this is a funny Army. They won’t even let me hang up a pin-up girl. I haven’t got any but still they won’t let us hang them up. You know I’ve only been to the show two times in six weeks. I don’t even see any of the good pictures. The only ones I see are the ones on how to kill a man in one easy lesson. Aren’t I the cruel one, though?”

2/29/ 44 “Dear Babe … Well here it is the end of February and here I sit in the dayroom in Camp Fannin, Texas. Who would have thought three months ago that I would be here? … Somebody said that the Army puts camps in places that God has forgotten about and I believe it, too. This morning it was so cold that we put on our woolen sweatshirts and then this afternoon we nearly sweated to death, it was so warm. … We had a party today too, but we call it payday. I never thought such a little amount of money could seem like such a big sum but it does. I see by the way you spend your money that you’ll never be a millionaire. My God, isn’t the Statler a little rich for your blood? I eat in a hamburger stand when I go to town. And you, you spendthrift, go to a big hotel like that. How do you expect to support me when we get hitched if you go around spending money like that? … Am I kidding? I guess I am. You have your fun, baby.”

3/1/44 “Dear Babe … We did some more shooting with our M1 rifles and also with 22s. It’s just like firing a toy when you fire a 22 after you have fired an M1.”

3/2/44 “Dear Baby … I’ll probably get a bawling out but this is going to be a short letter as the lights are going out and I can’t leave the barracks as the fellows are waiting to fill my bunk with newspapers, clothes, clothes hangars, canteens, shovels, cartridge belts, and shoes. We have been playing practical jokes all day. Man, the fiendish ideas we get – I scare myself with some of the things I do. My God, am I getting bad or am I getting bad? I shudder to think of the tricks we play such as putting Vicks cough drops and tobacco in guys’ canteens. We have just finished fixing a fellow’s bunk up. We put two shovels, newspapers, and a bayonet under the covers. Three coat hangars and a cartridge belt were put inside of his pillow slip. Then his pants, shoes, and helmet went in his barracks bag. I think he will have a very nice night sleep after he gets back from seeing his wife. Man, if we didn’t do these lousy things and shoot the bull, I guess we would go nuts thinking of home. And because we do it kinda takes our minds off of our loved ones. We got to keep on the go even when we haven’t anything to do so we won’t start thinking. That’s why most guys go AWOL because they sit in a corner and think. … Man, honey, I really would like to see you, even if you are still fat as a butterball.”

3/4/44 “Dear Baby…I have now completed my sixth week of basic. Just think honey, only eleven more weeks to go and I’ll be home. Man, I really messed myself up today. I got gigged on my rifle so they restricted me to the company area. I can’t go to the day room, P.X., or even the gym. Boy, am I mad. I suppose you know that I was supposed to call home tomorrow; well I can’t even do that. We had to put cartridges in machine gun belts tonight and all day tomorrow. … So Biederman’s is a nice place to work, huh! Well listen, sister – some more advice – you stay out of those defense plants as I don’t want you to grow any muscles. I guess we fire the machine guns next week. Man, am I getting disgusted with guns. I hate them. I detest them. In fact, I don’t even like them.”

3/5/44 “Dear Baby … I haven’t got to go anywhere all day except to put machine gun bullets in belts. I want to write you a nice long letter but, gee honey, I can’t think of a darn thing to say.”

3/6/44 “Dear Baby … I don’t know why I’m calling you ‘dear baby’ because I’m mad. Do you know that you are tearing down my morale something terrible? I have got only one letter from you since last Wednesday.”

3/7/44 “Dear Baby … Well I might as well start of this gab-line with an apology. I wrote you a letter last night and I told you that I hadn’t got any letters. But today I got three of them from you. My morale went up 100 percent. … I was listening to Red Skelton and was he funny tonight. I darn near split my sides. He went off the air right before I started writing to you.”

3/8/44 “Dear Baby … I work harder getting out of work than I would if I did it. I’m really getting lazy. The Army is making a man out of me in spite of it, though. You know that I have been in the Army nine weeks today, long time, huh? You aren’t kidding. It isn’t so terrible bad, but there isn’t anyplace like home.”

3/9/44 “Dear Delores … If this letter seems dopey I apologize as Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are on the radio.abbottandcostello I’m trying to write but I’m doing more listening than writing. Say, is there a new song in St. Louis by the name of ‘Take it Easy’? Some gal is singing it on the radio. It’s pretty good. … Ask your Dad if they used the Springfield rifle when he was in the Army. If so, tell him I fired one the other day. They use them for firing anti-tank grenades. Man, if you put that Springfield beside our M1s they really look antiquated. … P.S. Is my Pop still on his Good Behavior?”

3/10/44 “Dear Baby … We started our specialized training today and I believe that it is going to be tough. But that’s not unusual, as it seems everything in the Army is tough, as you probably know by the way I gripe.”

3/12/44 “Dear Baby … Just think honey, seven weeks I am through with already only 10 more to go and then and then. Well I leave it to your imagination. I got two letters from you yesterday. Say, what dress are you going to wear on that date we’re going on?”

3/13/44 “Dear Honey … I got your picture. It is beautiful, ravishing, glamorous, remarkable — in fact, I like it. Say honey, as long as I’ve got you I ain’t going to have any pin-up girl but you. delores-herman-19441 … We went to the show and saw Red Skelton in town. The picture was ‘I Dood It.’ I really laughed. One of the bunch who has his wife in town invited us over for supper. So right after the show we went over. We had cold chicken, potato salad, hot biscuits, pumpkin pie, buns, and all the coffee we could drink. It was really good. I haven’t enjoyed anything so much since the last Sunday I was home. We didn’t feel like going back to camp after that. The fellow’s wife is really nice. I told him that’s why I wanted to get married.”back-of-delores-1944

3/14/44 “Dear Honey … I went to town right after chow tonight to get a frame for your picture. I really got a nice-looking one. It is plastic. With your picture in it, it really looks nice. Of course, you can’t make out your face so well because Paulette Goddard’s picture was in the frame and I just slid yours behind it. No I didn’t, honey — she doesn’t interest me in the least. … I think that it is spring here in Texas as all the people in town are planting their victory gardens. … I’ll close as I really had a tough day. I dug ditches and made roads and loaded and unloaded trucks filled with dirt. Of course, some of the fellows helped.”

3/15/44 “Dear Honey … Man, am I tired. I did some more shoveling today. Tell your dad that there will be no farming for this G.I. Joe as I have had all the association with the soil that I want. I hate dirt.”

3/16/44 “Hi Fatstuff, butterball, and etc. … I am really in a mood tonight.”

3/19/44 “Dear Honey Bee … Lindall and I left camp this morning about 11:45. We arrived at our objective about 12:30 and prepared to equip ourselves for a wonderful dinner…. We had fried chicken, corn, boiled potatoes, chicken gravy, raisin bread, coffee, and lemon pie. Boy can Jinneman’s wife cook! … After consuming every bit of what was on the table — including part of the tablecloth, we volunteered for K.P. duty. It was a pleasure for a change. She had Lux chips so I wouldn’t get dishwater hands. We made short work of the dishes then staggered into the front room and fell into an easy chair and did some good old fashioned relaxing. I sprawled out like a wet carpet. In fact worse than a wet carpet even. Yet I kept this position while we talked and I also caught up on the funnies. (By the way I see Dick Tracy has finally got Flattopflattop2 — well it’s a good thing.) But back to my relaxing we did absolutely nothing for the next three hours. Finally we decided to leave. They wouldn’t let us — they insisted we stay for supper. Of course, I refused, but Lindall was standing beside me with his mouth watering, so I gave in. We had a steak , buttered toast, tomatoes, salad, coffee, and cake. … I think I gained about 10 lbs. We relaxed till about 7:30 when we left. What a day. … P.S. You had better learn how to cook as us fighting men need food.”

3/20/44 “Dear Babe … I’m going to start rolling my own cigarettes next week. … I went to the show tonight and do you know what I saw of course you don’t. So therefore I will tell you. I saw Rita Hayworth in ‘Cover Girl’ with Rita Hayworth. I liked Rita Hayworth . … What a face, what a figure, what leghorns they raise in Texas. I’ll bet you don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow. Well I do and it’s going to be K.P., darn it. Ah hates K.P.In fact, ah detests it.”

3/21/44 “Dear Babe … Well honey, here I am the great Bill (K.P.) Johnson. Yessir, Honey, I’m the best dishwasher in Uncle Sam’s Army. Isn’t that something, now? Aren’t you glad that you’re my gal?”

3/23/44 “Dear Babe … I see by your letter that your darling cousin has joined the Marines. All I have to say now is, to wit, ‘He’ll be sorry.’ I wish I was home: I would tell him a few things about the darker side of military life. If he’s the adventurous type he better stick to playing pinball machines. As I wish I was doing now.”

3/23/44 “Dear Babe … Man, it was really nice down here today. I had a bad case of spring fever. All I wanted to do was sleep.”

3/25/44 “Dear Babe … After supper we decided to go the show. I was forced against my better judgment to accompany Lindall and Haack.”

3/26/44 “Dear Babe … I had a lot of fun today and I didn’t have to go to town to have it. We practically tore the barracks down. We darn near drowned Haack with the fire extinguisher. Man, is he a trusting soul. I’ve over in the dayroom with Haack and Janes, and I’m trying to write while they’re reading.”

3/27/44 “Dear Babe … Well here it is Monday and no mail from you. Only a box of fudge. I haven’t opened it yet. But just give me time. … I have just come back from the show and was it good. They dannykaye1had Danny Kaye in the picture ‘Up in Arms.’ I haven’t seen a picture like that for a heck of a long time. If you want to get a good laugh you better go see it. This guy is the nuttiest guy I have ever seen. He’s really good. No, this is not a commercial and I am not getting paid for it. … Also you did the right thing when you told your uncle off. If I had been there I would have added a few statements of my own to your speech. If he thinks he’s going to make a drinker out of my gal he’s plainly full of you know what. That really made me mad when I read your letter.”

3/28/44 “Dear Babe … There is a really cute little babe running around flirting with me right out in the open. I guess I haven’t lost any of my charm. Of course she’s only about two years old but it makes no difference. … Fibber Magee and Molly are on the radio. They are pretty good as radio programs go. I ate your fudge today. I mean we ate your fudge. It was a little sugary but it was really good. It only lasted about five minutes. So you can imagine how we liked it. See how easy it is to cook now? You can boil water, make coffee, and make fudge. Gee you’re really catching on fast. Before you know it you’ll be able to bake biscuits.”

3/29/44 “Dear Babe … I fired the loveliest little gun ever made today. Yes, I’m in love with a carbine. It’s a very small rifle, but is it a honey. I wish I had one of them to carry instead of my M1. … P.S. Don’t get jealous because I’m in love with that rifle. It may be only a passing fancy.”

4/1/44 “Dear Babe … I would rather have a letter written with your own little hand than a typewritten letter. … I could have dug 50 victory gardens with all the shoveling I did today.”

4/2/44 “Dear Babe … I didn’t do anything but go to the show today. I saw ‘Buffalo Bill.’ It was a fair picture but not what I had expected. Not enough killing for your bloodthirsty boyfriend. Terrible aren’t I since I been a G.I. Joe? Remember before I went away you said you hoped I wouldn’t change. Well baby, you might just as well put that idea out of that brain of yours. Man, have I changed. I’m simply awful — you probably won’t even want to talk to me when I get home. I’m really surprised. I used to be a softspoken, modest, shy boy — and now I’m a big mouth, proud big man. Or, if you wish, little man. Now you see what the Army is doing to me. I just heard Jack Benny on the radio and now I’m listening to the ‘Band Wagon’ with Kate Smith and Jack Miller.”

4/3/44 “Dear Babe … Well honey, I am now a foxhole digger. Yes, you may now call me Bill ‘Fox Hole’ Johnson. I was sure I wouldn’t get any pick and shovel work but what you know they had a different idea. So I dug and dug all day long. … So, the youngster Tommy is a full-fledged Marine. He has my most heartfelt sympathy.”

4/4/44 “Dear Delores … My eyes must be going bad on me. I keep reading about soldiers in your recent letters. What’s this about you having dogfaces out to dinner Sunday? Tell me please what this means before I burn up with rage. Explain these queer happenings to me. After all I’m only a G.I. Where are these men from? … I don’t know if you realize that us Johnsons are a jealous lot — speaking for myself, of course. … We were fooling around with activated mines today. We really had to be on the ball as they had a half stick of dynamite attached to them. They had trip wires on them. … I’ve been listening to Fibber Magee and Molly, Bob Hope, and now Red Skelton. redskeltonPretty good tonight, from what I can get.”

4/5/44 “Dear Babe … I had a lot of fun tonight. We had an old fashioned clay ball fight. Luckily I didn’t get hit. I hit one guy in the nose with one. You should have seen him retreat. Just like a bunch of kids. I haven’t had such fun in a long time.”

4/6/44 “Dear Babe … Well honey, I hope you aren’t too mad at me for that letter I wrote. How are you at this time? … I just came back from the show. Really saw a good picture (‘Four Jills in a Jeep’). It was a musical and I enjoyed it a lot. … Just think, a year ago I was nothing but a happy carefree high school punk kid and now I’m a man. I’m a ‘Pioneer.’ ”

4/7/44 “Dear Babe … You ought to be with me tonight, honey. I’m really in a peaceful mood. I feel like I could write a poem if I knew how. … Imagine a homely guy like me writing a poem. … I have a bad case of spring fever. In fact, I’ve had it all day. They say that in the spring a young man’s fancy turns to love. And I’ll be darned if that’s not so. To show you how bad off I am, I’m now listening to ‘Waltz Time.’ … I’m so under the spell of it that I’ll probably ask you to dance if you were here.”

4/8/44 “Dear Honey … I’m off to town tomorrow to have an Easter dinner at Jinneman’s house. We’re supposed to be there at eight o’clock in the morning. So I guess we’ll have breakfast, too. Goodie goodie. … Now don’t faint when you read this. Believe it or not, I, William Charles John Johnson Esquire, am going to attend Mass tomorrow morning. I’ll admit it’s quite a shock so you better read this slowly or I know you will faint. I have made up my mind only after long hours of deliberation and finally decided I better attend. Just remember if the church falls in on me it’s partly your fault. Now are you satisfied? … Do you realize, Miss Herman, that you are giving orders to a man who is 18-and-a-half years old. Over 18-and-a-half, I should say. Since the 5th I have been that old.”

4/9/44 “Dear Babe … I didn’t write to you last night. I could tell you I didn’t have time as I was on guard duty. But I won’t. I’ll tell you the truth. I played poker. Yes, I’m a bad boy…. I lost the grand total of 20 cents. … Well baby, you can stop adding that postscript on your letter, to wit: ‘Go to church.’ I have read that same P.S. for 11 weeks. Now you can leave it out because, believe it or not, I went to church yesterday. I really did. I went in and had breakfast at Jinneman’s and after breakfast I went to eleven o’clock mass. Now you should really love me.”

4/11/44 “Dear Butterball … I really wish I could hold you close and kiss the living daylights out of you. Gosh honey, I really love you.”

4/12/44 “Dear Baby, Yes. Yes, a million times yes: I went to church. … I’m going to have to break some very bad habits that I have accumulated when I get to be a civilian again such as mapping, sweeping, dusting, making beds, washing dishes, policing up around the house, and so on into the night. I imagine that it won’t take much willpower to break these nasty habits. … So your aunt is really going to get that divorce. You have my solemn promise that nothing like that will happen to us. That is if you faithfully obey all my commands.”

4/13/44 “Dear Honey. … Here I am: ‘K.P.’ Johnson again.”

4/14/44 “Dear Babe, ‘K.P.’ Johnson reporting. Yes I’m ‘K.P.’ Johnson again or was all day. We had to get up at 4:00 this morning. We got off at 7:00 so I had a pretty good day. Say, what’s good for dishwater hands?”

4/15/44 “Man, I am really popular. Janes is on my bunk, Johnson is over me, and Jones is right across from me. They’re shooting the bull, as usual. I can’t concentrate at all. Well, I have moved over to that romantical place, the latrine.”

4/16/44 “I think I have developed another case of spring fever as I am so droopy and tired I don’t feel like doing a darn thing. I hate to get this way because then I do too much thinking. … You know, I don’t think I have told you this, but if I hadn’t left for the Army when I did I think your name would be Johnson by now. Don’t worry though, as it still will be changed sometime in the future. … I’m off to the show. … Well, here I am back from the show. It’s about 9:45. I saw ‘Tampico’ it was pretty good. I got over my homesickness partly.”

