Monday, July 7, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: July 4, 1943 - Africa

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  (Recently the posts have been sporadic, but for a few years it was weekly.) Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe and share their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.


This week I transcribe a letter my maternal grandfather sent home while he was stationed in Africa during World War II.

APO 606
July 6, 1943

Dear Sweetheart:

It had been raining very heavily for almost a week here until today, and finally the sun has come out in all its glory. Maybe it was the rain that caused it, the muggy weather, but my spirits have been just about as low as the clouds, which were touching the ground. And when I’m that way I just don’t care to write. You may have noticed an absence of mail for several days, and lack of enthusiasm, which you’ve noted before. I write in circles and don’t make sense. In reading you can tell that I’m very impatient to get to the bottom of the page and then stop. I don’t feel more like writing right now, but I will carry on.

We had a very good program on for the 4th of July but the rain cancelled most of the things planned. The program was put off until the 5th because of rain, but on the 5th it was no better. However, I went to the movie in the evening and stayed through the rain with hundreds of others. We saw Robert Taylor in some Navy picture the name of which I don’t know. The weather just seemed to fit with the picture because it showed a lot of rough weather and rain on the seas and you could get the effect very noticeably. I had my slicker on this time and thought I was well protected. A puddle or pool of water collected in my lap on the slicker and when I moved once it went through and made me all wet underneath, so that it wasn’t so comfortable after that.

Just prior to the movie I was in a gathering celebrating the birth of a new star, Col. Earl Hoag was just promoted from Executive Officer to Commanding General AMEW. Gen. Fitzgerald, our previous commanding officer, has gone back to the States on a new assignment. Gen. Hoag is well-liked and seems to have things on the ball. The CG AMEW is also CG of USAFICA of which I’m a member, as you know.

Christie, my roommate, had a mishap that was very funny. One evening a few days ago, he saw me leave the room and thought I went into the washroom adjoining. A few minutes later, after undressing, he went into the washroom to take a shower, and he saw me washing my face, bending over the washbowl. He thought he was being funny and gave a hard kick on the rear end, and when “I” straightened out and looked at him, he was very much surprised to find that it wasn’t I but Col. Sampey the Inspector General. Christie hardly knows Col. Sampey and he’s very much embarrassed, to say the least. After all, a major can’t go around kicking inspector generals in the rear end and get away with it without some embarrassment. Col. Sampey took it good naturedly and said he merely owes one to Christie.

Your letter of June 30th was handed to me just this minute. I’m writing this at the office at 1645 GMT.
I think too that you’re fortunate in having such good neighbors as the Franeys. I get a letter from Frank occasionally, but I put off responding as I can’t make any palaver after such a long absence. However, I finally got around to sending him a short letter.

Thanks very much for your efforts in getting a wallet for me. I’ll just hang on to the one I have until you send a new one. You probably can have it sent as official mail if it’s given by the I in C.
I’m glad to hear that ___ is interested in skating. She’ll probably learn to skate expertly by the time I get back. I hope she doesn’t get scuffed up too much. Youngsters learning to skate usually wear out their clothes very quickly, so you’ll no doubt have a job there. Ernie Pyle stayed around here quite a while and I had meals with him frequently. He certainly deserves that writeup that Time gave him. Everyone thinks he’s #1.

I have to mail this right away to get it into our outgoing pouch for the day. Most Love.



1) I continue my habit of editing out the names of living individuals. Though depending upon their age at the time, it is possible some of his fellow servicemen are still alive.
2) During the war, those in the service were often not allowed to include their location in letters home -- they were only allowed to indicate their Army Post Office. The identification of those post offices has since been released. APO 606 was Accra, Gold Coast. [Source: Numerical Listing of APOs January 1942-November 1947 - I originally found this pdf at the 7th Armored Division website]
3) AMEW – Africa Middle East Wing
4) USAFICA – United States Armed Forces in Central Africa
5) I in C – Inspector in Charge (I think)
6) My grandfather doesn't provide a lot of identifying information for the film he saw, and I don’t know how soon films were shown to troops after release date. Bataan, starring Robert Taylor and George Murphy, and including Desi Arnaz, was released in June of 1943. Stand By For Action, starring Robert Taylor and Charles Laughton, was released in December of 1942.
7) I grew up in the house my grandparents lived in at that time. I never knew Frank Franey, as he passed away a year before I was born, but I did know his widow, Adele. Mrs. Franey would often let my siblings and me play in her backyard.
8) I have many of the letters my grandmother and grandfather sent each other, however, the letter my grandmother wrote on June 30, 1943, is not in the collection.
9) Ernie Pyle was a well-known journalist.

No comments: