13 February 1944

Just got back from Dry Valley this evening and was it rough! In our case it should have been called Wet Valley. We sludged through miles of mud every day. Sat one afternoon listening to a detailed plan of attack + then ran through the problem - in a downpour of rain. I carried the machine gun that day; several miles in fact + it weighs 42 lbs. without the tripod mount; + had to run like hell for 500 yards carrying it in the attack, besides other shorter distances on the double. We ate most of our meals in the dark; + everything was tactical - meaning you carried rifle + gas mask all the time (including chow). Every noon meal was canned C rations (cold), eaten in the field often in a fox hole he had dug. C rations is a can of beans or hash or stew + a can of biscuits with powdered coffee (soluble) or cocoa or lemon extract. We slept on the ground, sometimes on wet blankets, + always with our clothes on, including shoes. One night I + another fellow lay down under a tree + went to sleep - having no blankets, only an overcoat we were wearing. Many of the night hours we were awake - on patrol or on outguard. Always on the move, tonight we marched back to the cantonment area - a distance of about 5 or 6 miles - at a very rapid rate of speed. Perhaps today's problem was the worst of all - a "gigantic" sham battle - with tanks, aeroplanes, artillery, (TNT charges were used to simulate the latter, mortars, machine guns, + everything. We ran till our breath came hard; fell to the ground every 5 or ten yards + got up to run again; crawled + creeped; pushed through thick brush + timber, jumped down vertical banks; walked through stream beds; + up the 30 to 40 feet sides of gulley walls. We were firing blanks at every "enemy" we could see. Brother, it's rough, a civilian wouldn't understand how rough it really is. And this is just the training. They say that the American Army is the best trained in the world. (Guess I'm carried away with my subject.) I spent all evening trying to clean the rust + dirt off the equipment - rifle, mess gear, bayonet - + other things too innumerable to mention. Tomorrow we undergo what is called the overhead artillery fire. Then tomorrow night we take off for Hell's Bottom for another "outing". It's 9 miles out. I haven't read the news (of any kind) for a week now. I heard we landed in the Gilbert Islands; that's all I know about it. Got your recent letters out in the field. They were very welcome. Don't know what to think about Dad's condition. Got a letter from Allie in answer to the one I'd written her. Will enclose it. In regard to O. Knowltons. Haven't got a letter from any of them there for a long time. I believe that something's brewin, politically speaking, there now though. It got chilly last night + this night it's cold. Hope the temperature doesn't stay down. It's going on 11 o'clock so I'll have to close. I'll not be able to write much for a few more days.

Love, Melvin