4/17/44 “Dear Baby, Yes, I’m over my spring fever again. … I was snapped out of it tonight after chow. We had a little game which we call breaking somebody else’s neck. Better known as wrestling. I took a leading part as you know how much I like to wrestle or have you forgotten? … Well I have been racking my brains for a suitable name for your bowling team. Here are some of the numerous ones I have thought up. I hope you like them although I know before I write them that you won’t. Here goes: 1. Four Hags and a Bag (meaning you) or else 2. Fifty Pins or Bust 3. The Dopey Fivesome. 4 Barrelhouse Bessies. Isn’t that last one cute? Let me know if you select one of these appropriate titles for your team.”

4/18/44 “You don’t need to know how to dance to have fun with me. You know this, though, as we had pretty much fun and we didn’t have to dance to do it. Didn’t we? You’d have to get a gigolo if you want to dance. But then I’d break your neck so it wouldn’t do you much good. … I’m going to let you in on another little secret. I, Pvt. William Johnson, when I am promoted to a civilian will not do any scrubbing, dishwashing, etc. for anybody. No, not even you.”

4/19/44 “Dear Delores … As I have told you in preceding letters, I am going on bivouac a week from Monday. The date will be May 1st. When I get out there I will be cut off from civilization for two whole weeks or till the 13th of May. We’ll be sleeping on the cold, cold ground when we get the chance.”

4/20/44 “Dear Honey, Well today is the twentieth. One more month from today and I’ll be through with my basic training. Yippee.”

4/21/44 “I got one of your letters today. Almost fainted. It was pretty long for you.”

4/23/44 “I went to the show last night. Saw ‘The More the Merrier’ with Jean Arthur. I really enjoyed it. I kept thinking of you when Joel McRea and Jean Arthur were loving it up. Boy, it really got me excited.”

4/24/44 “Dear Honey, No. No. I can’t get in any other branch of the service unless a miracle happens. I will try to explain in detail why I can’t. … I’m in a pretty good outfit myself. You might have heard of it sometime. It’s called the infantry. Now I know this word brings to mind a picture of a dogface plodding through mud, loaded down like a packhorse. But most people don’t realize that it is this same plodding dogface who wins a war. Yes, the Air Corps is a glamorous outfit and good, too. But I still like the Pioneers. … I like the Pioneers because it’s all open work that requires both strength and brains. It’s hard honest work. … I went to the show tonight and saw Mickey Rooney in ‘Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble.’ andyhardyDarn good picture. I really enjoyed it. … What’s this about you a girl of sixteen having nerve trouble. Gee, I can’t seem to realize that you’re only sixteen. I keep thinking that you’re older than that.”

4/25/44 “Dear Baby … By the way, when am I going to get that picture of you in a bathing suit? Woo! Woo! Okay, I’ll compromise — make it shorts. How about a dress then? Perhaps in a pair of slacks? Okay. Okay. Send me a picture of you in your flannel nightgown. … Oh so you didn’t go to church Sunday, huh. Well, well. Aren’t you the one who wrote me in every letter that I should go to church? I thought so. You don’t even practice what you preach. You, you heathen, you. Fine stuff is all I’ve got say. I can’t imagine what is worse than missing church on a Sunday. Shame on you, Miss Herman. You ought to hide your head. Don’t hide it so good though that I won’t be able to find it when I get home. … P.S. Please Honey Go to Church for me. Ha Ha. How do you like it for a change?”

4/27/44 “When I say I had to shave I mean just that. … They’re really getting tough, my whiskers I mean. See, I used to call them fuzz, but now I have to call them whiskers.”

4/29/44 “Dear Babe I’m still a little groggy from receiving that twelve-page letter from you. You sweet darling little bundle of charm and joy.”

4/30/44 “Dear Babe. I’m all ready for bivouac. My equipment is all ready and I’m raring to go. Well I have to go anyway so I might as well say I’m happy to go. … As you know Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May. So far, so good. I want you to get my mother something nice for me. Make it something that she needs. You being a girl would naturally know more about what to get her than I would. … Of course I realize you were joking when you said our kids would take after you. You know better to say it seriously as they could be no better if they took after me.”

5/2/44 “Dear Mom, Pop and last but not least Delores … We got out to the bivouac area yesterday morning about 8:00. We pitched our tents, made our beds, and dug our prone shelters. This took till dinner time. After dinner we went some tactics for about 4 hours. This was pretty interesting work. After this we simulated an attack against an enemy position under heavy artillery fire. The shells landed about 300 yards to our front. This was interesting too, but it took up a lot of energy. We ate chow then and by the time we had eaten it was dark. We got paid next. I got one letter from you Mom but I couldn’t read it till this morning as it was so dark I couldn’t see. I got to bed about 8:00 last night and soon afterwards it began to rain. About 10:30 I was awakened by a severe rainstorm. I never saw or heard such a thing as that. I mean it was really terrible. It rained all night. The ditch on my side of the tent wasn’t deep enough so water came into the tent and got my blankets and myself as wet as hell. I can truthfully say that I have never spent a more uncomfortable night in my life. It’s a night I’ll never forget.”

5/3/44 “Dear Mom, Pop & Delores … I told you yesterday about the 12-mile hike we had to make last night. It was really a doozer. … We walked the 12 miles in a little over 4 hours. … At 1:00 I went on guard. This guard duty is terrible. You got to walk through these goddarn woods for about a half mile and then back. I got off guard at 2:00. By that time I was so tired I couldn’t see. That pup tent of ours looked like a palace to me and that hard bed felt like the finest innerspring bed ever built. I can truthfully say though that I could have just as easy slept on a picket fence — that’s how tired I was.”

5/6/44 “Dear Everybody … Here I is, again. I haven’t written to anyone since Thursday as I have really been on the move. … We went through three ranges and they were pretty interesting. The first one was where he had to clear the Germans out of a village. … Next we went through an infiltration course. … Next we went through a make-believe jungle where we shot at targets that would pop up in front of us. … This afternoon we didn’t do much except have a little sham battle. We split up and fought. Of course, we used blanks, which is lucky for most of us.”

5/7/44 “Dear Babe, Well honey, you are probably surprised to be getting a separate letter from me. … I guess it ought to be getting nice in St. Louis by now, too, ain’t it? Has the Forest Park Highlands opened yet or am I ahead of myself? Have any of the swimming pools opened yet?”

5/13/44 “Dear Babe, Well honey my dream has come true. I’m back in my beautiful barracks and, boy, am I glad. I never thought I’d be so glad to see these barracks. They’re wonderful, exciting, beautiful — in fact, I’ll go so far as to say they’re out of this world. I’m writing under an electric light – the first electric light I’ve seen in two weeks.”

5/14/44 “Dear Baby, Well honey, here’s hoping this finds you fat and sassy. I don’t know if you’re fat or not, but you’re sure getting sassy from the sound of your letters. … I’m having a pretty hard time writing this letter as I’m listening to the story ‘Heaven Can Wait.’ I think this is about the third or fourth time I’ve heard it. … eddiecantorWent to the show tonight saw a darn good picture, ‘Show Business’ with Eddie Cantor. I really enjoyed it.”

5/15/44 “Dear Babe … Are the girls in town wearing shorts yet? By the word girls I’m referring mostly to you.”

5/18/44 “Dear Mom and Pop, You too, Babe, I was one of fourteen men that were picked to run an endurance test. Out of one hundred men they picked fourteen and believe it or not I was one of them. I can’t say I was very happy to be chosen as I had heard fantastic tales about this endurance test. Well, we went out Wednesday afternoon at 1:00. I’ll remember that day and hour for a long time. We started off by doing a creeping, crawling, and jumping test. That was 10 yards long. I had enough then but do you think they would let me go back to the barracks so I could die in pieces. Heck no. They next wanted to know how many push-ups I could do. … Well now, it can be told. I might get my furlough next week. As you know my basic is almost over and after Saturday I’m a full-fledged Pioneer. So sometime next week I’ll probably get my shipping orders. … P.S. I was the only one out of my special gang who was picked for the endurance test. So now they’re all calling me ‘Endurance’ Johnson.”

5/21/44 “Dear Babe … I’m waiting rather impatiently to get my shipping orders. … I went bowling today for the first time in five months. Honey, I take back all I ever said about your bowling. In fact when I get home I guess you’ll have to teach me how to bowl instead of me teaching you.”


6/7/44 “Dear Babe, Now in Jackson, Miss. Still like St. Louis the best. It’s really warm down here. I’m waiting for another train which will take me to Vicksburg. Boy, baby, I sure do miss you. Ah! Well such is life. Say hello to the folks. Bye now, Yours Bill.”

6/8/44 “Dear Babe, Well honey, I finally arrived at Camp Van Dorn, Miss., and the only thing that keeps me from going over the hill is the consequences. I mean this is the hellhole of all Army camps. I sorta wish they would have sent me overseas. I don’t think it could be much worse over there. We got tarpaper barracks, lousy eats, and the officers are no good at all. campvandornI guess you think I’m exaggerating – well, I ain’t. … I was mad at myself for not marrying you, but now I’m glad that I didn’t. The only time off I get is Saturday afternoons and Sundays unless I’m on duty. … The closest town is Centerville, which has a population of about 1,000. The next closest is about 40 miles away.”

6/9/44 “Dear Babe, Well, as you can plainly see I am right on the ball. I have been here two days and this is my second letter. See how much I think of you honey: You know that petting ration card I’ve got? Well, I’ve decided not to use it after all. I’m going to wait till I get back to you and then I’m going to use the whole card on you. That is if you will punch it for me. … Remember the following because it’s a promise: If I get stationed (when I don’t know, maybe never) at a good camp I’m going to send for you and make you my wife. Now ain’t that an honor to look forward to? I think so, too.”

6/11/44 “Dear Babe … I can now sit for hours and gripe about anything and everything. That’s about all there is to do. In fact, baby, I’m beginning to gripe even in my sleep. That’s no lie either, because that’s what Hall told me. He said I cussed all last night while sleeping. I guess I shouldn’t tell you that as I should have you find out for yourself. See what they’re doing to me? I used to cuss good old Camp Fannin only in the daytime, but I cuss this place both day and night.”

6/13/44 “Dear Babe …Darn these chigger bites. Yes honey, I have chigger bites — and how. I’m losing my stomach already and I haven’t been here a week yet. … I wonder if you got your job yet. Always thinking of work, aren’t I. I’ll tell you why. You know and I know that we’re going to get married right. Okay. Then we have to start looking ahead. The first thing you need when you get married is money, right? Alright I can save $18.75 a month. That’s not much, is it? So that’s where you come in. You’ve got to start a nest egg till I get home and get a job. Do you think you can handle that part of the job? I used to pride myself in saying if I had a wife she wouldn’t do any work. I know I’m asking my future wife to work so she can pay for our marriage. Aw hell, I’m getting disgusted with myself more and more everyday. Forget what I said. Well wait till I get home.”

6/15/44 “Dear Babe … Honey, you always try to get in the last word in our arguments. This time I’m going to let you have it this time though instead of arguing with you. I wish I had married you too when I was home.”

[undated] “Dear Babe, Here I am again in Natchez. Seems like I can’t stay away from this place, doesn’t it? Well I can, but I don’t want to. This place can’t be too bad — compared to camp it’s heaven. … I’m still unassigned so I may get shipped anytime. If I get assigned, honey. I know darn well that I’m going to send for you. I really miss you. … Is your mother still going to Tennessee to see your kinfolks?”

6/17/44 “Dear Baby… So you tried to get a job at Katz’s drug store. I thought you were going to get a good job that paid lots of money. What happened to that defense job you wanted? Don’t tell me you changed your mind already. I guess your just fickle minded. … I hope you have a good time when you go to the Highlands. You better not ride on the Comet though as you wouldn’t go on the Mountain ride with me when I took you to West Lake. … How’s your dad and mother? Is she still throwing that biscuit around? She could use that on your dad and save the dishes. Don’t tell your dad that I gave her this idea, though as it would probably lead to bloodshed. My blood.”

6/19/44 “Dear Babe… I got your letter and I’m glad to see that you realize how lucky you are. I could have told you that long ago. In fact I did, but would you believe it. Oh no. Not you. You wait till I’m 800 miles away from you and then you tell me.”

6/20/44 “Dear Babe … Looks like we’re going to have to call off our plans for about 30 days. I thought I was going to be shipped Friday but they told us we won’t be shipped for 30 days. Probably not even then either. If I don’t have the luck nobody does. You know honey, I’m going to keep thinking until I hit on a plan where we can get married and I can have you near me. Yes I will. Just give me time, that’s all. I oughta hit on something pretty soon as I’m always thinking about it. This war has really messed up a lot of people’s lives, including mine.”

6/22/44 “Dear Babe… I’m glad to hear that your cousin Tommy is coming home. I guess your Aunt Effie is happy to hear that.”

6/29/44 “Dear Babe … This stuff of getting to bed at 11:00 and 11:30 and then getting up at 4:30 in the morning doesn’t agree with me. I guess I’m just plain lazy or maybe I just like my sleep. … This is a funny time to be asking this question but what do your mother and dad think of you wanting to marry me? Have you told them yet? You’d better find out as I don’t want to have any trouble with your folks. Let me know. I don’t think they should object except for maybe you being too young.”

7/1/44 “Dear Babe … I am thinking of changing my name to ‘Chigger bait.’ I think that I have all the chiggers in Mississippi. I got them Thursday morning when I went to sleep in those tall bushes and weeds. chiggers… To think that they advertise for people to spend their vacations in the South. After a vacation down here you have to recuperate for a year in the North.”

7/2/44 “Dear Babe . . . I went to town today. I didn’t have a bad time, but all we did was shoot pool. I bought you a pillow case for your hope chest. I sent it off right away so you should get it sometime this week. That reminds me of something. You had better quit calling that chest a hopeless chest. You don’t think much of my promises from the sound of that.”

7/3/44 “Dearest Beloved … Your letters really brought my morale up. I guess I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world to have you love me like you do. … I love you, I love you, I love you, etc.”

7/4/44 “Dearest Babe … Notice that heading, don’t you? Well, I thought I better change my usual heading. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. Just naturally dumb, I guess. … Well today, to civilians, was the 4th of July. But to us soldiers it was just another day — only maybe a little tougher than an ordinary day.”

7/6/44 “Dearest Babe … I’ve got blisters on both feet and I’m so stiff I can’t hardly walk. I’m really in a hell of a shape.”

7/7/44 “Dearest Babe … I sure miss you babe. I’m so nuts about you that you’re all I can think of. If I see a girl or a woman I start thinking of you so much. I’m getting to the point where I’ll be reading love stories next. I keep seeing a little house with a white picket fence around it. There in the doorway you stand waiting for me to come home. If there was only some way I could end this war. I guess it would be like trying to put the ocean in a one-inch hole with a teaspoon. There’s nothing I can do and that really makes me mad. One thing is sure though and that is I’ll have a lot of hair-raising tales to tell our children. That’s no lie, either. … We are crazy in love. In fact, we’re nutty in love. Just think when there was peace people could do as they pleased. Now you have to think everything out very carefully. Then the Army changes your careful plans in about two minutes flat. I could pull my hair out at time, I get so mad.”

7/9/44 “Dearest Babe … Well my little girl will be sweet seventeen in two days. See I didn’t forget your birthday although you’ll probably think so. Honey I’ve looked all over for something to get you. But I couldn’t find anything so I’m going to send you some money. Then you can get what you need or want the most.”

7/10/44 “Dearest Babe … Honey, you can’t understand how low I get when I don’t get a letter from you everyday.”

7/12/44 “Dearest Babe … I committed a sacrilege last night. Instead of writing you a nice long letter on your birthday I went to the show.pevely2 I don’t know why but I just wanted to see a picture. I thought of you all day long and I even thought of you when I was seeing Mary Martin sing ‘Tra La La Boom De Ay.’ Man, I must really love you. Maybe I thought of you because of her legs. … I’m glad to hear that you finally got the job. I’m also glad to hear that you like it. It ought to be pretty good working for Pevely although I don’t think I would like it because as you know I’m a sheet metal man at heart. Be careful and don’t drink too much milk or you’ll get fat.”

7/13/44 “My Dear Miss Herman … In answer to your letters, which I haven’t been getting, I can say only one thing. I’m mad. … Well honey, I blew my top tonight and got a G.I. haircut. It’s about a half-inch long on the top. I really look snazzy. Like a sheared dog. It will grow back out in 5 or 6 months, though — so I won’t worry.”

7/16/44 “Dearest Honey … Well here it is my humble letter of apology. I hope you didn’t get the last letter I wrote. I got six letters from you Friday night. I was so darn glad to hear from you, honey. I guess it was the Post Office’s fault.”

7/20/44 “Dearest Babe … Well honey, I guess I’ll be getting a bawling out from you for me not writing sooner. I haven’t written a letter since Sunday. I’ve been wanting to write every night but I have been firing my rifle almost every day so it has to be cleaned. This is what really has taken time. I wish I could tell you what I would like to do with that rifle.”

