Edward J. Thomas - World War II

Post Exchange Fort McClellan, Anniston, Alabama 1939

Dear Mom & Harry,       March 20, 1943

This camp is where you really learn what the army is like. The night I landed here I marched from the train and passed the guard house. It is a threatening site. There is a deep ditch surrounding the area with a high wire fence with barberd wire at an angle at the top. 20 feet further is another fence like the first. Surprised!

On a field, roll call is held to see if everybody was present. We are divided into groups and marched to our barracks. Some barracks hold 20, others six. I was assigned to a hut holding six. The other five are between 18 and 22 years old. My hut is 20 feet by 20 feet and has four single cost and one double bunk. There is a stove in the center of the room as it, isn’t warm here all the time. I was surprised because I had assumed the South was always warm.

I had changed to summer underwear a couple of days ago. But I went back to winter clothes because of chilly mornings. I used to say in Detroit that a soldier has a bum’s life with plenty of time to loaf. I can’t say that now. When I was a a Custer I thought it pretty tough thee. But at Fort McClellan it’s even tougher.

On the first morning we were awakened by whistles and given 15 minutes to dress and make our beds with no time to wash. When the whistle blows again corporals and sergeants shout “On the double, on the double there. Get the lead out your pants”, lined up and given commands such as “parade rest, attention, left face. When the bugle blows reveille(sp – Ed’s letter). Please send me a small pocket dictionary. Don’t send the one from Ford Motor Company until I ask for it.

I stood at attention, then was dismissed and ran back to barracks to straighten things. The whistle blew and we rushed out for chow, that’s what they call meals. You have to run and tables are so close you have to squeeze in and sit arm in arm, hardly room you’re your arms. Cups and plates are upside and all is quiet. Then the cook blows the whistle and a mad dash in turning cups and plates. Food is on the table, but you have to grab fast or you don’t get the best food like meat and dessert.

After breakfast it’s back to our huts to take it easy. But then the whistle blows again. We groan and grumble and then run sloppily to the street where our company was collecting. We are lined up according to height and told to keep those places all the time. We listen to instructions, drilling marching and getting some of our equipment. We were finally through at eight p.m. and this was our first Saturday here.

I slept like a dead man, even Sunday was pretty tough and we had some drills having to stand in long lines to get more equipment. I now have a cartridge belt, full mess kit, first aid kit, blanket, put tent, rifle, bayonet, haversack and a gas mask. Last week was spent learning how to roll our pack, set up tents, use gas masks and handle and arm our rifles.

One day we had our first hike. Hot with our packs and it felt like 300 pounds (actually about 50 pounds). The hike was only three or four miles, but it finished us. We’ll do a long hike soon and use our tents. The training is seven weeks. Ordinarily it is 13 weeks. I don’t know why they are rushing it. Maybe it’s because we will be transferred for some special work. In my case it might be stenography.

I received your letter a couple of days ago, forwarded from Custer. What a grand feeling it is to hear from home when you are in the Army!

Can you have the Detroit News sent to me daily? Also send a couple of cartons of cigarettes, from my room. No more time to write.

Love to mom and all. Ed

P.S. Mom, send me a hinged soap dish. I have one Gene gave me, but could use one on my shelf for quick use. The latrines have no soap; you have to bring your own. Also, six pair of white woolen socks, as I can use a lot of them.

If you have a list of Ford employees, please send it. I received your letter and Harry’s and will now read them.

Shots in the Army

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