Saturday, August 6, 2011

Letters Home: "About another month of this and I quit"

Aug 7, 1953
Vilseck [West Germany]

Dear Mom, Dad and all,

I got a letter from you today so I will answer it tonight while I am in from the field. I am not doing much of anything. It sure is cold over here. This morning I had to wear the top of my long underwear and gloves. We got our tops off the jeeps while we are up here and it's dusty and cold. 
About every other night we go out and sleep in the field. I have to follow the tanks (if I can) and after they stop at night 40 miles from no where I have to go back and pickup the chow and guide the gas truck out to our position. [1] It gets tiresome chewing dust and plowing through ditches. About another month of this and I quit. 
I bought myself a portable Radio this month. I have something to listen to at night. I can pick up stations from England, Spain and of course Germany.[2] 
You was asking me about that girl I sent a picture of. Nothing serious just a friend. Her folks like me. They have a nice swimming pool there. I go when it gets warm enough. It was in June, but now it is cold. I think it will snow. 
It's too bad about the girls not being like Marylou but you brought them up like they should have been and now they are on their own more or less. [3]
Bye for now,

Love, V.

Mon. I will have 12 months in Germany

[1] Tanks were fuel-hungry machines and needed constant supply lines. My dad's remark reminded me of General George S. Patton's famous line "My men can eat their belts, but my tanks have gotta have gas." link  I think I first heard Patton's quip from my dad because I don't think it was used in the 1970 Patton biopic (correct me if I'm wrong) and I've never read a Patton biography. He may have heard it first as 3rd Armored Division lore, even though Patton most famously led the 2nd Armored Division.

[2] Radio Free Europe? I lived for a year in Mülheim an der Ruhr, a city located in the former British sector, where I used to listen to the BBC. This was 1992 and Thatcher's successor, John Major, was Prime Minister.  He wasn't very eloquent, but I enjoyed hearing his recorded broadcasts from the House of Commons. The radio broadcasts had a certain intimacy along with a sense of raucous background back benching that make our televised Congressional sessions look and sound like stadium rock concerts by comparison. Years later, I recall watching Tony Blair speaking from the House of Commons (those green leather benches!). I can only imagine what it must have been like to see Thatcher there, or even Churchill.

[3] I can read between the lines here. My grandmother had probably complained to him about one of his sisters. He had three: one older, one younger, and one much younger. Of the three, the oldest was the saint, the middle one was mischievous but level-headed, and the youngest was the absolute wild child. I could share many stories but I would consider this a breech of family ethics.


  1. The letters home put things into a context. Life has to be viewed that way or it makes no sense at all.

  2. My grandparents had a relatively modest house with lots of land (they were farmers). The house had two storeys with just one bedroom on the ground floor and an upstairs attic shared by 8 kids, boys and girls, spanning about 12 years in age difference. I find it odd that my grandparents (probably just my grandma) asking opinions from my father, but things were beginning to change awfully fast at that point in time in America. I think that this too is something captured and frozen here.
    Other than that I'm just riffing and looking for things to say as I fill in the time until this series ends. :)