7/23/44 “Dearest Babe … The past week has really been the toughest week I’ve had since I got into the Army. … I’m really disgusted with this camp. I know that there isn’t any soldier alive who is more disgusted than me. I am not alone though because the fellows that are left from our bunch feel the same way. … It’s not that I ain’t a good soldier. It’s just that this division and the camp isn’t worth a damn. I honestly think that they couldn’t take an old ladies’ home away from two old maids. They say we’re supposed to go overseas in December. That is really a laugh. If they send the 63rd Division over there things will be pretty bad indeed. I guess I should have some pride in my outfit but try as I might I can’t find anything about it to be proud of. … I came darn near joining the paratroops last week. I still might do it yet. I don’t think it’s such a tough outfit as it’s cracked up to be. I tried to sign up for officer candidate training this morning but since they were all out of applications I’ll have to wait till Wednesday.”

7/27/44 “Dearest Baby … This Army is really getting me down. I’m a-telling you: I ain’t getting time to breathe.”

7/29/44 “Dearest Babe … I must admit that I’ve taken a more cheerful attitude since I found out for sure that I wouldn’t be shipping for six months. It used to be when I heard a hot rumor I would pass it on and build up my morale. But now when someone tells me one I just laugh and start singing ‘We’ll Be Here for Christmas.’ That’s my favorite theme song now. It kind of fits the subject don’t you think? … Say honey, have you heard I’m now a millionaire? My mom wrote and told me I had $375 dollars in war bonds. I really am rich, aren’t I? warbonds1I’ll be bribing myself out of the Army before long with all that money. If I was to cash them in right now I’d have the grand total of $280.75 cash.”

7/30/44 “Dearest Beloved … Honey I wish there was some way I could end the damn war. It’s really getting me down. I thought they drafted me to fight for my country. But they seem to think I am only able to train. I ain’t saying that I’m the best man in the world, but I know I’m as good or better than 75 percent of the men in this Army. They tell us we’re too young to fight. If that’s the case I can’t see why we were drafted and why we have to take all this training. If they think they’re teaching me anything down here they’re crazy as heck.”

8/4/44 “Dearest … I’ve been on the ball as usual. I sure wish they’d get these bivouac ideas out of their head as they mess up my letter writing.”

8/6/44 “Dearest … I stopped writing right here about 3 hours ago and started reading a book. The name of it was ‘Christmas Holiday.’ I think you wrote and told me about seeing the picture, didn’t you? The book was a lot more sexy than the picture. Although it wasn’t a dirty book there are places in it I admit that are pretty dirty. I guess you’re blushing now, my little naïve stuff.”

8/8/44 “Dearest … So my little doll is a member in good standing of the union? Well what do you know about that. How did your initiation come out? … I hope they get this war over or let me help get it over. I sure ain’t lowering the German population none over here.”

8/13/44 “Dearest … I miss you so much it’s pitiful. Stump, my buddy, calls me ‘lovesick.’ I guess he’s right. … I didn’t try for that officer candidate school as I told myself that the officers will be kept in the Army longer than a buck private after the war is over. I sure would like to get back in the Pioneers. I don’t like this rifleman training any too much.”

8/16/44 “Dearest … Baby I’m going crazy. Man, how I would like to see you…. Old Stump really does rib me, but I don’t care as I’m nutty in love.”

8/17/44 “Dearest … My fondest desire right now is to get rid of these chiggers. I am keeping a million of the little devils alive. They must realize how good a home they got because they’re always inviting their brothers and sisters over for dinner.”

8/18/44 “Dearest … I haven’t got to see the picture ‘Dragon Seed.’ It was at the camp show last week but I didn’t think I’d like it so I didn’t go.”

8/22/44 “Dearest … P.S. I went to church Sunday. That makes three times straight. Tell my Mom, will you? I forgot.”

8/25/44 “Dearest … P.S. Keep that love smoldering and when I see you again I’ll fan it a little and then it will break out in full flame.”

KENTUCKY (Camp Breckenridge)

8/28/44 “Dearest Sweetheart, Hello honey. You are probably hot at me as usual for not writing. Well honey I have a pretty good excuse. If you didn’t notice the address on the envelope I’ll let you in on a little secret. Your big strong handsome combat soldier is in Kentucky. Yep, they decided that I had been out of the states long enough so they shipped me back to God’s country. I’m really happy to be out of that hole in Mississippi.”

8/30/44 “Dearest Sweetheart, Well honey here it is only 12:30 in the afternoon and I’m writing to you. … I’ve got to write now as we’re going on bivouac this afternoon. I don’t know what time we have to fall out but I’ll try to write as much as I can before then. … I’ve really been thinking a lot of you these past two days. The idea of marriage keeps popping into my brain. In fact this morning I was even thinking of what we would name our children. I would tell you the names I picked but that is thinking a little too far ahead.”

9/1/44 “Dearest Sweetheart… Gee honey, I really miss you. I think I’m nutty in love with you. I want you so much honey. I still am working on my plan. I’m going to find out more about it next week. I hope it comes out the way I want it to. … Keep your fingers crossed.”

9/3/44 “Dearest Sweetheart … It’s darn near the end of my first weekend in Kentucky. It wasn’t bad as weekends go except the company was restricted to the company area. We drew guard duty over the weekend — I mean the old guys did. I didn’t do much besides read and play pool.”

9/4/44 “Dearest Sweetheart … Have I told you recently how wonderful you are? How when I’m near you my blood (what little I have) runs hot. How pretty you are (nose and all). How you fascinate me in a million and one ways. How I would like to be with you anytime, anyplace, anywhere (preference St. Louis, of course). How much I love to squeeze you (a little plump maybe, but I love it). How I like your kisses (even when your lips are sore). How I like to hit you and twist your arm. How I like that black dress on you or the one my mother made you (don’t know the name of it). How much I like your folks and Alice. Well if I haven’t you may consider yourself told.” kidscount[The postscript on the letter has 66 stick figures, one labeled “me,” one labeled “you,” and the rest labeled “little Johnsons.” He adds, “Count them and worry.”]

9/6/44 “Dear Mom and Pop … I think I’ll try to call up at the saloon Friday night. If I do it will be sometime before 9:00 so if I don’t call by then don’t wait for the call. I’ve got to make the call if it’s possible because I’ve got a lot to talk about.”

9/6/44 “Dearest Sweetheart … I’m going to try and get a phone call through to the saloon Friday night. It will be sometime between 6:00 and 9:00 if I can get it through. So try to be there will you, honey.”

9/8/44 “Dearest Sweetheart, Well honey, unlucky Bill Johnson has come through again with his amazing way of having a lot of bad luck. My hopes were high before suppertime because I had the idea I’d be spending the weekend in St. Louis with you. But alas after supper it was a different tale. The weekend pass I signed up for is good only till 9 o’clock Sunday morning. Therefore I can’t come home. … Everything seems to have gone wrong today. I can’t even make the telephone call I wanted to make. I need suntans on before I can get in the P.X But I need to iron them first and to make things good somebody took the iron. As it is my only pair of suntans I can’t go. I’ve can’t even get any cigarettes. I have one cigarette left to do me till tomorrow night.”campbreckenridge1

9/9/44 “Dearest Sweetheart … I’m going to write and see if my folks won’t come down this week, bringing you with them, of course. I’ve got to see you and them bad. I hope they can get here by Wednesday or Thursday. That’s kind of short notice I know but time is imperative to me. If Pop can’t come I guess it’s up to you and Mom.”

9/11/44 “Dear Mom and Pop, Well I’ve just got back from making that phone call. It was really a messed-up affair I’m afraid. I wanted to say so much, but what happens I can’t think of the things I had rehearsed. I guess I’m just dumb. It was so good to hear those familiar voices though that I couldn’t think very good. Then there is also the limit of what you can say on the telephone. There is also a limit on what you can write and my worry now is how to compose a letter that will not get somebody hurt if it gets into the wrong hands. I have to write it though as you probably don’t get what I’m driving at. You have probably received by this time the letter I wrote Saturday night so you know that I want you to come down here for a few days at least. I held off asking you that because I thought I could get a weekend pass on which I could get home. But now that it is practically impossible to get one I’m going to have to make that request. I know nothing definite, of course, as the Army never tells you anything. But from the looks of things I’m going to be shipped pretty soon within the next three weeks. I don’t know where or when I’m going but I have a feeling it isn’t going to be any nearer home. That’s about all I can write to tell more I would have to see you. I know I seem pretty mysterious, but that’s the way it has to be. Well that’s that. If you do decide to come let me know right away. I explained as well as I know what it would be like so that’s about all I know. Now to get to my romantic life. It seems I’m running into difficulties. I’ve know for some time what Mr. Herman thinks about wartime marriages. When I think it out with my head I’m inclined to agree with him. I’m getting tired of thinking with my head so instead I’m trying to listen to my heart. I love Delores and want to marry her. I know I’m nuts, because as a soldier I shouldn’t do it. But as a man I’m for it. If though her folks won’t let her that’s the way it will have to be. Because if I do get married I want her folks’ consent. I don’t want any hard feelings or trouble. In movies or in real life you hear the guy say, ‘I’m not marrying your folks.’ Well that might be all right in peacetime when a fellow can stay with his wife and make a decent living. But in times like these it’s no good at all. It can’t be run like that because if we’re married Delores would have to board at her house. I couldn’t expect her to get in bad with her folks because I might (and probably will) be in this man’s army for some time to come. So if they won’t give me their consent I’ll have to wait till I get my hands on that honorable discharge. It’s entirely up to them. It would probably be the smart thing to do. Although I’m not much for it. I do want to see Delores though. I’ve got to, in fact. Well folks that’s about all on the romantical side of my life. I guess you’ll get this letter Wednesday sometime. So by the time I make the phone call you can have sometime to find out if you can make the trip or not. I won’t be mad if you don’t because I understand the obstacles you have to overcome. But please try. Well folks it’s late as it’s took me quite sometime and thinking to compose this manuscript. So I guess I’ll say goodnight for tonight. All my love, Your loving son. P.S. I’m sorry I messed that call up so, Mom. And don’t think anything you tell me will ever make me mad. You know I’m still your best son even if my Uncle Sam has got a slight hold on me at the present time.

9/11/44 “Dearest Sweetheart, Well honey I spent so much time getting a phone call through and writing to the folks that I didn’t realize how late it was getting to be. The letter I did write to them though did pertain to you so it was sort of another one of those three-way letters. I’m darn sorry that I didn’t get to talk to you, honey. It was my fault though as I didn’t let you know I was going to call. I didn’t make up my mind till about 15 minutes before I tried. Maybe Wednesday you’ll be there. I guess we’re running into difficulties, honey. There’s not much we can do though if your folks don’t want us to get hitched. We have go to take them into consideration as we don’t want any trouble when we get married. If we can’t change their minds we’ll have to wait. I have a feeling it’s going to be quite a wait, too. I told you before that I was tired of listening to my head. But it looks like I’ll have to do it one more time. I do want to see you, honey. Right now I’m trying to persuade my folks to bring you down here. That is if they come. I hope so I’ll find out Wednesday night if they’re coming or not. So keep your fingers crossed, honey. If they do come you’d better bring some fall clothes as it is pretty chilly now. Well honey, it is late so I’ll say goodnight sweetheart. I love you baby. Your Bill always. P.S. I love you.

9/20/44 “Dearest … Remember I said that the next time I saw you I was going to marry you? Well you know now that I told a lie. Darn it. You better tell your old man to get on the ball because it’s just postponed for a while. I’ve got to have his consent now but when you’re eighteen it’s no must then. That’s not too far off, either. I really hated to see you go back to St. Louis. And also hated to come back to my drab life. Someday things are going to be different though, and then I won’t have to leave you anytime. I just pray that the day is not too far off. … Did you have a nice ride home or was it otherwise? How did Mom act after I left? I sure was feeling bad I must admit. Just like the world had dropped from under me. I’m glad I left when I did though as if I would have waited for you to leave I would have been tempted to jump that bus with you.”

9/22/44 “Dearest Honey, come down whenever you can as I’ll be waiting. Only let me know about a week beforehand so I can find a place for you to stay. I don’t want you to go through the same mess you’ve just got out of. If you tell me for sure, why I can reserve a room for you at the guest house. That is, of course, if you want to stay there.”

9/25/44 “Dearest Babe… Well honey, I’m writing as you can see to let you know I arrived at camp okay…”

9/28/44 “Dearest Babe … Well honey, here’s another letter from your big, strong, and handsome soldier. … If we got married I know I wouldn’t have enough willpower to leave you. I’d stay home and then would I be in hot water. I love you so, honey, that I can’t hardly bear being away from you. Man, this war has really made a mess of lots of people’s lives. If I ever get my hands on any of the louses that started this I’m going to spill some blood. I am not just talking, either. They are responsible for me being away from the sweetest girl in all the world.”

10/2/44 “Dearest Babe, Well honey, here I am back in camp after that wonderful weekend. Even though I’ve been away from you only about 24 hours, I miss you so much. It seems like it’s been years since I last saw you. I really mean it honey. I guess I love you, babe. I’m listening to the Lux Theatre now. They have ‘Home in Indiana.’ It’s really good. I sure wish I could have seen the picture. I sure hope you didn’t get fired from Pevely on account of me. Let me know how it came out.”

10/2/44 “Dearest Babe … Well I don’t guess there’s any need of my telling you that I got back to camp okay as you can plainly see that I did. Boy was I mad and tired last night. unionstationWe got down to Union Station about 9:20 last night. We tried to leave on the 9:20 train but as they didn’t have any seats we didn’t get on it. We waited for the 10:00 train which left Union Station at 11:00. We made good time though even if we we’re an hour late getting started. We got in Evansville at 2:40 and caught a bus right away. Got in camp at 4:00. I didn’t get much sleep last night. I sure felt it today. I should go to bed early tonight, but instead I’m going to the last show. They have ‘San Diego I Love You’ or something like that.”

10/3/44 “Dearest Babe … I’ve come to the conclusion that I will probably be a buck private for the rest of my Army career. I guess that’s what I am intended to be. I told you Sunday how I messed up on the ‘Expert Infantry Test’ and lost five bucks more a month. Well today they made seven men out of my platoon PFCs. They only took Expert Infantry men though so that let me out. I now lose 4 more bucks a month. I’m really getting ahead fast in the Army. In the past week I could have made $9 more and what do I do but hit myself in the eye with a pistol and lose it. I used to think I was kinda bright, but now I’m beginning to wonder. To top all this off I get K.P. tomorrow which really makes me mad. I shouldn’t have gotten it for another week and a half but my squad sergeant messed up. I could have kicked his teeth out I was so hot. Come to think of it I still could.”

10/13/44 “Dearest Sweetheart … I can see you now cussing me because you haven’t gotten a letter from me in three days. … Down in Mississippi I had an excuse for not writing and that was that I was always on duty. Up here though I can’t use that excuse as I haven’t been doing anything. I’ve just been messing off not doing anything but sleeping, fooling with the fellows, or maybe a little detail. The gist of the matter is that I can’t seem to write letters anymore. I used to write and write, but now I can’t even write to my future wife or folks anymore. … I can’t talk about a lot of things honey, because in all probability this letter will most likely be censored. Yep, this is it. So honey, don’t ask me any questions in your letters that I won’t be able to answer. You know about military affairs and other stuff. … Am I a dope? I almost forgot to thank you for that bracelet. I really like it, babe. It’s really nice. Tell my folks I’m going to send some clothes home if I can. So long, sweetheart till.”

10/17/44 “Dearest Babe, Well honey, here I am. I can’t tell you where, but I can say it isn’t close. Yep the wandering boyfriend has wandered again. … This letter will be censored so I’ve got to be very close-mouthed about some things. I guess I’ll have to get used to the idea of having another person reading my mail. … I got your last letter Friday afternoon. I was really glad to hear that you got your job back so fast. If you’re still working for the same boss when I come back I’m going to put his nose on the reverse side of his head. It’s guys like him that sit home while guys like us get the war won. I would like to see him just one time, I’d bet he and I would get along wonderfully — especially if it was now. The way I feel wouldn’t help his face any. By getting your job back so fast though I guess you understand how big a part politics play in one’s life.” wanted


[Date censored] “Dearest, Your best boyfriend has stopped his traveling for a short time. I am now in jolly old England. Who would ever think that the Great Johnson would get so far from Homecrest? I, for one, never did think it would be possible for anyone to get me over here. I know though for sure that it wouldn’t take an awful lot to get me back over there. All they’d have to do is turn me loose. … I’m having a ticklish time writing this as a group of the boys are standing by my bunk arguing over the differences between American and British money. There is no sense of my getting in the argument as I have none of either. I have never been as broke as I now am I know that I never will get any worse off. … This place isn’t the best place in the world to be but it looks awful good to me after the boat. … I kind of thought that when I got overseas I wouldn’t hear so many rumors. Boy, what a dream that was. All I get over here is rumors, rumors, and more rumors. I don’t put much trust in any of them so it doesn’t make much difference.”

