29 December 1943

Will grab a few minutes before "lights out" to write a few lines. Didn't clean my rifle tonight, or shine my shoes! Tut-tut. Figure they won't inspect them tomorrow morning as we hike out to the range before light to fire machine guns. Bought a pint of chocolate milk after supper tonight and just lay on my bed drinking it, and also eating some of the best darn cookies and cup-cakes sent me by the Knowltons the other day. Could have drunk another pint of milk but was too tired to walk to the exchange after it. Those baked goods were superbly delicious and of several different varities - one being a fruit cake. Supper tonight was extra special. Baked ham and sweet potatoes - for which I am grateful to the Old South. Must say I'm being deluged with food now. Gus sent another big box of things - nuts, salted peanuts, candy, big apples and big oranges. Bert sent a box of cookies and pretzels. Darn it, but I feel deeply grateful for the way everybody sent something. This makes the third box Gus has sent in about the last 5 or 6 weeks. Right now 1/2 of my locker is used for holding "eats". Really can't use any more right now. Wrote Evelyn a letter last night. Got one from her yesterday. I'm going to send it on to you. Thought the page containing excerpts from the letters of a Marine pretty darn good. Our life, as I told Evelyn, is quite comparable. Been working on the light machine gun. Taking it apart and putting back together, learning the names of the operating parts, and how they work. We learn everything regarding the assembly and operation of the weapons we use: so far they have been the M1 or the Garand rifle, the Browning Automatic Rifle, and the Carbine. Qualified as marksman with the B.A.R.; as marksman or sharpshooter with the Carbine - not sure just which as I haven't seen the base figures yet; but made 180 out of possible 200 with it - which is hitting it. Only 50% of the men qualified with the B.A.R. - a difficult weapon to learn to keep on the target as it fires so fast and jumps around in your arm (cyclic rate is 550 rounds a minute). This week we fired a rifle grenade by means of a greanade launcher on the 03 rifle, the rifle I used at Ft. Leavenworth. Tomorrow night we're on a night problem and will be out all night - oooooh! Do I dread that. All day and then all night without sleep. Will get off an equivalent 12 hours either Friday or Saturday; hope it's Saturday, as may get week-end pass. I would be pretty tired Friday if required to continue without sleep. May get a couple hours sleep on the ground if we're lucky tomorrow night. I try to find time to read the papers a little each evening. Can't always do it. But notice such conflicting ideas of the progress of the war. Some say the most optimistic things; others that it'll be next spring before the 2nd front and that invasion will cost us 500,000 casualties - maybe even a million. The most gigantic military effort in all history and the bloodiest - if we are required to open this 2nd front in Western Europe. Believe I have a very real feeling of what it's like - this terrible thing called war. I know we'll go through with it if we have to, but wish for a miracle to save us the necessity of it. Am feeling fine these days. Perhaps we learn to have a certain amount of dont-give-a-damn in our makeup that makes things easier. Also our humorists in our midst who satirize and caricature our daily woes; who mock and imitate and paraphrase the commands and orders, the military parlance, etc. C.G. "You W-I-L-L do this, that, etc; wear your foot locker on the 3rd pocket on the right; all right, you hammerheads; or such admonitions as, "if you miss with all 8 rounds, then you'll fix bayonet and charge (200 yards) the damn target." Or the ribbing of the Texans for loving their state so highly - "Texas is a helluva state, parley-vous; (repeat); the rearend of the 48". One of our stock words is, "I expect that... e.g., I'm pretty good - or I expect that you'll be pretty good if you can..." You have to get the intonation or corniness or what call it to appreciate it. Then we use a little Southern accent or Texan drawl for a bit of fun. The tough sergeant says, "How many rounds do you draw for the next firing exercise". We say, "Eight". He says, "No, you're wrong. You draw nine. If you bolo with the 8, then you use the 9th one on yourself". So we make the most of things. Must close now to get some sleep. Lady, you don't know what a blissful thought it is to think of returning to civilian life. If the day ever comes I'll be one thankful person. 5 months passed quickly; and yet looking back they seem like 5 years. It's best not to think too much in these days. In that way, we perhaps can do better than the loved ones at home as we're so busy. But don't worry about me. Be fatalistic. They're alot of mathematical chances on my side of coming back to you all right. I'm fortunate, I feel, in that respect. Haven't time to tell all the reasons for saying this. Can't really hope for a furlough at anytime. Sometimes, or rather often, a furlough is given only to those going overseas. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Fell confident of an eventual happy reunion and the blessings of family life.
Love, Melvin