Edward J. Thomas - World War II

Dear Mom & Harry, Sun. May 9, 1943

I am writing this while I'm waiting for my phone call to get through to Detroit. The last letter I was going to tell you about my camping trip which I began Thursday night, (Apr. 29). It lasted until late Saturday afternoon. I never was so tired in my life when we reached our camp. We started at 6 p.m. and it was 10 p.m. when we pitched our tents. The flashlight you sent was valuable to sort my stuff on the ground. Pup tents are made of two parts. Each man carries one piece and to make one tent you join up with a partner. We put up under a tree with a thick matting of dried grass. I doubled my blankets but it still felt like concrete. I tossed and turned until at one or two a.m. I went to the latrine. I was told it was 125 yards away. I put on shoes and walked 100 yards and heard running water. It was a stream, and there are lots of these in this part of the country. You want to in on those long hot hikes. I couldn't find and afraid of getting lost, but tried again and found the latrine. It was a slit trench and tough to use.

About 5:30 a.m. we were awakened by the sound of a bugle. We were still stiff and sore and walked to the stream to wash-up. After breakfast we marched with our rifles and light packs ot one of the high hills where a lieutenant gave us a talk on formations used by platoons to advance on the enemy. It was hot too!

We had to watch scenery in valley while the first platoon practiced and mistakes pointed out. Then we marched and another lecture on hand grenades. We smoked while we waited our turn. We had to sneak forward uphill in the woods with rifles and fixed bayonets and dummy grenades. When blanks fired, we hit the ground. Then we got up to continue our advance. When we saw our target, a white board then we fell down, and trough our grenades. Mine got stuck in my pocket and it was too late to throw because someone might have got struck in the head.

We advanced to two or three more targets. I couldn't get my grenade out until the last target. But enough grenades were thrown to blast the imaginary enemy to hell.

In the afternoon we divided into nests and practiced sneaking up ot machine gun nest. We were criticized by officers that we sneaked up the front instead of the sides and rears. I decide to attack the rear. The squad leader led, but couldn't see in woods. Eddie went in a big circle but came back and joined the squad. The lieutenant leading the squad said, "What's the matter solder" Were you lost?" I replied, "No sir, I was trying to attack from the rear.

At night in squads, we practiced finding with a compass called reconnaissance patrol work. Possibly big troop movement through the hills and tear gas bombs. We were told if we got lost we would have to wait till dawn to find our way, our punishment a loss of sleep. When finally a flare was fired and bugle blown we went to the starting point at 10:15 p.m.

The next day we had a lesson in constructing barb wire entanglement and laying land mines. Then we watched a tiresome demonstration of a platoon moving in on the enemy.

I started this letter last Sunday but interrupted many times. I didn't have to chance to start again until today, May 16, Sunday.

That afternoon after a four mile march to a machine gun firing on one of the longest hikes ever. We started at 12:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. too tough on even ground in cool weather. One hill was so high we did 1 mile steep climbing before we reached the top. It was a hot day with 50 pounds on our backs. At five p.m. we had one hour to rest, east sandwich and soak our feet in a stream. We were told not to drink the stream water but a few did. Eddie drank canteen, and conserved better than most.

Mom, please renew my Etude for two years. I don't want to miss an issue. Also, renew Writers Digest. I can get the Readers Digest at the PX for 15 cents a copy. Sorry about the short call on Mother's Day. The operation gave us five minutes. I sent $40 money order to Izzy and Mac and told to give it to you. I didn't want to carry it. I got your package of shorts, undershirts, candy, flight, razor and peanut candy. I can't get peanut candy here.

Harry, I received your letter and agree about your opinion on Stanley's picture. If you can get a deferment take it. It means you're more valuable as a civilian. Ease your conscience. (Eddie talks about mink.) Mom have you seen "My Friend Flicker"? Please see it.

With love Ed
P.S. Basic training changed from 8 to 13 weeks, could even be 16 weeks. Who knows why? A furlough is possible then, but slim chance. It will be longer before we are placed for a suitable position.

Two letters to Eddie May 14, 1943

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