11/8/44 Dearest, Well honey, I’ve decided to change my type of stationery. It’s been rumored around that V-Mail gets there fastest so from now on this is what you can expect… I got two letters from you yesterday and did I need them for their morale building value. I was really glad to hear from you since they were the first word I’ve had for about three weeks. I sure hope that I won’t have to wait that long for the next mail I get. Things ought to get better now that we’re finally situated, I hope. There’s not an awful lot right now to write about as we’re not doing much of anything. I’ve been doing a little reading lately but not as much as I did on the boat. I don’t think that I will ever read as many books in so short a time again in a lifetime. I really got disgusted with books during the latter part of the trip.”

11/10/44 “Dearest, Hallo old gal how you going. Pip! Pip! And all that sort of rot. I say there quite an English chap I’m getting to be. Pardon me a minute while I wash this blasted crumpet down with a spot of tea. … This English weather is rather cool and when you’re standing around doing nothing for two hours it sort of gets in your bones. In fact it’s so cold that when I went to bed instead of taking my shoes off I simply broke my feet off at the ankles. It’s a heck of a lot faster, too. … Say before I forget, what do you think of my mom and dad going to the Chase? Quite a highbrow family us Johnsons are getting to be. I guess nobody can say they don’t get around. I was surprised and glad to hear that they had finally broke off the home ties. Now if they keep it up they’ll be alright. By the way, how are they taking it about me being over here? You know babe you’re going to have to take my place in the Johnson regime. All you have to do is make a lot of noise and be a tease and you’ll be a perfect substitute. I imagine though that Thelma does pretty good if I know her. Why shouldn’t I know – I made her the way she is. I sure would have liked to see her with that Halloween costume. You didn’t tell me what she was supposed to represent but the most appropriate costume I can think of is a little ‘devil.’ Don’t tell her I said that though. I sure feel like a heel because I couldn’t send her even a birthday card for her birthday. I’m a louse and I know it.”

11/16/44 “Dearest… there have been things that have kept me from writing, such as details, lack of sleep, and night life. I’ve been seeing the towns as it were and also having quite a bit of fun. I’m going to have to cut down on this night life though as it is the direct cause for the little sleep I’ve been getting.”

11/19/44 “Dearest … Don’t know what’s getting into me lately, ever since I’ve left Kentucky I’ve been like this. Now when I should be writing all the time I’m fluffing off. Imagine I’d better get on that ball and stay there before I start getting some good bawling outs.”

11/20/44 “Dearest… I imagine you’re not having any more trouble with your boss since I’ve left. Remind me to poke him in the nose when I get home, will you? Chances are I’ll probably be begging him to give me a job after this is over. ‘Old Milk Mechanic’ Johnson I’ll be known as. There’ll probably be so many airplane mechanics after this is over that I’ll have to get a job in a milk plant. Nope I’ve got a better idea. I’ll just stay at home and rest while you go out and earn our living. … Honey, it has been requested for the last time (they say) that I turn the lights out or get thrown out the window. So since it’s two floors down to the hard, hard earth, I’ll say goodnight sweetheart, for now.”

11/22/44 “Dearest… It looks like old Homecrest is going to be a deserted place as far as the men population goes. From the way you talk I imagine it doesn’t go very far either seeing how many girls are still on the hill. The man shortage must be getting really critical. Oh boy, if I were only home now. … Speaking of marrying makes me wonder if I ever proposed to you. I don’t think I did. Did I? If my recollection is right we just took it for granted that we will get married. I guess in fact I know that’s the way it should be. Before I met you I used to picture myself kneeling before some beautiful babe begging for her hand in matrimony. What a thought. The way our romance (oo la la) came out suits me much better. Anyway I don’t think I’m the kneeling type. If you disagree I’ll slug you (when I get back of course).”

11/26/44 Dear Bill … We are listening to the radio to ‘Take It or Leave It.’ I was helping Thelma write a letter to you. I’ve been on this letter for an hour. I write then listen to the radio then talk. I just read the first letter you wrote Mom and Pop, you said you got drunk. Bill you know what you told me that you wouldn’t drink that much anymore. Gee honey, I don’t want you to start drinking one or two bottles of beers are all right but you don’t have to overdo it. You just throw your money away and all you get the next day is a headache. And losing all your money in gambling! I know you never had much to do when you were on the boat, but don’t make a habit of gambling, a little is all right. I guess you must think I’m awful, darling, for telling you, darling, but I’m only thinking of you. And besides I don’t want my husband doing things like that, you bawl me out for just taking a few sips out of your bottle. Gee darling, I love you. I miss you more everyday.”

11/29/44 “Dearest, All right so I haven’t written to you in a week. I’m sorry babe, but again your old man hasn’t been on the ball. It’s the same old trouble, and that is that I was intending to write every night but I kept putting it off until finally it was too late and I went to bed. … Babe, for gosh sakes, don’t get any ideas in your head about my not writing. Such as me forgetting about you or not thinking of you. That’s not it at all. I just can’t seem to get my thoughts and feelings into words anymore. I miss you so terribly and yet I can’t hardly write.”


12/16/44 “Dearest … Seeing as how I haven’t written in two weeks this ought to be a nice long letter but since V-Mail prohibits lengthy letters this one is going to be what the law allows. … The main purpose of going out was to get beer of which I had quite a lot. Yep honey, I was quite a souse while I was there. I won’t be over here though as I have to reform – there’s a shortage of liquor. That should make you happy. I sure like to be home where I could live a sober and respectable life (well, respectable anyway).”


12/23/44 “Dearest Sweetheart, Here I sit by an open fire hot as heck on one side and freezing on the other. The weather right now is cold as (well, as cold as winter). What a day to be sitting by a radiator in a nice warm house on a certain street in Homecrest with you. … You can blame the appearance of this letter on the smoke. Your old man is really getting around this world, honey. I’ve seen about five countries so far and still going. I’ve also seen some of the horrors of war, but not too many. grandmenil1For a guy who doesn’t like to travel, I’ve really been getting around. Out of all the places I’ve been to though I can truthfully say that old St. Louie is still the best. … Just about this time last year I was in a jewelry shop getting that bracelet I got for your Xmas present. What a contrast that is to what I’m now doing. We had a darn nice Christmas last year I sure hope you have as nice a one this time. Keep thinking of your old man and keep loving him.”

1/6/45 “Dearest … Well honey, here’s another one from the old man. It’s been about two weeks since I’ve had a pen in my hand. The pen was replaced by a shovel and pick. I thought there’d be enough foxholes over here but I see that I was wrong. I find through observation that what this country needs most is more and deeper foxholes, especially when the Jerries start throwing artillery and mortar at me. … Got a lot of mail from you the past four or five days. Also got the one in which you blew your top. If I was still in England that would have been all I needed to put me on the ball. Over here though it doesn’t help much because as you know there’s a war on and sorry to say I’m in the middle of it so to speak. … I really miss you honey and love you, too. Do one thing for me will you? Stay as sweet as you are. Your Bill Always.”

1/12/45 “Dearest… I’m back in the thick of it again but this time the living conditions are a heck of a lot better. I’m staying in a house which was vacated by civilians on account of the war. As I listen to the shells landing all around I can easily see why they left. Being a soldier I have to stay here and take it. I’m writing this letter by lamplight. It’s not really a lamp but a [can’t read] bottle with [can’t read] fuel and a shirttail as a wick. It works pretty good as long as the wick is about [can’t read] long but the trouble is that the wick burns out too fast. Such is life on the front lines. Sure wish I was back under electric lights with a certain little gal. Honey, when we raise our family if any of the boys (optimistic aren’t I) ever play soldier I’ll beat their tails but good. Getting bitter, ain’t I? I got two letters from you today. The latest one was written Christmas Eve. I sure would have liked to have been home. I was a pretty scared guy as it was though, as that was my first night in combat. What a Xmas present that was: I also spent New Year’s Eve in a nice way (in a foxhole). I’m doing all right at this stage of the game. I’m crossing my fingers, though. Honey, I’m really going to be in the mood for loving when I get home. You’re really going to need that steel corset. I’m running out of space so I guess I’ll have to come to a halt. I love you, honey. Your Bill Always.”

1/15/45 “Dearest Babe, Happy to be able to write that only two days have elapsed since I last wrote. Seems strange not to have to wait for 15 days before writing. I’m still in the same place where I last wrote. I don’t know how long this will last though. I’ve really got a good deal outside of the Jerries’ artillery, that is. So my little woman is getting interested in children. What can I say but good? Honey what makes you think our son won’t be all the things you want after all look who will be his father. (God loves those who love themselves) that’s me…. P.S. Stone said hello.

1/16/45 “Dearest Darling, Still sitting pat for the time being. Don’t know how long this deal will hold but I’m hoping. Sitting here in this warm room with a good bunch of fellows. I sure don’t feel much like fighting. I sure wish they’d call this war off till summer as in my opinion it’s entirely too darn cold to fight. 75thpixSeems like no one is paying any attention to my opinion, though, because they’re still fighting.”

1/17/45 “Dearest Darling, How is my little woman at this time? Fine, I hope. In case she might be interested, her old man is still doing all right. Yeh stuff, you must be pretty surprised to see me writing more often up here on the front than I did when I was in England. But as in all things there is a reason. I didn’t write back there as I wanted to have some fun before I got into this. I’m glad now that I did have that fun as it looks like it will be sometime before I get back to a place where I can have some more of that fun. … There’s nothing I want more than to get this war over with so that I can get back to the gal I love. …”

1/23/45 “Dearest Fat, How’s that little woman of mine doing at this time? I hope she misses me as much as I miss her. I’m sitting here practically on top of the old stove her in a former civilian home. I guess it was a little too hot for those poor people, so they took off. You understand of course that I don’t blame them one bit as I would like nothing better than to be about 5,000 miles away from these hot spots. The more I see of this world the better fixed in my mind is the idea that I’m a peaceful home-loving sort of guy.”

1/24/45 [hard to read] “Dearest Fatstuff … I do have a pretty bad cold…. I’m also drinking cocoa between lines of this letter. Which reminds me, I have a favor to ask of you. Can I bring my canteen cup home when I get out [can’t read]? Reason I ask this is because a coffee cup seems so small in comparison. … Anyway I wouldn’t need to fill my cup but once whereas with those dinky coffee cups I’d be continuously pouring.”

1/25/45 [hard to read] “Dear Fat … I lost my good fountain pen. Sure hated [to lose it] because as you know my Dad gave it to me when I came [can’t read] on furlough. I’m now writing with my squad leader’s pen.”


2/3/45 “Dearest Fatstuff, How’s my little Hoosier? … This is the first chance I’ve had to do any writing in about a week so no doubt there will be a sharp decrease in your mail ration. Everything is rationed nowadays you know – except for Nazis, which come ration-free. They tell me that Stalin is taking advantage of it and is hoarding them by the thousands. If he just keeps it up, maybe your B & O will be home by next Xmas. Don’t guess I have to tell you how much I want that to come true.”


2/xx/45 “Dearest Fatstuff … The snoring from the fellows doesn’t make this the most romantic place to write but I’ll try to do my darndest, which I know isn’t very good.”

2/6/45 “Dearest Fatstuff … You are the biggest (no insult) thing in my young life and the one thing I want most of all….”


2/7/45 [hard to read] “Dearest Fat, Hiya Chubby. How’s my little bundle of joy and jubilation? Are you still knocking yourself out at the dairy? More important are you socking those war bonds away? See how my mind runs to financial problems. I’ve reached the point where I won’t settle for a job that pays less than $200 a week when I get back. What a joke. Right now I’d settle for 15 cents a week job and pay 20 cents car fare to get to work. In fact right now I’m working on the blueprints for a cheap postwar home. What do you think of a four-room foxhole with running water and lights? You don’t like it? I wonder why. Just think honey, millions of G.I.s who have spent what is equivalent of years (to them) in foxholes are going to come back to stuffy old houses. They’ll never be content to live in a nice warm house. So with my invention they’ll all be satisfied. I hope no G.I. gets hold of this letter though as he would probably look me up and shoot me. Not that I don’t blame him. We had a little excitement a few minutes against seems that a Me [Messerschmitt] 109 flew over and laid a couple of eggs. My hair is starting to settle back into place from its raised position so don’t worry.”

2/8/45 “Dearest Fat … Some more Jerry planes are fooling around today. I really don’t care much for them either, I’ll tell you. It seems that when they start diving my hair starts rising. No applause, please – I’m a poet by draft.


2/11/45 “Dearest Fatstuff, This ought to be quite a surprise getting an airmail letter after all those V-Mails…. The last time I used this type of stationery was in dear old England or I should say South Wales. Innumerable times since then I have wished that I were back there, too. You have probably noticed in my V-Mail letters I make very little mention of the war. The reason for that being that it is just a lot of hard work with the added attraction of sudden death. So therefore there’s no glamour or romance interest here and not a heck of a lot of glory either. Anyway when I come home I can tell you all about it; that is, of course if I feel like it. Today was payday so there are an abundance of poker games around the area. … We had figured on going back to a rest camp for a couple of weeks when they pulled me off the line, but as all good rumors do, the deal went haywire. Don’t know why I should gripe though as I took a bath about two weeks ago. Who knows — maybe in another two weeks I’ll get to take another one.”

2/11/45 “Dearest Fat … I want to know if and where you’ve gained 17 lbs. If that was a joke I really didn’t appreciate it.”

2/12/45 “Dearest Fat, Well honey, it has finally happened — the thing I’ve been dreaming about has come true. They’ve finally decided that we could stand a rest so here we are back in a small town which I suppose is pinch-hitting for a rest camp. … I’m pretty tired right now as I was on a road guard for 8 hours. Had to stand in the rain all the time and the only company I had was about 15 little French kids. We got along pretty well considering that I can’t speak French and they couldn’t speak English. I’ll be a glad fellow when I can get back to where I don’t have to be a hand waver and finger wagger to talk to people.”

2/13/45 “Dearest Sweetheart… When I said this was a small town I meant just that because after looking the town over, which took about 10 minutes, all I saw was two cafes (with nothing to drink), a barber shop (I shall visit tomorrow) and two churches. The total population is about 1,000 counting the cows and there’s a mess of them. Oh well, who wants to be in a crowded, noisy, old city besides me, that is. … We slept in a barn last night but being this is a rest period we thought we’d better get something more appropriate. So bright and early this morning, our French-speaking squad member hustled out and found us a very nice room in a private home. The wonderful part of the deal is that we have an electric light in the room. Oh joy. It’s been sometime since I saw an electric light so the fellows had to explain how it worked.”

2/14/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … A wonderful thing occurred today. I got a haircut — not that I needed it, as it was only over my ears. Thought for a while that I would have to take my shirt off so the barber could get to my neck. Remember how you used to always want me to leave my hair grow? Well if you could have seen me before the clipping you would have had your wish although I’d probably scared you out of 10 years growth. The operation was executed by a French barber and from the impression I get when I look in a mirror he must have been a good dog clipper as he really sheared yours truly.”

2/18/45 “Dearest Fatstuff … A great honor was bestowed upon you the other day, honey. I carved your name on a big tree somewhere in France. I hope that you may never have the opportunity to see it or for that matter anyone of the future Johnson family. Just took a swig of Cognac or another name for wood alcohol. Boy is that stuff rugged – three swigs of it and I’ll be ready to fight the whole German Army with a trench knife — and a dull one at that.”

2/xx/45 “Dearest Fatstuff … I’m going to put in a request for one [a picture] of you in a bathing suit … I can’t think of a bigger morale builder at the present time or for that matter at anytime. Anyway I’m supposed to know what I’m fighting for and that would give me a good idea. Woo! Woo!”


2/20/45 “Dearest Sweetheart, Since I haven’t written in about six days I thought it was about time that I break down and write you a long letter. … Since I wrote last I’ve did some more traveling — about three days of it to be exact. It was by truck so I didn’t mind it too much. I’ve seen more country from the back of our truck than I saw on trains in the U.S. Only one drawback in this kind of traveling — and that is you don’t get to see anything till you’ve gone past. Two of the three days, because of the nice weather, we were able to combat this drawback by throwing the tarp back and standing up. When we went through a big town like that, I felt just like I was in the Veiled Prophet parade in St. Louis. Most of the time we go right through the middle of the towns and all the people standing on the sidewalk wave and say hello. This practice is followed wherever we go and sometimes I think it’s a little bit overdone. I’ve come to one conclusion and that is the people must have awful strong arms from all the waving they do. Their lungs are pretty well developed too from hollering, I imagine. … We have been staying in a private home for three days and have had quite a deal. Right now we’re like one of the family … course I admit it’s a pretty large family considering there’s 6 civilians and nine of us. One of our squad talks good German so we use him as official interpreter. We have been teaching the husband some American and he picks it up pretty fast. Some of these phrases aren’t considered the best language in social circles and it’s a good thing he don’t know what they mean, for our sake. His wife wouldn’t like it, either, I don’t think. They have one little girl, and honey I don’t think I’ve ever seen a prettier kid. She is really a doll. If we have a kid like this I’ll be the happiest daddy in the world and also the proudest. In the short time we’ve been here she’s won all our hearts and also all our chocolate and chewing gum. Right now Speedball (our squad leader) and Hebert are playing with her on the floor. They’re about the only ones who have been able to get in good with her – Hebert has the advantage on all of us though as he has four of his own at home. … For two mornings we have had a fresh egg a piece and that is something. Every night when the husband comes in to shoot the breeze he brings a big pan of apples as a sort of peace offering I guess. To repay him for all these honors one of our squad knocked a beautiful crucifix off of the dresser and broke the heck out of it. The people took it pretty well considering we thought they’d throw us out lock, stock, and barrel. They had a movie for us today, ‘To Have and Have Not,’ with Humphrey Bogart. tohaveandhavenotIt was really good. … That’s the third picture I’ve seen since I’ve been in combat. We also got to take a shower today. The first shower I’ve had since we landed in France. I really didn’t need as I had a bath three weeks ago.”


