Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"We heard that we were going to Germany"

January 20, 1952
Fort Knox, KY

Dear Mom, Dad and all,
I got your letter Fri, and the package Sat. I also got a letter from J__ on Sat. and will answer it tomorrow night. We heard that we were going to Germany when we get through basic but you can’t tell, for sure. [1]  I am going to Nashville the first of the month.
We got some more clothes today. 1 pair of socks, 1 cap, 1 jacket, 1 tee shirt, glove liners. I didn’t even dress up this weekend and go anyplace. It thundered and lightening Sat night and it rained quite hard. [2]
We have been having trouble lately with boys going AWOL. [3]  I guess some of them just can’t stand to be away from home. It isn’t so bad yet, but I think it will be a lot worse once we leave the states. We got one boy here from Penn. that never leaves the camp. I guess he was a farmer. I think Jim J__ is going skating next weekend at Louisville. The lights will be going out in about 15 min so will have to sign off for now.
P.S. J__ didn’t have much to say. Mostly about cars and what kind he wanted to get. Henry J can’t afford a Merc. [4]
[1] President Truman believed that the war in Korea might be a ploy to concentrate all American resources in Asia, thus leaving western Europe open to invasion by the Soviet Bloc. The Berlin Airlift had already occurred in 1948, along with the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1948. NATO was created in 1949 because of the perceived Soviet threat towards Western Europe. After the start of the Korean war, the United States deployed 4 divisions to Europe, culminating in the creation of the USAREUR in 1952. By this time, the US role in Germany had officially changed from an occupying force into an allied defender of the newly-formed German Federal Republic (West Germany).

[2] Heavy flooding occurred in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky that year, perhaps also due in part to heavier than normal snowfall. The flooding was bad enough to prompt a flyover visit from President Truman just a couple weeks later: ref.

[3] According to one source, 84 enlisted men from Fort Knox were disciplined for absences around that time. ref.

[4] I recall that the late '40s and early 50's Mercs were favorites amongst my dad and uncles. I'm not sure which particular year they lusted after, but I'm sure it was one of these: Link.


  1. Thank you for sharing the letters from your father. they are very touching.

    I see a bit of (unintended?) humor in your Dad's comment Henry J can’t afford a Merc. Henry J was the name of a low-cost car manufactured in the early fifties by Henry J Kaiser. Here is some Henry J info.

  2. That is awesome Michael! What a little nugget that completely flew over my head! I puzzled over what he meant by that because I had never heard of "Henry J". It's completely in character too because he was busting his older brother's chops a little in the eyes of his parents (brotherly competition?)

    Wow, I owe you one!

  3. Awww. Nice catch, Michael. Very sweet, solving a little mystery and getting a little joke at the same time.