Edward J. Thomas - World War II

Private Edward J. Thomas
U.S. Army, IRTC
Co. A, 10th Battalion
Fort McClellan, Alabama

Dear Mom & Harry, (March 11, 1943)

Bingo struck me at last. I was awakened this morning at six o’clock and told I would leave at nine a.m. I’m writing this about hone hour before I’ll get on the train.

Last night I went to Military Police section of Fort Custer. A fellow sleeping next to me wanted to meet a friend permanently stationed in the MP department. It was quite dirty reminding me of a dungeon. I heard a very good piano player. He appeared to be middle-aged and plump. After this I went to the last movie I would see in Michigan for a while, “The Hard Way”, not too bad but a bit too long.

So Long for Now. Ed.

Dear Mom & Harry, (March 13, 1943)

This is where my bingo ended. As you may have noticed the ending of my last letter was scribbled because I was called to line up at Custer and be ready to march with my heavy bags to the train. We didn’t know where we were going, but as soon as the train started to move, I knew we were heading for Chicago. My guess was correct because we touched the suburbs of East Chicago. I watched the sun so I knew what direction. We didn’t go through Chicago or even Illinois. The train kept going south right through Indiana. Indiana appeared to be rather dull flat in the north though it had some rolling hills in the southern part. When the train left Indiana it was too dark to tell the next state.

The coaches became pretty messy with soldiers in them for eight hours. Papers, cigarette butts and ashes strewn were all over the floor. Filthy shoes were on seats, though some took their shoes off first, thank you.

All the seats were arranged so they faced each other. We were in trios so we could sleep. The boys I were with slept. I had a hard time. The train seemed to stop every few miles and went back and forth. I couldn’t figure out what state I was in. We crossed a big river, which I thought might be the Mississippi and that we might be going to Texas. At three or four a.m. we noticed the name Henderson in one of the depots. One of the boys had a map and looked it up finding that we were in Kentucky. When morning came we noticed we were in Tennessee. We came into Nashville about 8 a.m., March 12. It had been drizzling most of the night.

Nashville is quite a city. The downtown area is on a hill. I had to look up to see it. Going through the southern hills of Tennessee I saw plenty of slummy looking shacks. They looked like the exact duplicates of the ones we saw in “Tobacco Road”. Almost all natives in the hills get rid of their garbage and tin cans by going to their back porch and throwing the stuff from their back porch into their backyards. I never saw so many run down homes in Michigan.

I started this letter Saturday, March 13, 1943 and could only write a few lines because almost always busy. I’ve got to be on the alert for three whistles and then we have to jump out of our barracks on the run. My head is dizzy on the routine. That is the reason I’m still on this letter Sunday evening. The hills of Southern Tennessee and Alabama have beaten anything I ever saw on the way of scenery. I think called Smoky Hills or Smoky Mountains. You can look this up for me, if you would? The hills are almost high enough to be mountains. Clouds seem to come down and float around the hills, hence Smoky Mountains and they are thickly covered and green, with so many pine trees.
I arrived in Fort McClellan about nine p.m. Friday, March 12, 1943. The trip lasted 33 hours. It’s like summer here right now, except for the nights which are cool or chilly, sort of like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, during July and August. This camp is right near Anniston, Alabama and is in a very big valley surrounded on all sides by hills.

Tell Issy, Mac, Gertie, and Gene that I’ll try to write them. I’m at this camp for basic training which is supposed to be eight weeks. Then I will be sent somewhere else in the states or its territories to do what the army thinks I’m best qualified for.

Mom, you can send that razor holder now, because I’ll run out in two weeks. Also, send two hand towels, the army gave me some but I seem to have lost them. A camera is ok to have as there is no law against them. Send that small cheap candid camera I saw in the Sears catalog. Harry, I think you know which one, and the price is about $2.50. It’s bedtime now.

So long Ed.

Fort McClellan Mar 20, 1943

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