2/22/45 “Dearest Fat … This is almost the end of my second month of combat. Confidentially speaking I don’t care for it anymore now than I did the first day we took up a position.”

2/23/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … There’s not anything doing here at the present time except for an occasional incoming shell. About the only thing we do besides digging positions that has any work connected with it is standing guard. I’ll really have a time breaking myself of the habit of getting up in the middle of the night and standing a couple of hours guard. You won’t mind me doing that every night, will you honey?”

2/24/45 “Dearest Sweetheart… Your best boyfriend is still hitting on all fours especially when those 88s start whistling. diginHe’s also missing a certain little brunette something terribly.”

2/25/45 “Dearest Sweetheart… First order: I like a certain amount of those V-Mail letters as they seem to get here quicker than ordinary mail – sometimes. … So the great firm of Pevely gave you your walking papers – oops I’m sorry you quit, didn’t you? Well that saves me from pushing your boss’s nose in anyway. … From the way it looks when you wrote this letter you must’ve been pretty mad at the boss. My, my — you’re getting to be a regular little spitfire. … P.S. Order No. 2 Get me some pictures but fast and don’t forget those long letters.

3/4/45 “Darling… Hope it isn’t as bad in St. Louis as it is here, as the weather is really bad and that ain’t good. It’s been doing everything but getting warm. My only consolation is that I’m not in a foxhole right now…. The house we’re now living in would compare favorably with 90 percent of the houses in America if it wasn’t for the fact that practically all of the windows are out. The capitalists in this country are the glass makers and I assure you that they make plenty of moola. If you could see some of these towns you’d get what I mean. These people must spend half of their life putting in windows and the other half dodging the glass. … If I had to live in these countries I’d build a wooden shack with celluloid windows or an extra deep foxhole because the artillery really raises Cain with the civilians’ property. The best way to avoid getting your house blown out from under you (in my belief) is to live in the States. … Yesterday was a great day for me as I got a complete change of clean clothes. Ah what a wonderful thing that was. I really didn’t need them though as I only wore my dirty ones for a month or more. … Received a letter from Marge Evans the other day. She says Herm is still in Nevada – that big lug. (Kinda makes me wonder why I didn’t get in the Air Corps.) She also mentioned she might get married to him when he gets his next furlough. If they do get married they’ll be the first of the gang to take the fatal plunge. Who knows – they might have a kid before I get back to the States – I sincerely hope not.”


3/7/45 “Dearest Babe … So my gal is going to work in a defense plant? About time you start getting patriotic – that should get an argument out of you. … As you can plainly see I’ve finally hit Germany, much to my extreme dislike. Here you not only have to watch out for German soldiers but for every man, woman, and child. These Germans are a wonderful people, they all claim they’re not Nazis and of course we believe them. Yak Yak. If you listen to them, they’d have you believe that they had nothing to do with this war. … Hope I don’t get in the Occupation Army, as I’ll have to get a swivel attachment made so I can turn my head around and watch my back. Might be easier to get another set of eyes, come to think of it.”

3/9/45 “Dearest Babe … The past few days I’ve been finding out how bad I’m out of condition. We have physical training every morning and boy do I need it. Right now I’m getting to the point where I could almost run 500 ft. without passing out. Offhand I could stand about two months of p.t. and then maybe I’d be back in shape.”

3/10/45 “Dearest Babe … We have all the modern conveniences and comforts of home except for women — darn it. The exception is something every man will do without as long as he’s in Germany, not because he wants to but on account of if he talks to one and he’s unlucky enough to be caught. He will be fined $65. There’s only two hundred people I’d pay $65 to talk to and they all happen to be in the States. Don’t see why I need to worry about that anyway as all I can say in German is kaput. You should be very happy to learn that.”

3/15/45 “Howdy Little One … It has been getting warm and yesterday I noticed some buds on the trees. They tell me that’s always a good indication of spring so therefore I’m making preparations for my first case of spring fever this year. Could you tell me where I can get an innerspring mattress? We really have got a good deal at our present location. Besides electric lights, running water and glass in the windows we have a Victrola (hand operated) with a choice selection of German recordings. If I had my choice I’d throw them out the window — that is all except two or three. There are also two or three radios in the building and occasionally I pay the lucky owner of these priceless articles a visit. Not because I want to hear the radio, of course, but to inquire about their health and stuff — mostly stuff. One of the first household articles we’re going to buy is a radio and I’m going to have it on full blast at all hours of the day and night. … The fellows in my squad have gone souvenir crazy and that includes yours truly. The souvenirs collected so far are anything from a German rifle to a pin given to German mothers for having children. nazi-mother-medal1Anytime now I’m expecting to see a guy wrapping up a Tiger tank to send home. All I’ve sent so far is some pictures of the once great Nazi Army. Their army don’t look that way now, I’ll tell you. … Received a letter from Paul, my school buddy who worked at Robertson with me. He says that they have reopened the plant so maybe I’ll get my old job back when I get home. Haven’t made up my mind yet if I want to go back to that kind of work. Might go in for ditch-digging as a post-war career, after all I’ve got the experience. That’s a nice job, as all you need is a strong back and a weak mind, and seeing how I haven’t used my mind for the past year and a half, I’d fit into that category perfectly. … While you’re in the mood you might send me some fudge. Always stand something to eat you know and so could the squad. … Say babe, you get the Globe-Democrat, don’t you? If you still do, how about cutting out the column Bob Hope writes and send them to me. Snooks sent me some of his work and they are really good. Was reading the Readers Digest the other day and came across an incident which put me in the mind of you having those 64 kids. Here it is. One woman came regularly every year to a certain hospital for ten days to have another baby. On one of these annual visits the doctor told her she ought to stop having babies every year. She looks at him in dismay, then exclaimed, ‘And give up my only rest? Not on your life.’ … Seems I’m running out of things to write so with no malice aforethought I’ll bring this to a dramatic close. Ta Ta Tarum. Your Bill Always.”

3/16/45 [first typewritten letter] “Hi Ya, Honey … The past three days have been spent very easily, in fact so easily that I’d say it was more like a rest camp than anything. … As you know I’ve never used one of these consarned confounded contraptions before, so therefore I don’t want to hear any cracks about my typing. If I remember right you always wanted one of these implement, too bad the ARMY won’t let me send you this one. I’ve been practicing quite a bit, although it may look like I’m an awful liar. I really have. I’ve improved a heck of a lot since I first started fooling around, in fact I’m getting so good that it won’t take me more than four hours to finish this letter, I hope. … The night before last I took in a moving picture at the town’s theater. They showed ‘The Princess and The Pirate’ with Bob Hope and a darn pretty gal. … Just came back from show, had a pretty good meal, too. The best part was the ‘APPEL PIE’ and it was really delicious for awhile (Oops) I couldn’t understand what it was as I hadn’t seen any for so long.”

3/17/45 “Hi Ya! Sweetheart … I’ve come to the conclusion I’m going to have … to wise you up on a few points. First I will relate my experiences, if I feel like it. The reason being that maybe I’ll want to forget a lot of things I’ve seen, then again I’ll probably want to remember a lot of incidents, that is where you come in. The only time I’ll bring up the less romantic side of war is when I have to combat some of your dad’s tall tales, and then I’ll have some ‘lu lu’ to throw at him … Do you really think you can stand having four children? (Confidentially, you better be, as I’m just the guy who can fix you up.) We shouldn’t be pikers about this though as I’m really in fine shape for kids, how about you? I don’t think we’ll be able to have 64 though as the way I figure it you’d be 65 when you had the last one, and that is of course if they came one right after the other. Guess I’ll have to be satisfied with four of the little devils after all. Saw another moving picture the other night, it was a Western but even so I enjoyed it. The name of the epic was ‘Tall in the Saddle’ starring John Wayne. Really had a lot of action in it. And also quite a few laughs. tallinthesaddleI’m getting to be quite a moviegoer, as that is the second picture I’ve seen this week. … I’m getting pretty tired of pounding this apparatus so I think it’s about time I take off for my sack. Tell the folks I said hello and remember me to the gang. Kiss yourself for me and keep loving me. I love you and don’t forget it.”

3/18/45 “Dearest Dee! … After 16 months in this Army I still have K.P. more than anything else, guess the reason behind it is because I have to work harder than I do usually. Honey, when we get married don’t ever make the mistake of asking me to help you with the dishes cause if you do you’re liable to hear some awful profanity. The only time I’ll ever enter the kitchen is when we eat. Course that won’t give you much privacy as I’ll be eating practically all the time, as you shall see. … We had roast chicken for supper tonight, I should say we had necks and wings as that was all I saw. I’ve been trying to figure where the Army gets their chickens and I’ve finally decided they must buy them at freak shows – where else can you get chickens with 10 wings and five necks? They must have that many at least — or else I’d get a leg sometime, according to the law of averages, that is. … The inevitable has happened again – don’t tell a soul – but I got another haircut and is it a Woo! Woo! Our gunner did the honors and for the life of me I can’t figure out what he had against me. What he did to me I wouldn’t do to a dog – although right now I could pass very easily for one. Woof! To give you an idea of just how bad it is, our squad leader is almost bald, so they call him ‘Three Hair,’ and now they call me ‘Two Hair.’ …”

[undated] “Today was another big day, as we got our candy and Coke ration. We got two bottles of Coke and three Milky Ways a piece. It didn’t take me long to make mine nothing but a pleasant memory. Right now there’s a half a bar of Nestles chocolate before me (want a bite?) and I can’t bring myself to eat it. Must be slipping. I’m so full of food right now that about all I can do is move my hand. The condition of the houses and factories in our present locality comes up to my expectations of what Germany should look like. Our bombers really blasted the hell out of this territory. Everywhere you look there’s bomb craters and big ones, too. On our way up we noticed lots of duds that the Jerries hadn’t had time to pick up. One doesn’t have to look hard to find these craters, either – right now I can look out the window and see a hole that you could drive a truck in, it’s only about 10 feet from the side of our house. The house must have been shaken up a bit when it was made as the whole wall has been cracked and the people propped it up with lumber. Every time a shell lands or one of our guns go off, I start sweating as the building shakes like it had St. Vitus Dance. Hope it don’t collapse before we leave, as I don’t think I’d like digging myself out of the roof. As much as I like a solid house I’m glad that it is this way as I know these people got something out of this war besides glory. Maybe I’m a fiend, but the more things in Germany I see leveled the better I like it. After this maybe they’ll realize that there’s no percentage in always fighting. We have to stand guard all day as they’re not allowed to go past our front gate. They come up with all kinds of excuses for why they have to get down the road, but all of these excuses are taken with not so much as a grain of salt, so they’re turned around and sent back. Some of them really get insulted and excited cause we won’t let them pass and boy does that get me mad. The Americans treat them 100 times better than the people the Jerries conquered and still these people gripe. Those are the times I wish I knew how to speak the German language so I could tell them a few things. They better wisen up a little or they’re going to be sorry. They ought to be happy they still have what they’ve got as they’re better off than the French or the Belgians. Since I’ve been in Germany I’ve seen better houses, better farms, beautiful country and better cities than anywhere else in Europe. With all of these things I can’t see why these people couldn’t be satisfied with what they had. They were further advanced in everything than any of the countries they invaded and yet they couldn’t be content. Maybe if they wouldn’t have been so far advanced they wouldn’t have started fighting. Guess it’s a case of all or nothing at all and from where I sit it looks like it’s going to be nothing. Enough about Germany and its people — on to the brighter side. … Well five pages is about capacity for me and also I don’t want to spoil you so I guess I’d better come to a climax…”

3/22/45 “Dearest Dee… Old man spring has been putting his charm on me for the past week and had me pretty well under his spell – so that’s why I haven’t been writing much. … The weather has really been nice, it’s been so nice that even guard duty isn’t too lousy. I sure could be making up for lost time if I had you for company while I was on guard. As it is though I guess I’ll have to be content to have the machine gun for company. If I could only get it to talk, maybe guard wouldn’t be so monotonous, then again when it does start talking, I guess I won’t be thinking of the monotony.”

3/24/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … Right now – believe it or not – I’m sitting in a foxhole. My writing table consists of my right leg and an Esquire (Nov) magazine. The Esquire is a necessity – it says here in fine print. … Last night you were almost without a boyfriend. It seems the hole Hebert and I were occupying took a sudden desire to cave in, so it did. We were both sound asleep but it didn’t take very long for us to awake and find ourselves tightly enclosed in wet sand. We couldn’t move a muscle; that is, except my throat muscles, which I immediately got into action. My yells summoned two engineers who dug us out in the nick of time. Really had me sweating for awhile.”

3/25/45 “Dearest Skinny, Received the letter in which you gave me the statistics I wanted to know about. The question that arises now is – shall I apologize for calling you fat. I don’t think I will as my throwing sarcasm at you resulted in your breaking down and writing a real letter. … This is my second day of foxhole life and as yesterday it’s very boring and monotonous to say the best. We do get a break though as we get to sleep in a house at night. McMurtrie (my relief) had better get on the ball and make this hole more comfortable or I’m going to fire him. Hebert just crawled over and stuck a .45 under my nose — he liked to have scared me out of a year’s growth. People shouldn’t do things like that, you know.”

4/5/45 “Dearest Dee, Glad to see you! Haven’t had time to write for about a week now as I’ve been doing a bit of traveling. Kind of feel bad for not being able to write as I’ve really been getting a bit of mail from you. About time you did something for your country. … Sure have been thinking of you a lot. Do you know you make time pass faster for me – you don’t? Well you should as I just told you so. Been making a lot of daydreams and hoping this war gets over with so I can make them a reality. Really got a lot of things to make up for when I get back.”

4/11/45 “Hiya Stuff, Honey, I didn’t have the chance to finish this letter yesterday as we moved out too fast, so I thought I’d better do it today. Right now I’m so tired it’s pitiful, and right after I finish this I’m going to hit the prone.”

4/14/45 “Dearest Babe … I guess it is about time for me to write you, seeing as how I haven’t written in about a week. You know, of course, that I’ve been doing a lot of moving recently – you don’t, well you do now. We have now stopped for awhile and the rumor has it that we might get a rest. I hope. Moving out. We just pulled a surprise move so it interrupted my letter writing. I’m now in a new location and it looks as if we might stay here a few days – although well probably get close order drill and K.P. it suits me as there’s no noise back here. … This is the third time today, I’ve come back to this letter. I’ve just got up from about a five-hour nap.”

4/15/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … This is probably old stuff to you by now but, from all indications it looks like spring is here. This time it’s on the level too, as my bones don’t lie. Gosh babe, I really miss you. What a time we could be having if I was with you now, we could really make hay while the moon, sun, or what have you shines. Spring being here adds to my longing for loving, and boy am I longing to be with you. Why people, who supposedly are nature’s most intelligent creatures, want to kill each other at this time of the year (or any other) is entirely beyond me. Someday I hope they’ll wisen up and then this old world will be a heck of a lot better. At that time, Bill and Delores will be raising a whole clan of little Bills and Deloreses and won’t have to be afraid of them going to war. Honey, I love you.”

