Letters

7 November 1943

Dearest,
Aerial View of Infantry Training Camp, Camp Wolters, TX Got your letter Saturday afternoon about 6:00 P.M. Been waiting all week for it. The B. Trng. at Ft. L. doesn't mean much to this camp. In fact, I knew better than mention it to the interviewing section or any of the officers. They would smile. After all, this is a tough outfit. An Infantry Replacement Center, and administrative basic means nothing to them. Furthermore, this camp is one of the two toughest in the whole contry - the other is some Marine camp somewhere. The course here is a killer. We learn everything and do everything. I learned and did more, I believe, this past week than several weeks of Basic at Ft. L. They go at this training like killing snakes. The calisthenics, often twice a day, are routines in muscular anguish. The stories I've heard about some of the longer hikes - that men fall flat on their face, unconscious, from exhaustion. We jump from one session to the next, running on the double, over rocks and sand. Everything is strict discipline. The officers bawl hell out of you for the slightest mistake. We've had drills in the use of the bayonet, and practiced hand-to-hand combat, and been taught some tricks of jiu-jitsu. Also I've had my Garand rifle apart a couple of times already (field stripping, it's called) to see how it works and to clean it. Worn a gas mask and smelled samples of poison gases to learn to identify them by odor. Next week we go thorugh a gas-chamber (tear gas) with masks on. We'll learn to use the Garand rifle, a Browning Automatic Rifle, a 50-caliber machine gun, mortars, and to thrown grenades. The camp covers, in all, 16,000 acres, and is made up mostly of sand, rock, and scrub oak. The camp area proper has thousands of men - the number I've forgotten. It's a sad, hard life. But don't worry. I'm getting along all right. The war won't last forever. Also, there's something about it that gets in your blood a little. Don't let anyone underrate the Infantry. They're the toughest, proudest branch of the service. When I finish the other 16 weeks of this, I will have done something. I will be tougher than ever, even though I think I'm already in pretty good shape. I never dreamed a few calistenics this past week would make my legs and shoulders as sore as they did. This Texas sun will make me more tanned than ever. The food is rather poor - nothing like at Ft. L. - and sometimes the things you really like is in small amounts; but we go at it like pigs; our appetites are voracious. The officers here have a fine disdain for the Air Corps or any other branch of the service - except the Infantry - "the Infantry, with the dirt behind their ears; they can lick the artillery, the cavalry, or engineers". Our working hours are long and leisure hours short. May not be able to write much. Later will be out on problems (something like maneuvers) for days at a time. The singer below (I'm on the balcony) is singing, "White Christmas". He just sang "Romora" and he's a trained singer. Very beautiful. Told O.K. about my being here as a private. Explained it fairly well, I think. Something about overstrength at Ft. L. in the DEML, new man, and so I was transferred out into a new branch. Fact is, most of the good positions, rating etc., seem to be closed out by now in the various branches. I don't mind. I feel more like a soldier here by far than up there at Ft. L. Hope you can cut down some of that slaving over school programs, etc. It's not worth it. You need rest and time to yourself. Listen to the radio. Read. And write me. Don't forget to mention the baby - the little angel. Miss Schultz certainly must have had to eat humble pie. Understand the situation better now (when we stopped at the courthouse). Hope I can see "Phantom of the Opera", but don't know. I thought Robert Hyde had a low draft number! Perhaps he got a deferrment as an essential worker!?X?! If you hear anything by Drew Pearson on the radio, let me know. The sooner the war's over, the sooner we can be together again.
Love, Melvin