Edward J. Thomas - World War II

Dear Mom & Harry, Postmark Wed. July 7, 1943

I guess this is my last letter from SPRD. I have been put on the alert list the day before yesterday. I may leave tomorrow at 8:30 am.

My summer khakis were taken away. I’ll probably go where it’s cold. I hope its Seattle or Alaska. I would get to see a great part of the US especially the Rocky Mountains. According to a bulletin we can’t take our handibags. But P.O. is closed at 6 pm. I will have to fold it up flat and stick it in one of my barracks bags and send it to you from some other point of the country, camera too.

I thought our detail work here would be the same, digging, cutting soil or cleaning out barracks. But I was given a disagreeable surprise. We were lined up in front of our huts and a large group boarded trucks. The trucks stopped at the Army prison. Lined up before a window, I knew what we were going to do and I didn’t like it. When I came up to a window I was issued a shotgun and three shells.

When all had their guns we lined up before a sergeant that told us that each of us would be given a group of prisoners whom we were to watch after they were released from prison and assigned to various jobs. The sergeant explained some of the prisoners were held for serious offenses such as murder. We needed to be on alert and that we were to shoot to kill if any attempt was made to escape.

I had a bad taste in my mouth and would rather be digging ditches. Two of us were assigned four prisoners and we put them in the truck. These prisoners turned out to be mild. When I asked them what they were in for they said AWOL. The job we were on was more distasteful. It was collecting garbage surrounded by odorous goo.

In the afternoon I had to watch two colored men and one white man. I marched behind them with the gun on my shoulder while they were led by a corporal. Up and down a sheet (?) for police-up. (ie-picking up trash)

All three prisoners were good natured. The white man was in the medical corps. He had completed three years of a medical course at Harvard and his father was a surgeon. The prisoners seemed more afraid than the guards because many guards are green and nervous and more liable to shoot off their guns accidentally. This did happen in the afternoon when one of the guards was loading his gun and it went off with a loud bang six feet from me, luckily pointed at the ground.

Lights out – period   Love Eddie

P.S. Maybe I’ll be able to send my handbag tomorrow from here. I’ll see if there will be time.

Where Next for Edward Thomas

Go back Go forward