4/15/45 “Dear Mom and Pop, It’s not hard to understand why policemen are called flatfoots. In fact, after standing all of this guard duty I’m beginning to sympathize with them. My feet are getting so flat that I can clap them together and they stick that way. … Anyway those Japs still are fighting and the longer I can stay away from them the better it will be — for me. Anyway when I do have to go I want to be sure that the Air Corps has had its thumb in the pie – but [can’t read]. I’ve seen quite a bit of their work over here and although they did a darn good job. I’d like Japan to get it about 5 times as bad and after that there wouldn’t be anything standing. Ever since Germany’s surrender, the boys have been sweating out discharges via the point system, but not your best son. No sir, I knew that I wouldn’t have enough to get out of the Boy Scouts, so it didn’t worry me. The way the point system works I’ll be lucky if I get my discharge in ’54. The only regret I have is that I didn’t get married and have three kids, as that sure would have helped my points and maybe there’s a small chance I would get out in ’50, but alas there’s no use crying now, besides to have three kids I would have had to get hitched somewhere in my fifteenth year and that would be no good. … These German people are really nice people – as long as we’re carrying the guns. They’re a very religious people, too. Did you know that they had a picture of Christ to stick up the minute that Hitler messed up the works? Yep, they threw Hitler’s picture away, but they’ll keep the frame for the next maniac that comes along and tells them they can rule the world. All in all though they’re very trustful. I’d trust them as far as I could throw a Sherman tank. … Thanks a lot for that medal, Pop. It is really nice and I’ve been wearing it ever since I received it. Pop, I’ve been wondering how I’m going to find out the news of my buddies after you sell the saloon. Guess I’ll have to do the impossible and start writing to keep in touch with them. Don’t guess you have been doing much hunting this year with the shortage of shells and all have you? Since I’ve been back here I bet I saw a million squirrels. Boy, they are really thick over here. I didn’t shoot any though as there’s no Mom over here to cook them for me. Some of the fellows have been doing quite a bit of fishing since warm weather arrived and boy they’ve caught some nice ones. Fishing with a line and pole is a little too slow for me though. All I want is a couple of grenades and a boat. They tell me that’s not the sporting way but then who said anything about me being a sportsman. … P.S. Send me some more cookies and candy.”

4/16/45 “Hi ya, Honey … We’re still sweating out this place and believe me I don’t mind it at all. For my part I could stay here for sometime and wouldn’t mind it a bit. The best part of this deal is the amount of guard we have to pull every night. Where else in the ETO could I stand so little guard? The warm weather we’ve been having has really made me homesick for you, babe. It’s the kind of weather where we used to spend on your front porch, what a life that was. Don’t know what I would have done if I had to do that all the time.”

4/17/45 “Dearest Sweets … Noticed in one of your letters you said we could have been a lot closer. If you remember, I tried to make us a lot closer but all I got was ‘No Bill.’ Maybe you’re right about that but on the other hand it sure would have been nice. Guess I have no gripe coming though, cause now I have that to look forward to. Don’t forget that your soldier loves you and always will.”

4/23/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … We have been in this town for about three days now and from all indications we may stay here for some time (I hope). It’s been about two weeks time since I heard any noise, such as 88s and other shell-throwing devices, but don’t get me wrong as I love it here.”

4/29/45 “How de doo, Sweetheart, and how’s the cutest little wench that ever filled a bullet? You surely surprised me when you got that job at Small Arms. I didn’t think they hired anyone till they were 18 or better; methinks my little kiddo has done a lot of fibbing about her age, am I right? Guess by now you got more money than you know what to do with. … Do you remember the letter in which I told you the foxhole had fallen in on Hebert and myself; well that letter was written in a foxhole about a hundred yards from the Rhine River. When they crossed the Rhine they laid down one of the heaviest artillery barrages in history and I was unlucky enough to see it, the barrage was the cause of our caved-in foxhole. It was really a good show, though. Lots of people would have given a lot of dough to see it, but as for me I’ll take a nice easy chair and a good book — must be my blood. In all my young life I’ve never heard so much noise and I’m hoping I don’t for the rest of my life. They threw everything at them but the kitchen sink and then sometimes I thought I heard that going over. artillerybarrageRight after the barrage white flags started popping up everywhere those people hung out everything even a few unmentionables. While we were on the west side of the Rhine we didn’t see too much of what our Air Corps had been doing, but when we crossed the river we saw that they did all right. Whole cities had been completely demolished by bombs, and although it wasn’t very nice to look at you couldn’t help but feel that these G’s deserve it. Maybe if I hadn’t seen France, Belgium, England and Holland I wouldn’t feel this way but since I have seen the Nazis’ work I get nothing but satisfaction from such sights. If all of Germany was completely ravaged it wouldn’t make up for what they’ve did to the other countries. Course to hear the civilians talk the German people wouldn’t hurt a fly. Joke. One girl who could speak a little English asked me if I was a gentleman or a gangster; naturally I told her I was a gentleman, and in a counterthrust I asked her why. She said there were so many American gangsters in the Army she wondered if I was one. My next question was what were the German soldiers. Her answer was gentlemen always. I then told the little lady what a damn liar she was and almost lost my gentleman instincts by wanting to slap the hell out of her.”

5/2/45 “Hiya Honey, And how are you? Still on your defense job, I hope? No telling how production would drop if you were to be absent from work, and incidentally you don’t want that to happen now do you? At present time I’m waiting rather patiently to go on guard again for another two hours, which will be spent very impatiently, I fear. Don’t know how I’d pass away my guard hours if I didn’t have you to think about. Memories and postwar plans are great little time passers.”

5/3/45 [hard to read] “Hello Sweetheart … We have a radio now… Right now the Harry James Program is on. I haven’t heard him for so long that I thought he was one of Jesse’s brothers.”

5/4/45 “Hello Sweetheart … Been listening to the news and from where I sit it sounds pretty good so far as Germany is concerned. I wish it was this way with the Japs, too.”

5/10/45 “Hi ya Sweetheart … The good news about Germany’s surrender reached my young ears yesterday and boy was I a happy character. Half of this old war is finally won and now only Japan is left for us to kick the stuffing out of and then that strong, handsome Johnson kid – or should I say man – can come home and marry that fat, repulsive little gorgeous chunk of girlhood he’s in love with. Don’t blush honey as I know them “thar” compliments are a little too much for you to take all of a sudden like that.ww2papers1 How I would have loved to have celebrate V-E day with you babe, we would have really run amuck. As the score now stands we’ll have to postpone the celebration till Johnson Comes Marching Home, which I hope won’t be too darn far off. My most urgent need at the present time is some loving, administered by a little brunette, who is just a trifle plump. Okay, I’ll take the last part of that back as I just remembered that you told me you had lost one lb. What are you trying to do turn into a skeleton, losing all that weight at one time? Guess now when I get home I’ll have to fatten you up as you really getting run down. … Speaking of marriage reminds me of food and reminding me of food brings to the fore the subject of egg salad. Mom told me you make a delicious egg salad, so I have a request to make. Will you please forget how to make that dish as I detest it. Thank you. All you have to know how to cook is pork chops and chicken. See how easy I am to please? Oh you are a lucky girl, getting a man like me for a husband, there’s no doubt about that — or don’t you think so? If you answer that question with anything besides a yes I’ll club you, so help me!”

5/15/45 “Hellooo Stuff … My greatest weakness is putting things off so I had a pretty good deal of washing to do. Then when I was finished I decided that it wasn’t so hard after all. Guess I don’t have to tell you about my one weakness though, as if it hadn’t been for that we would be married now. No honey, it wasn’t that weakness that decided me about not getting married till after the war but the fear of me leaving you behind with a baby, and then maybe not coming back. In my own mind I think I was right too as it was hard enough sweating out these Germans with just my little woman at home and boy if I would have been sweating out a kid at the same time my mind would have most likely went kaput. If a guy on the front’s got someone to think of he’s all right, but if he’s worried about someone he’s not worth anything. Boy, I’m really trying to talk myself out of getting married, but then if I am lucky enough to get home before going to Japan I think I’ll forget all of those things that make sense, and listen to my heart for a change. … Honey, you really ought to see this country. It’s really beautiful. There’s big hills covered with evergreen trees everywhere one looks. There’s streams and lakes filled with fish and small farms are very much the thing. After seeing this scenery you try to think why anyone would want anything else, but then I’m not German, so that must explain it. At the present time I’m doing a twenty-four hour guard duty at a hospital. It’s really a nice place. The inmates are all German soldiers and they are really treated good, the soldiers don’t give us as much trouble as the civilians incidentally. The hospital is taken care of by sisters or nuns and they are really nice. They’re the only German people I don’t class as Nazis. We stand two hours on guard and four off so it isn’t too much work. The inmates are classified as Prisoners of War so therefore the U.S. has to feed them. We ate breakfast and dinner and it was really good. The nuns do the cooking so that explains why, I guess.”

5/20/45 “Hiya Sweetstuff … Honey, just because Germany is defeated, don’t think I’ll be right home as that’s not what’s going to happen. You have probably read where a lot of G.I.s are going to have to go from Europe to fight the Japs and although I’m not much in favor of it I’m going to be one of those G.I.s. The only hope I have seeing you within a year is that I go to the Pacific by way of the States. If I do then I have a pretty good chance of getting a furlough, and if I don’t we’ll have to wait till long off. So therefore, sweetheart, there’s no sense in you expecting me home in a short time, I’m sorry to say. You’ll just have to bear with me and stay true to your old man for awhile longer. They always say that absence makes the heart grow fonder so let’s hope that stays true in our case. Right now I’ve no chance to fool around with women so you can put your mind at ease, and don’t say you’re not jealous either because if you weren’t jealous I’d think you didn’t love me, so there, too. … Even now that the war is over you can’t buy anything in Germany for the simple reason there’s nothing buy and even if there were, the people wouldn’t take money as they want food. If the damn fools hadn’t listened to Hitler they’d have that commodity now, but no, they wanted war so that’s what they got and now they’re bitching, which incidentally don’t bother me at all. As I told you I was getting hard-hearted but there’s no other way to treat these so-called civilized supermen so it’s all right. One thing I know – and that is when I get back to the best country I’ll lose my hard-heartedness”

5/22/45 [or 5/27/45] “Hellooo Honey … It’s getting close to eight months since I last took you in my arms and during that time I’ve been missing a hell of a lot of loving. Going to marry you just so I can be with you all the time – so there.”

5/23/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … Today I’ve been making a box to send my souvenir rifles home in and have completed the job to my satisfaction.”

5/24/45 “Hiya Sweetstuff … Gosh, I’ve got so many things to do when I get back home that it will take me a lifetime (at least) to accomplish. One of those things will only take about five minutes and that will be to get married to you and that incidentally is the most important thing about all. Just think honey you’ll be able to go around bragging about being married to Bill Johnson.”

5/25/45 “Hiya Sweetstuff … Right now I’m getting my fill of the Army of Occupation and personally I don’t like it even a little bit. This deal is getting old but fast.”

5/26/45 “Hi ya Honey, Here’s that soldier of yours again. Right now I’m on guard at one of the ammunition dumps they have around here. All the explosives and shells are German and were picked up from all over the country and brought to this one place. All morning I have been looking for some time fuses so I could make a charge and get some fish but alas my search is ended as I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s none to be had. Who wants any slimy old fish anyway? I do, I’m hungry. … Honey, I sure hope I get that furlough before going to the Pacific because I want to marry you so bad it hurts.”

5/27/45 “Hiya Sweetstuff … Today we got our Coca-Cola ration the first since we crossed the Rhine. It was really good while it lasted but unfortunately it didn’t last long enough. Oh well, now I have an idea what a Coke tastes like again so if another month or two goes by without any I can always go back on my memory. cocacolaRight now I could use about a dozen of those Malted Milks we used to get at the Greeks. I say only a dozen because I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m a hog – anyway twelve of them would do me for at least ten minutes.”

[undated] “Dearest Sweetheart … This old war is getting very lousy and also getting on my nerves. This drunken guy from the Air Corps is not helping my morale any too much. He came in about 15 minutes ago and he won’t leave at all – for awhile I was under the impression that the Infantry had helped win this war but from the way he talked we weren’t over for nothing but to view the scenery. He has finally left after telling all his terrible troubles to a bunch of guys who had more troubles than he ever heard about. He has just came out of the 8th Air Corps which was in England the whole time of the war and this guy was only there for 35 months what a rugged individual – glad I’ve been in the soft branch of the service.”

5/28/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … So my little woman is going into the rabbit business – well good for you. You raise them and I’ll eat them – what a combination. By the time I get home they ought to be really good eating.”

5/28/45 “Dear Mom and Pop … Say Pop, you are really on the ball around the house from what Mom writes — what you doing? Getting in shape before you go back to truck driving? Bet you feel a lot better since you sold the saloon and started keeping decent hours. I’m darn glad you got rid of it too, as that kind of life would tear hell out of any man. Mom says you’re going to put a fence all around the back, that’s a good idea, too – there’s only one thing worries me and that is who you going to get to dig the pole? I’ll probably get slugged for that… Could you send me some of that peanut brittle and some cookies as I could really use some — and if you can get a tube of Pepsodent toothpaste send it along, too. Thanks.”

5/29/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … Say honey if I get that furlough and we get married where would you like to go for a honeymoon? Now don’t start thinking of Niagara Falls or New York but think of someplace close to home as I won’t be in a traveling mood.”


6/5/45 “Dearest Sweetheart, Well honey I’ve finally left Germany behind and I hope it’s for good. At exactly 2:15 this afternoon I crossed the Belgium-German border and right now I’m sitting on a hill about two miles from Liege in a very good mood. I am a little tired as I’ve been riding since 6:00 this morning till 6:00 tonight. … This will be the first time I’ve slept on the cold, cold ground since we crossed the Rhine. Even with this hard life I’m glad to be out of the Fatherland. I passed through Cologne and Aachen today and they are really torn to hell. cologneHad thought previously that I had seen all the destruction that was possible but I was wrong as usual. The center of Cologne is completely demolished and I do mean but good. Maybe the Germans will think twice now before starting another war.”

FRANCE (Camp Detroit)

6/5/45 “Hi Ya, Sweetheart… As you can see from the top of my letter I’m now in France – really get around, don’t I? At the present time I’m in a permanent camp – or will be permanent in another couple of weeks. All we have now is six-man tents, cots, and a field. Arrived here about two hours ago, so I don’t know much about this deal as yet, that is outside of the rumors that are going around. One of the best is that I’ll be stationed here from 8 months to a year and a half. If it is true, you and I are going to have to postpone our plans again for awhile. In one way this should be a good deal as then I wouldn’t have to worry about fighting the Japs. Then on the other hand I sure could use that 30-day furlough, but good. … The name of this camp is Camp Detroit.”

6/8/45 “Dearest Sweetheart …We have to stand [can’t read] tomorrow for the first time since we left England and that is not good. Knew though that as soon as they got settled down they’d start throwing the chicken at us. Oh well, better that than dodging six-inch mortar shelves on some island in the Pacific.”

6/14/45 “My Sweetheart … Guess by the time you get this, you’ll be off that midnight shift I’ve been hearing so much about. I’ll bet my little woman has really got bags under her eyes from losing so much sleep. … Incidentally, in case you’re interested I’m still against twin beds – what about you? Gee honey, I miss you something awful. I’ll never let go of you when I get out of the Army – we’ll be more like Siamese twins than husband and wife. Tell everyone I said hello and keep loving me sweets, as I love you.”

6/15/45 “Dearest Sweetheart …When we arrived in good old Camp Detroit there was nothing here but a big open field with a few tents and now only a little over a week later it would amaze you to see the building that has taken place. Wooden houses have sprang up everywhere. These buildings will be used for P.X.s, warehouses, telephone exchanges, and offices. The first troops to be processed here are expected to arrive any day now so this I beginning to look like an Army camp. They’re supposed to winterize our tents in the near future and that won’t make me a bit mad as we have been having some mighty cool days and nights here. Right now all we have to protect us from the elements is a thin layer of canvas and that is not enough, I’ll tell you.”

2797084209_841e2d342c_o6/16/45 “Hello Stuff and Stuff and Stuff …Wow! What a shape — what a gal. That’s right – you’ve guessed it — about an hour ago I received four letters from you and in one of those four letters I came across those two pictures. What a woman! Gosh babe, you don’t know how glad I was when I saw them picture. Guess I’m about the luckiest guy in the world for having such a good-looking and nice girl like you. Those pictures sure have made me want you now, more than anything in the world. … Honey you’re not awful just for not wanting me to go to Japan, because if you are that makes two of us. My fervent hope is that Japan will get licked before I get over there so that I can get home and start raising the future Johnson brats. That ambition has been the ambition of mine ever since I’ve hit this man’s army and it will remain so until I get out and start accomplishing it. I’ve wasted an awful lot of time here in the Army and from the looks of things I’m going to waste lots more. Still the Army has taught me to be pretty self-supporting; that a lot of guys (including me) can use to make themselves better men. Even though the Army has taken me five thousand miles (and maybe more before this thing is over) from my home and the ones I love I’m not bitter as I’d rather be over here fighting than sitting at home wondering and waiting for some enemy to invade the United States. I (under no circumstances) want none of my loved ones undergoing an ordeal such as warfare at its worst. I’ve seen what buzz bombs, bombing raids and artillery do to the innocent civilians and it’s not a pretty sight. I’d stay overseas for ten years if it’s necessary and be happy just to know that the people at home are safe. …You also mentioned about me getting away with some unmentionable things when I was home last. Babe you don’t think that I did those things (as you call them) because I’m a louse, do you? You’d better not as that is not the reason. When a boy and girl love each other the way we do it’s only natural that one or the other should start thinking of sex relations and in our case I was the one. I’ll admit I was a cad but gosh honey I wanted you so bad – still do. You know by this time that there’s other things in love besides kissing. If you don’t, well don’t try to learn but just wait till I get back and I’ll endeavor to teach you – you naïve little vixen – I loves you honey and you feels just right – those legs of yours are all right too.”

