28 November 1943

Got your letter written Thanksgiving today (this evening). You seemed quite hurt I hadn't written. I'm sorry but you must understand the conditions here to know why. For instance, this is Sunday and 7:30 P.M., and I just now got cleaned up and changed clothes after supper; our Battalion was on the rifle range again today - nearly all day, though they let us off early because it was Sunday. We've been on the range all week, except Thanksgiving when I was on K.P. - from dawn until dark. Up at 5:00 A.M. (it's dark then), a hike out to the range, back at dark, clean our rifles (taking them apart), clean our mess kits, shine our shoes, and shave and clean ourselves up last. By the end of all that it's 10:00, and we're too tired to do anything else but go to bed. I thought I could write you Monday and tell you about the good time I had at Ft. Worth. Would have written you from there Sunday if I had known how rushed I'd be this past week. Wish I had a fountain pen. Perhaps I could write a decent-looking letter then. Seems as if everything goes wrong with me now. On the final shooting for record I just missed by one stinking lousy point of making sharpshooter. There aren't many who make that high a score on the grand aggregate score. Mine was 164 and I needed 165 points. I fell down yesterday on the rapid fire from 300 yards; made 30 on it whereas I made 36 on the same dang thing in practice. Had to make 39 today on the rapid fire from 200 yards to make sharpshooter - made 38! *X! There were a dozen places where I could have made that extra point - if. For instance, a slight wind (not over 5 miles an hour) deflected the strike of the bullet about 2 or 3 inches and I made several 4's (just barely missed the bullseye) on the slow fire at 500 yards. They told us the wind was too slight too worry about, but I know better. Because of the shot group - a heavy grouping of shots in one place on the target; you can't be shooting or sighting wrong when you get a bunch of shots all in the same place. It's your elevation or windage adjustment that's wrong if your shots aren't quite in the black. So I made 7-4's and 1-5 for a score of 33; whereas I made 38 on that same position and range in practice when there wasn't any wind. I'm really unhappy about the rifle firing results. But I'll get over it in a day or two. At least I believe I can consider myself a sharpshooter (instead of a marksman), to all practical purposes. 140 points qualifies you as a marksman. Well, I had a full 7-day week this week - not even Sunday off. From dark to dark and past every day except today. It's been cold here lately. One day last week it rained, and we fired on the range all that day - lying, sitting, kneeling, and standing in mud and water. As a rule though it's fairly warm, or cool, this time of year. Gets chilly at night. They say it gets very cold once in a while during the winter. Like to see Elaine in that buggy. Do you push it? Don't remember what they look like. Has a great time in it, eh? Can imagine that. If you don't feel you can continue your job without ruining your health, don't. I appreciate what you're doing. It must be an awful strain. Don't be too worried about your duties. Tell Miss Byrnes to go to hell - in so many words. I hate her kind of persona. Looking after herself. I doubt that they could replace you. Can't you be a little more independent. Don't work so darn hard. That crack about being an old crab didn't strike me very well. I know I was one quite often. but my situation here is rather miserable to say the least, and I think you ought to temper the wind for the shorn lamb. We live like dogs and are treated like dogs. It's called ass-chewing; we get it all day long. Bawled out and threatened and hurried from one thing to another. You don't have to believe me - ask any infantryman. Our souls are not our own right now. That's army discipline. Suppose it's necessary, but maybe they carry it too far. The non-coms here, the ones they retain as station complement, are the ones who can talk and bawl the roughest and loudest and act the meanest. You get used to it of course. The Army asks miracles of endurance from the infantryman. So I live from day to day but enjoy immensely what time I can get off. Was treated magnificently in Ft. Worth last Sunday. these Texans are all right - genuinely friendly and helpful to strangers - and very much so to soldiers. One Texan bough me a beer, another gave me a semi-salute, a girl smiled, a waitress knocked off a nickel on a chocolate sundae. The Service Men's Center was tops. Free breakfast - coffee, doughnuts, cake, sandwiches (I had 8 cups of coffee from 8:00 A.M. till about 11:00). They have a whole floor of double-tiered bunks (a couple hundred of them) and the charge is 50 cents a night, including bath and shaving facilities. A radio program was broadcast that afternoon from the mainfloor. A hot, sweet orchestra. For some strange reason, I went into deleriums of delight at their music. It had feeling. "Slow Freight", "Paper Doll", etc.

Paper Doll

Talked over the radio for the first time. Man came down into the audience with a "mike". I was in the first row and was the first one called on to answer a few questions; name, camp, and hometown. Was surprised but not embarrased. Spoke right up. Enjoyed it. The program was the Alamo Milk Program, on KWJZ (I think). Gave Atlantic, Iowa, as hometown and state. Guess I was the only Iowan in the group. People (civilians) in Texas treat soldiers swell and seem to respect them very highly. When I'd ask directions they'd almost draw me a map. Hope I can go to Ft. Worh, or Dallas maybe, again in a couple of weeks. Cost $1.20 to Ft. worh and back. $2.00 to Dallas. Hope you aren't holding my past record of crabbiness against me. Things going as they are here, I can just make it, shall we say, if I'm given full bashing from home. Your remark, though very slight in it's intent, rather hurt my feelings. Perhaps I'm over-tired these days and was also somewhat discouraged with my army progress-particulary with the M1 rifle. Got a box of candy, peanuts, and cigarettes from Gus yesterday. Helped a lot. got a letter from Margaret a few days ago. It was forwarded from Fort Leavenworth, and was addressed as Corporal (?!). What's the matter with me. I'm not worth a damn in the Army. One failure after another. But who wants to be a non-com. Most of the good non-coms, those with a little feeling for their fellow men, are on the war fronts. Those socks were a life-saver. The bag was just the thing. Damn it. I don't have time to do any Christmas shopping, unless I should get to Ft. Worth some Saturday night on a weekend pass. But that's pretty uncertain. Ok, all right, I'll try to find a gift. But I have many misgivings as to what, where, and when to buy it. I have no idea of what to get her. You might know better. What did you tell her regarding my present position as private. How did she treat you? Excuse the sad tone of this letter. It's not so bad that we can't laugh at it most of the time. The standard joke here for those with troubles is "See the Chaplain". Not meaning any disrespect; just showing a state of callousness for troubles. Things are looking up a bit on the war fronts. Perhaps it will end in the not too distant future. We hope so. That'll be a great day, will it not. Miss you and the baby.
All my love, Melvin

P.S. "Perhaps even these things sometime to recall will give us pleasure."