6/18/45 “Dearest Sweetheart… This Army may be all right for some guys but for a peace and home-loving guy like me it’s no good and I want to raise some little Johnsons but also it looks like I won’t be able to start for sometime.”

6/23/45 “Hiya Honey … Stone and I went to the town of St. Quentin the night before last so as per usual I wasn’t worth a darn yesterday, in fact to put it bluntly I was under the weather – but good. About all I did yesterday was sleep and eat. P.S. Here’s the true life story of our squad in combat McMurtrie one of the boys who got it in the leg but came back wrote it and I think it’s pretty good. Save it after you read it as it’s the only copy I have. Oh yes, incidentally I am one of the original three remaining.”

2nd squad, 2nd Platoon. On V-E day, when it was all over, “The Old B______” had only three men of its old crew still with her – three of the original who had come over with her, who’d guzzled the lousy Welsh beer together and passed around the cognac in that first muddy bivouac in France. Now these three drank walloping schnapps with their buddies who had joined them through the bitter campaign from the Ardennes to the Ruhr. “Remember where we was Christmas Eve when we got our first action? Cold as the devil and scared as hell! And the night a couple of days after, set up by that bridge in front of the OPL when SS patrols got around in back of us into La Fasse, and we thought sure as hell we’d have to fight our way back? You bet I do! And those days after that upon the hill over La Fasse with all that shelling. You had the choice of staying in your hole and freezing or moving around and getting an 88 in your hip pocket? Sure, and what about Compte, where we barged in and sweated out a day and a half wondering who was gonna move in with us first – our line troops or the Heinies? And then came Salm-Chateau and Beche. Yeah and after that, when we thought we was going to Liege for a rest and wound up taking a three day refrigerated ride to Calmor? That was some campaign there. It seemed as though every time we moved in, the Heinies were tossing stuff from their sides. Once they even got a mortar in back of us and made it four. And then “Bedcheck Charlies” coming over with his bombs every night. Was it in Appenwhir where you got yours, Bill? Or Hettenschlag? And old Mike was sweating out his transfer to rear echelon. Are you still hoping Mike? It was up on the Maas River, 75th-storyafter Colmar, where they got old “Start, Dart, Stumble and Fall” and Jimmy after we knocked out that Heinie OP and machine gun nest nearly got you and Johnny (me), too. Yeah and we had some close ones up on the Rhine where that 15 mm hit so close to Studs’ and Johnny’s (Me) hole it caved in on them, and if Butch hadn’t been on the spot with a shovel, they’d be there still. I guess they didn’t like “The Old B_____” putting the H.E. in those pillboxes of theirs. How about that day and night race on the other side of the Rhine where, when we finally did get a chance to stop, they blasted away half the house we was in next to the gun position? It was only a couple days after we crossed the canal that they got Mac – in Ichern, wasn’t it? He’s probably in states now. Lee, too, after he got it in the knee. Boy he was a damn good driver – even better when he was half-starved. Things went pretty fast after we split up into bazooka teams and went in with second Bn. To take Bochum. That was quite a show. Yup, that was the windup and here we are sweating out the C.B. I know. It was some rat race, huh? It sure was – hey! Save me a slug of that stuff.”


6/29/45 “Hi Ya Sweetheart, Your old man has finally gotten a furlough. It’s only to Wales in Great Britain but at least I’ll be away from the Army for seven days – and that will be good. At the present time I’m in a Red Cross Club outside Le Havre where I’m waiting to be put on a boat for my destination. Been here for two days to tell the truth this place is not half bad. All guys getting furloughs to Great Britain have to go through this camp, where they receive their tickets, new clothes, and orders. Last night I went to the movies and saw ‘Strange Voyage’ – pretty good. It was the first movie I’ve seen since before we crossed the Rhine. … There has been some rumors going round that the low point men in the 75th may be sent to another division and then to the Pacific by way of the states.”

6/30/45 “Hi Ho, Sweetheart … I’m still at the same place and expect to be here for at least four or five more days. It seems as though we can’t go to England until they get us a ship – strange isn’t it? If they’d give us a rowboat we could row across from here but – no soap. Some day I’m going to get used to this Army and that is after fifteen or twenty years of it. Incidentally I don’t intend to be in quite that long – I hope. … Received a letter from Otto the other day. When he was home on his last leave he and Betty got married — lucky dog. He’s still stationed in Calif. And Betty is out there with him. The best part of his letter is where he asked me to pray for him so that he wouldn’t have to go overseas. Yeah, I’ll pray for him – in a pig’s eye. He’s got the idea that all the guys over here are (or were) fighting so that he could be safe. The poor b___d is scared silly that he’ll have to do some fighting for his loved ones. About the best thing I could is to quit writing to him, but not until I answer his letter and let him know what I think of him. As a man he’d make a good mouse. Don’t get the idea that I’m a hero as I’m not (and never will be one) but I’ll be damned if I prayed or tried in any other way to get out of going into the Army or coming over here. I’m not saying that I wanted to leave the states but on the other hand it would have been very easy for me or any of the other guys over here to fix themselves so they couldn’t have made. To end this discussion I am very much disgusted in one Otto Rath – but good. … Went to the show again last night and saw George Brent and Hedy Lamar in ‘Experiment Perilous,’ which wasn’t too bad. Would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had a certain 121 lb of loveliness name of Delores sitting beside me….”

hollywoodcanteen17/1/45 “Hi ho Sweetheart … This place is so dead that rigor mortis has set in and left. There’s nothing to drink here, very few women, and a hell of a lot of GIs. All in all, it’s a good little town – good one to stay out of. Sure wish they’d get us a boat so I could go to England, have my fling, and get back to my outfit. Funny how a guy misses those homely mugs. Guess he gets so used to them that he has to miss them. Sure wish I could get to that mug of yours as easy as I can reach theirs. Seems like I’m laid low with a case of those Sunday Blues and boy am I low. Been sitting around the Red Cross eating doughnuts so much that every now and then I feel my stomach just to make sure there’s no hole in it. Been hearing rumors that they might change the name of doughnuts to doughbills or doughjohnsons – wonder why. Went to the show last night again and saw ‘Hollywood Canteen.’ It was really a good picture but then I guess you’ve saw it and know all about it. There’s a G.I. pounding out ‘Molly and Me’ on the piano and he is strictly good.”

7/2/45 “Dearest Sweetheart, Hi Ya Babe how’s the homefront conducting itself? Hope everything is OK and you’re not working too hard. Still sitting on my rusty dusty, doing nothing except collecting dust and I’m getting very tired of doing that. If a boat don’t show up soon I’m going to tell them to shove this furlough up and take off for my outfit. … Been hearing talk that they’re taking men out of our Div. and putting them in outfits that are scheduled to leave the ETO. Hope they’re not ture until I get back at least. This fooling around doing nothing is enough to drive a man stark raving mad. Hear hear. Not that I’m any too sane right now… Went to the show again last nite and saw ‘Janie.’ That was really a piperoo and I really enjoyed it. Sorta made me homesick for you honey as all those love pictures do. Really a sentimental cuss – aren’t I?”

7/4/45 “Hi ho Honey … Wish I were waiting on an airplane to take me to you instead of waiting for a boat to take me to England. Don’t guess it will be too long before I’ll be home sweetheart, that is if the boys keep up their good work in the Pacific. Don’t imagine that the Japs will give up though till they get word that Johnson the Terrible is on his way. Sure hope none of the guys from my company have been put in new outfits while I’m fooling around here as that I wouldn’t like.”

7/5/45 “Hi ho Sweetstuff … Seems like to write letters I’ve got to get away from my buddies as they pester the heck out of a guy when he’s in camp. … Here though I’ve nobody to bother me except for a very sentimental piano player who at the present time is breaking my heart with all kinds of melancholy songs. If I had my pistol with me I could fix that one bottleneck up in a hurry but, fortunately for him, I left it back at camp.”


7/15/45 “Hiya Sweetheart, Have you missed my letters for the last week – or am I kidding. Just got back from my furlough and taking everything in consideration had a pretty good time. Now that’s all water under the bridge so I’m back under the Army’s hand again. It really felt good to be able to do anything I wanted during those seven days but it was just a sneak preview of the good time we’ll have if and when I get a furlough home….”


7/21/45 “Hi ho Sweetheart, Bet by now you have come to the conclusion that I’ve forgotten your address or something. Well it was something: It took me five days to get from Southampton to camp – no I wasn’t drunk. The trip back almost took all the fun out of my furlough. Everything we got a seat on while coming back had a layover from two hours up till two days. It really feels good to be back in camp even if I did have to go back to work.”

7/23/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … Didn’t get a chance to write last night as we had to move all our equipment including our tent back to their original positions, the reason for that is the cement floors were ready for use. This floor sure beats the heck out of the bare ground and I’ve noticed that there doesn’t seem to be as many bugs slumming around as before which incidentally is okay with me. Sure wish they’d put the electric lights in as I used to do all my letter writing when everybody was asleep – course that was way back in Camp Fannin, Texas. … From the way you write, I gather that about now you’re probably out looking for a new job. Guess though by this time you’re about used to that. Glad to hear that you got out of that plant as I know it wasn’t doing your health and beauty any good. You should be able to get a job this time where the work is easier and not as dangerous, which will suit me a lot better.”

7/30/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … We have a pretty nice set-up here. Our living quarters are an improvement and we also have the added luxury of electricity. The shower is about ten yards form our door so we don’t have to walk very far to get clean. We have PWs to clean our tent, make the bunks, hang our clothing, and also do our washing and ironing. Doesn’t sound much like the Army or at least the Infantry – does it?”

8/7/45 “Hi Ya Honey, And how is the light of my life at the present time. Hope you aren’t too mad at me for my inconsistent letter writing. We had to work pretty hard the last few days as the Air Corps has to be out of here in the not-too-distant future so therefore they must have all their equipment must be packed – but fast. We even had to work Sunday much to my intense dislike. … Sure am glad to hear that you and your folks will soon be able to move in your house. Guess it will be rather strange to have the whole Herman family under one roof again, and of course very nice. Another good thing is that you’ll be back on the hill where I wish I was right now – but good. Honey, do you realize that I haven’t seen your homely face in over ten months and it seems more like ten years – at least. … Four of the fellows are having a red hot poker game – 20 cents limit – yep Stone’s one of them. They tried to get me interested but for a change my willpower won out.”

8/10/45 “Hiya Sweetheart … Gee honey, this war better get over soon or Johnson is going to be so far behind on his wooing that he’ll forget how to do it. It’s getting so that every time I look at your picture I feel like I’ve been hit with a torpedo. Those Japs better snap a little stuff pretty quick or I’ll make my own invasion. Even though the war looks like it will be over very soon it looks as though I’ll be in this Army for quite sometime – it wouldn’t be too bad if I got stationed somewhere in the States but if I have to stay over here it wouldn’t be worth a damn. … Well, I see my little working goil is out of a job again, someday you won’t have to do any worrying about earning the bread and butter as that responsibility will fall on Pa Pa Johnson’s shoulder (no cracks please) even if they are the sloping kind. Was glad to hear that you weren’t working at Small Arms anymore as that job seemed a little too much for a young lady of just 18.”

8/15/45 “Dearest Sweetheart, Well honey, today has been declared a holiday by Uncle Sam and since it’s because the war is over I’m in a very good mood – to say the least. It’s really been a long time since this old world has had peace and I sure hope we can hold on to it for a long time to come, although in my own estimation there will always be wars as long as the world has people in it. The only thing I can hope for is that I don’t see the next one as it will really be a piperoo. Now that the fighting is over at last all of the draftees (including Johnson) are wanting to know how long it’s going to be before they can put on those civilian duds again, and in doing this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will be in this Army for some time to come, offhand about 18 months at the very least and this is going to be pretty hard to take, but at the present time there is nothing to do about it but cuss and bear it. If luck’s with me I’ll be out somewhere in my 21st year and I’ll admit that even though that is not a very nice thought it’s a lot better to look at things the way they are and not the way we’d like them to be. There is no sense in saying that I won’t like it one bit as that you know already. The fellows are always telling me that what they think but I know different. There is only one thing that will make this Army bearable for me and that is to know that my girl is waiting for me when I finally do get my discharge from this “rat race.” If I’m sure of that one thing they can’t make life too hard for me.”

8/19/45 “Hi ya Sweetheart … You know it’s a good thing I keep a candle and a flashlight for emergencies like this or you would have to wait another day for this letter. … So you’re working in a drugstore now, what are you – a soda jerk or have you a cashier’s job? Hope there aren’t too many of those drugstore dudes hanging around the place you’re employed at, as I’d hate to have to bang a few of their heads together. … Seems like you always get stuck with the night shift, they must think you’re a night owl – and just cause you’re my girl, too. … rockettesThe boys have just come back from seeing a USO starring the Rockettes and from the way they talk it must really be a good show as they are really showing some enthusiasm about it. If they don’t shut up soon I’m going to have to put all four of them to bed. Much rather be putting a nice little girl to bed and not my little sister, either.”

8/22/45 “Dearest Sweetheart… You’re really a little spitfire babe and that was noticeable before I left. In all the time I’ve been gone you have probably gotten worse so that when I come home I’ll have to tame you all over again — and don’t think that Johnson can’t still do it as I’ll assure you that he can — and will. I’ll admit you’ve been having lots of experiences as a woman of the world, just don’t forget though that your future husband has also seen some experiences — mean aren’t I?”

8/25/45 “Dearest Sweetheart, Today I’ve got a favor I’m going to ask you to do for me. It’s not a very big favor to you but it means a pretty lot to me so I hope you’ll do this little thing for your old man. The favor I’m asking you for is to STOP SMOKING for me – will you?”

8/28/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … How’s the smoking habit coming along? Hope you’ve saw the light and did what I requested. You know sweetheart, for some time I’ve been using all sorts of endearing and loving terms in my letters, but if you don’t do what I asked you, I guess I’ll just have to put my fiendish mind to work and think up some appropriate names to go with your new habit. All right so I smoke, so therefore why can’t you? Simple enough, as it’s not nice, my naïve and sheltered little darling. Miss Herman, you’re going to force me to have to paddle your backside yet, and if you don’t think I wouldn’t enjoy doing it, you just wait. … So you like your job, well I don’t blame you one bit as I must admit that I’d like nothing better than working in a place that manufactures ice cream sodas, malted milks, and sundaes. Hope you aren’t turning into a malted milk fiend. … Honey, I only sent one letter to Wellston and I guess you’ve received it by this time, so don’t worry about anymore going there. As yet I don’t know your new address, so therefore I’m sending the letters to your old home (as any darn fool can plainly see).”

8/31/45 “Dearest Sweetheart, Well here ’tis — payday again, and another month has been pushed into the discard, and it also means it’s another month closer to the realization of our dreams. Sure don’t care for payday over here as much as I did when I was in the States, as even the money we get doesn’t look or feel like that old filthy lucre we got in the states, about the only things I’d use it for if I was home would be to paper the chicken house or as a poor substitute of Scott Tissue – if you get what I mean, the more I see of this so-called money the surer I am that it was designed for the above purpose in the first place, but being it was too cheap-looking they decided use it as French currency. … I received the razor blades you sent me and have used one already. They’re pretty good blades too, speaking as an expert shaver, that is. Every time I have to shave I first fasten a tourniquet around my neck so that I won’t bleed to death from the wound I receive from the mean old razor. What I can’t understand is why they keep turning my application down for the Purple Heart. They keep telling me you have to be wounded by enemy action, and I keep telling them that the razor I receive is no friend to me. All they ever answer to that is we know, we know. It’s beginning to bore me.”

9/3/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … We had to work Saturday night and Sunday, too. I’m beginning to believe that the so-and-so who made the saying ‘idle hands breeds mischief’ is running this camp. I’ll say one thing they’re accomplishing and that is they are breaking me of a wonderful habit I’ve acquired over a period of years — and I do mean sleeping. Seems that no sooner do I hop in bed and pull the covers over me than some dumb brute sticks his mug in the door and asks in a polite voice, ‘If the occupants of this tent would care to arise and partake of breakfast?’ The minute he say that you might as well start putting your clothes on because if you were to roll over and say, ‘No, thank you,’ this character rushes into the tent with sadistic glee and turns the bunk over (with the occupant in it, of course) – that’s what I like about this Army – never a dull moment. Ah how nice it would be to be back home and have you coming into to wake me up each morning.”

9/6/45 “Hiya Sweetheart … How is St. Louis doing since the war is over? Is there any differences that are noticeable? Have you heard of anybody that we know that’s got a discharge or is getting one – if so who? Don’t guess things have changed much though as it hasn’t even been a month since peace was declared, although to me it feels more like a year. Saw in the Stars and Stripes that besides the 400,000 men in the Army of Occupation, they’re going to keep 300,000 more men over here for six months after the rest of the men go home. If I’m lucky enough to stay out of the Army of Occupation, I’ll most likely wind up in the latter group. According to the paper that group will be out of here by June 30, 1946, so even though that does seem like a long time, it’s a lot better than being in the A. of O. Anyway it gives a guy – and also a gal – a date to look forward to and that is much better than it was before. … Well the boys of Mobile Packing Squad packing-and-cratinghave hung a couple of new nicknames on two of our foremost characters. O’Toole the little Pollack has been dubbed ‘The Little Stinker,’ while Snyder, our big clerk, has been dubbed ‘Big Barnsmell.’ The names are very appropriate as both of the fellows are full of gastric acidity, but good. One thing about the U.S. Army it really hangs some good nicknames on its members and usually it sticks for some time. Wish somebody by the name of Herman would nickname me ‘Civilian’ and make me stick. I love you, sweetheart.”

9/10/45 “Hiya Sweetheart … Have been doing an awful lot of reading for the past week or so been reading everything from ‘rooting, tooting, shooting’ Western novels to book by John Steinbeck and Vera Caspary. When I get interested in a good book it would take two teams of mules to pull me away from it until I’ve completed it. Maybe I read too much which incidentally is not good for anyone with an imagination as mine. Bet I know of one thing that could make me lay down a book and set up and take notice; it’s about 5’3” and weighs somewhere on the other side of 120 lbs. Yep honey, believe it or not you could replace a book. My, isn’t that a nice compliment? Quit grinding your teeth honey, it’s not becoming to a young lady of your type.”

9/13/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … Sorry to hear that your uncle’s got malaria as that’s not good. Malaria was one of the big reasons I didn’t want to go to the Pacific; the other was the Japs. Sure hope he hasn’t got it too bad as it’s one hell of a disease. The next time you write to him tell him I said hello, if he remembers me. … Boy, have we got a nutty bunch in this tent – there is no finer men with less sense as a whole in the ETO and when all of them get that don’t give a darn mood it’s really something to watch and hear – for you it would have to be censored a little though. Honey, I am no longer in the 75th Div. You may now refer to me as a Com Z Commando because as of yesterday that is my status. Seeing as I’ve got such a low point score, this don’t surprise me. I’ve been expecting it for some time. One good thing about it is that I was transferred to this Mobile Packing Squad and not to something worse.”

9/15/45 “Dearest Sweetheart …What I need is to hop in a Ford, with you, take in a show, go to the Greeks and finish up in your front room with some good old loving – Dogpatch or any other style. This bachelor life I’m not leading is no good for nobody. I’m in need of a lot of the feminine touch, supplied by no other but my little hoosier. Honey, in my present condition I’d even let you teach me how to dance and then go to the Starlight Roof, Hotel Kingsway, the Admiral or any other high class joint, now you can see what a shape I’m in. admiral… Say, you never did tell me what branch of service that John Flieg was in, although it don’t make much difference right now, as all of them rear echelon outfits at the present time. I’m glad to hear that he’s coming over as then they’ll be one guy with less points than me. You know, babe, that I’ve got more points than Herm and he’s got about 10 months more service than me – oh that makes me very happy cause if they stick to the point system I will get out before him. Yippee. What a louse. At least I won’t be last – what little consolation that is.”

9/23/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … The reason I haven’t written any in the past week is because I cut the heck out of my right thumb and haven’t been able to touch a pen since the day I cut it which was Tuesday. It wasn’t too bad a cut but I did have to get two stitches in it, and after that it was pretty darn sore until today. … Sure was glad to hear you gave up the smoking honey and I’m glad you told me about it – and I wasn’t mad at you but just didn’t want you to start a lousy habit.”

9/26/45 Dearest Sweetheart … Being as my friends tell me I’m a broadminded sort of a fellow I’m going to be generous and forgive you for breaking your promise by going to the Cool Valley gin mill (that’s O’Toole’s name for a saloon) anyway who am I to argue with your father and mother and little sister, too. … Stone and myself have finally got a pass together. We leave tomorrow morning for a three-day pass to Brussels, Belgium, and from what I hear it is really a nice place — well I ought to know for sure by this time tomorrow. Incidentally, that is why I’m going to sign off now as I’ve got to get up at 6:00 tomorrow and so it’s time to say I love you, babe.”

9/30/45 “Hi Ya Sweetheart, Just got back from Brussels about two hours ago. Stone and I really had a good time during the four days we were up there but even though the fun is over it feels pretty good to get back to this ‘hellhole.’ Now that I’m back off of that pass guess I’ll have to be a good boy for awhile – as if I wasn’t. Boy! That town is the next thing to the states I have seen since I’ve left New York, if for any reason they wouldn’t let me back in the states my choice of any place over here would be Brussels. brussels1945You can’t even tell that they were in a war as nothing in the town has been hit by it, and they have lots of food and other commodities that I never thought I would see on this side of the ocean. We averaged three steaks a day and the last day we shot the works and got a fried chicken too, which wasn’t as it could have been, for one thing it was a trifle too small, matter a fact it was so small that I was intending to call the manager but at the last minute, one of the small french fries rolled over and lo and behold there was the chicken. One thing about it was the price – very cheap – for three of us it only cost $9.00 – reasonable – isn’t it? I don’t think so either. We really slept in a nice hotel. … The beds had genuine mattresses and white sheets and also white pillows and that – my sweet – is the utmost in comfort for this G.I. of course it could have been a lot better if a certain little girl could have been there – know who I mean. They had a darn nice dining room and perfect service, you walked in and a headwaiter shows you where to site a nice looking waitress then brings the food in – on glass dishes, immediately after finishing the main course, she takes the dishes up and brings … waitress keeps running up to see if you want more coffee – all of this is very nice to say the least. Everything is done to make a guy’s pass as pleasant as possible, and that was nice, too. All in all we had a darn good time, in fact the best time I have had since I’ve been in the ETO.”

10/2/45 “Dearest Babe … Well babe, they have shifted me again. I am now in the Field Artillery – much to my intense dislike – and since they transferred me they have given me a new address, which is nice of them since they think so much of me to do a thing like that – Bah! … One good thing about this transfer is that we’re listed as ‘attached and unassigned’ which puts Stone and me in the same category as we had in Mississippi. So far they have let us stay on our job at MPS, so we don’t know how to the run the Field Artillery – and confidentially I don’t care if and when I’ll find out. There have been rumors going around that our job is supposed to be finished in the near future, if it is true we don’t know where we’ll go from here – darn it. Another bad thing that is going to happen is we’re going to lose our Lt. the 9th of this month, on account of he’s going home, the lucky dog. I know darn well that we’ll never get another officer as good as him as he is one of the best officers I have ever worked and loafed under. It will be just our luck to get an officer that is so military that he sleeps by the numbers – O! Happy Day!”

10/4/45 “Dearest Sweetheart, How be my little woman at this time, hope she isn’t working too hard at her new job. Honey you can find more jobs than anyone I’ve seen so far, you must give those people a wonderful line or something. Hope that when I get home and start looking for a position (notice that I’m not after a job) that I’ll have some of your luck. … My dad wants me to work with him on the Johnson chicken farm, and if I can’t find a good job I’ll probably take him up on the offer. One thing I’ve grown to dislike since coming into this Army is taking orders so therefore I might find it pretty hard to hold a civilian job. It would be best for a man to think of what he’s going to do after he gets that discharge, but as I’ve got nothing to think with I’m in sad shape…. You must feel like a millionaire since you got that back pay from Pevely. Did you sock it away or otherwise? … Didn’t even know that they owed you anything, but then that’s only natural as you never told me anything about it – did you? Boy! We really had an ice cream feast last night. Stone and I went down to the P.X. and got five gallons of cherry ice cream, which we brought back up here. … We got a telephone call from O’Toole who was supposed to be on his way to Reims with a truckload of paper, it so happens that his brakes gave out on him as he was going down a long hill, and since he had a choice of ramming a truck or hitting a tree, he took the easy way out and hit the tree. The reason he called was so that we would bring out another truck to get the paper so that a wrecker could take the truck in. Boy! What a mess that was – he was lucky to have gotten out of it as it was really tore up. We transferred the paper and then helped to attach the truck to the wreck, we got back to camp around 12 o’clock, at which time I immediately hopped in bed.”

10/7/45 “Hi Ya Sweetheart … Do you know today is an anniversary for us? Well it is, as the last time I saw you was one year ago today. Remember? Boy! What a hectic year that was I hope that I never have another like it as I don’t think I could stand it. Many the time during the past year I’ve wondered if I’d be alive to see the end of the war. That’s what I didn’t like about the front, somebody was always trying to make a corpse out of us. Although I never had to change pants during my stay on the front, there were a few times when the issue was in doubt. One of the closest times was the day McMurtrie got hit. We were both diving for foxholes when the shell hit, it kind of knocked me silly for about 15 seconds until I hear Mac hollering for me. 75th-patch1I sure didn’t want to get out of that foxhole then, but since I was the only one around it had to be me or no one. Mac was the one who was hit, but I think that I was the most scared, all my fingers turned to thumbs and I still don’t know how I got him bandaged up. After they took him away and I cooled down a little (meaning I quit shaking so much) I got so mad that I could have killed every German in the world. Ah but that’s all over now and this year better be the one in which I come home for good. As time goes by I’m getting closer to home and the ones I love. Only nine more months and I should be there, at least that’s what they keep telling me and they darn sure better be right. While I was in Brussels they took four guys out of the squad for shipment home, all the ones they took have 80 points or more. Sweetheart, this makes about the third or fourth time I have written and told you how many points I have, you must not be getting all of the letters I write or you would have known. As of V-J Day I have the grand total of 47 points – wonderful isn’t it? I don’t think so either. According to the Stars and Stripes all men with 45 or more points, V-J, will be out of the ETO before June 30th, 1946, and that is what I’m depending on to get me home in nine months. Went to the show the other night and saw ‘Here Comes the Waves’ with Betty Hutton and Bing Crosby. BE036347It was really good and how, I could listen to the Crooner all day long, especially if he was singing ‘Let’s Take the Long Way Home.’ What a voice that guy has got, or have you heard?”

10/9/45 “Hiya Honey…I know the mail situation is really messed up. Sometimes I get letters from home in five or six days, while other times it takes from two weeks to a month, but since the Post Office is run by the Army, it doesn’t seem unusual to me, that it is lousy.”

10/11/45 [hard to read] “Hiya Sweetstuff … Haven’t received the wallet as yet, but I’m waiting very impatiently to get my mitts on it as the wallet you gave me before is in about five pieces. That wallet has sure traveled since you gave it to me on my 18th birthday. Boy! What a ‘punk’ I was. Two whole years have gone by since then, and I guess I’m still a ‘punk’ although I don’t want anyone to call me that.”

10/15/45 “Hiya Sweetheart … From the looks and sound of the weather outside our sturdy tent, I’d say offhand that we are in for a long and cold winter. On nights like these the best place to be is snuggling up to a nice hot stove….[Pfc. Benjamin] Stone, [T/5 Eulogio] Madariagada, the Lt. [Bob Gilmore] and me are the ones out of the old crew who are left, and since they’re talking of closing this outfit, we’re really sweating it out. We really have a deal up here, and since I have to stay over here I don’t know any place I’d rather stay. The Lt. is really a swell joe. He’s the best officer I’ve ever had the pleasure to be under. He’s been trying to get me to go back to school when I get out of the Army and I might at that. If all officers were like him, this Army wouldn’t be such a bad place to be. He’s a college graduate, but besides being educated he has one heck of a lot of common sense, and incidentally there is a big difference in being just smart. The two college boys we had in our squad didn’t have common sense – not one. They could tell you why a snake swallows its food whole, but if you asked them to fill a bucket up with water, they wouldn’t know which end to pour the water in. We call the Lt. by the nickname of Pfc, which doesn’t faze him in the least. All in all he’s a darn swell guy, but unfortunately (for me) he is leaving the 20th. Darn it. The guy who takes his place here will sure have to be something exceptional to fill his place.”

10/20/45 “Hello Honey…Finally got around to taking some pictures and sure hope they turn out good or reasonably so anyway. Haven’t taken them to be developed yet as there’s still one or two shots left in the camera. … Have you decided which job you’re going to keep or are you going to be hoggish and work at both of them. You should make a lot of money but you’ll sure knock the devil out of that chassis of yours, which will make a certain G.I. very mad to say the least. Money to me is just something to spend…. I have been doing one heck of a bunch of reading this past week. Wasn’t very educational though as Western novels never are – or so I’ve noticed.”

10/22/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … Stone, Madariaga and I have been kicking the heck out of things (so to speak) in the towns around camp. There’s not much to do except for getting slightly stewed and boy that is a heck of a job when you do it on this cognac, it also gives a guy a beautiful hangover. Ouch! But since they have no Pepsi-Cola over here, you have to drink something besides water. Anyway, every once a while a guy gets fed up, mad, and lonely so he decides to throw a “Lu Lu.” Since Johnson is no angel, which you should know better than anyone, I’m not above a little congenial drinking….”stone-and-madariaga

10/24/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … Since I broke my fountain pen it looks as though I’m going to have to get well acquainted with this here contraption – again. There’s only one thing wrong with writing a letter on a typewriter and this is it takes too darn long – in my case anyway. They have been calling me old speed demon and throwing water on the machine every few minutes, to keep it from burning up — modest little fellow, aren’t I? … The wind was blowing so hard that Madariaga had to wire the stove to the floor of our little mansion. The pipe would keep pulling away from the stove and wave around in the air, which was very bad as a guy didn’t know when he was going to get bopped on the bean by a red hot pipe. So Madariaga wired the pipe to the stove, at which time the stove itself would raise up and start waving around, so to put a stop that bit of foolishness he had to wire the whole stove down. Everything is now six; two; and even. … Otto [Rath] wrote me another letter which I received yesterday. Since I didn’t answer the last one he wrote me I was mildly surprised to get this one. He says that “he sure hopes we’re still buddies and wanted to know why I haven’t written.” If he only knew how little I write even to the best little gal in the world, I don’t imagine he’d have to ask me that question. Do you? Guess I’ll have to exert some willpower and drop him a line or two.”

11/5/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … The Army has been giving Johnson a free sightseeing trip all through France and we’re supposed to end up in Germany, but after a week of traveling we wind up in a Transient Camp only about an hour’s ride from Detroit. We are supposed to leave here some time within this week, which will not make me the least bit mad, as this is one sad place to be. Only been here two days and already I don’t care for it. Remind me to write my congressman and tell him about the conditions here. … See where you got another rest from work. Hope you have a nice time on the farm and I sure would like to be there with you. … Oh! Before I forget babe, don’t write to me till you hear from me as I don’t know where I’m going from here. Right now the situation is normal – all messed up. Haven’t gotten any mail for over a week and am not expecting any till we get to where we’re going and then the envelope will have so many forwarding stamps on it they’ll probably not be able to read my name on the envelope. I’ll keep writing so don’t worry.”

11/7/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … Didn’t do anything today but lay around and look smart, which is pretty hard for me as they tell me a guy needs brains to look smart, or is that true? Speaking of brains and what not, remember me, What is this about you not going to school just because they don’t give diplomas. It don’t take a diploma to show whether a person is educated or not. Anyway night school would pass away a lot of those lonely evenings. You’re going to have to do those Johnson kids’ lessons when they start doing their lessons. As I’ll probably be out getting drunk in some barroom every night. Honey, don’t throw that stove at me.”

11/10/45 “Dearest Sweetheart … Still spending my time in a very monotonous manner, and the worst thing about this place is I can’t find a brick or cement wall to ram my head on, which is very bad – all we have is tents, tents, and tents. … We have been playing plenty of cards, and all of us are getting to be masters of solitaire. The cards we have are really getting lop-earned just like me. Remind me when I get home not to play any card games and if you catch me in any you have my permission to give me one swift kick with heel and toe attached.”

11/11/45 “Dear Sweetheart, Hiya babe! And how’s my Big Moment on this Armistice Day? … We have wasted too much time already – somebody should have kicked me in the slats for not getting hitched to you before I came over this godforsaken country. You can bet that when I do get back, there’s going to be very little time elapsed until we’re hitched, and pulling as man and wife.”

weddingBill Johnson reenlisted on Nov. 12, 1945, got his furlough, and hurried back to the States. He and Delores Herman were married on Jan. 4, 1946. Bill reported two days later to Fort Belvoir, Va. Delores soon joined him.







Company D 4th Battalion Engineer Replacement Training Center Fort Belvoir, Va. May 1946

Company D 4th Battalion Engineer Replacement Training Center Fort Belvoir, Va. May 1946 (Bill Johnson is in the first row, fifth man from the right)
Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 6:08 pm  Comments (2)