Edward J. Thomas - World War II

12 May 1945 Saturday
Memphis 15, Tenn

Dear Mom, Harry, & Izzy:

I believe this is going to be my last letter before my furlough comes
along. I am starting, out Monday morning at 7:00 AM, May 21, and will arrive in Detroit about the same time Tuesday morning.

After writing the above paragraph a Detroit newspaper was handed to me,
dated Thursday, May 10. A captain in my section, whose hometown is the
same as mine and who lives near Chandler Park, said that I could have his
newspapers while he was visiting Detroit. So for the past 10 days I have
been receiving these papers and getting familiarized with the city so that
when I arrive there I'll be able to feel more like a Detroit damnyankee than
a Memphis rebel.

I noticed that the Detroit curfew was cranged to 3:00 AM while the
Memphis curfew remains the same. I guess Memphis doesn't mind it. It always did seem to have a ll:30 PM curfew anyway and probably had it even during peace time. When the 12:00 curfew was legally established it made Memphians realize that the war was extending their nights instead of shortening them. I believe the main reason which makes Memphis retire early, whether there is a curfew or not, is the law prohibiting restaurants, cafes, and bars from serving any kind of liquor. Then, also, there seems to be a scarcity of night clubs, probably due to the liquor law. Also the theaters closing up early may be another reason why people don't stay downtown late. So far I haven't heard of any midnight shows, even before the dimout and curfew went into effect.

A great event has occurred in my life within the past month which I shall
always remember with exalted pride. It was during one of our retreat parades which are held weekly at 4:45 PM. The soldiers gathered in front of our large barracks and fell into their proper places to form companies. Led by the 2d Army Band, we marched about 100 yards to the large square lawn in front of the Special Staff Building in which I work. When the band stopped playing, the commanding officer shouted, "Company to be decorated, step forward." The company I was in marched forward to the accompaniment of victorious trumpets and horns and martial rattle of drums. We halted in front of the flag pole under the glorious flutter of the stars and stripes. The band stopped playing am there was a solemn hush as entire headquarters stood at attention and the commandirg officer looked us over in preparation for a speeeh. "I want to congratulate you men," he said. "Your past record has indicated that you have performed your duties and conducted yourselves in a very excellent manner. You have proved yourselves to be good soldiers and I am proud of you. As I pass by, hold out your hand to receive your award." Each of us extended his hungry hand into which was dropped that precious object which we all dreamed about, struggled for, and magnificently won--that highly prized, honor bestowing, deluxe prestige booster--the GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL. When the conmanding officer was nearing me, I grew panicky. On this solemn occasion a devil in me was trying to make me laugh. My lips were beginning to twitch and my face grew red from restraint. What was I to do? Any instant now, I was going to break out into hilarious guffaws. My trouble was caused by thinking too much about how everybody had joked when talking about this medal, and how ceremoniously it now was being given to us, and also how my conduct last year was worse than the year before when I apparently was judged to be unfit for a Good
Conduct Medal. Therefore, I said to myself, "Stop thinking--for God'S sake
stop thinking--make your mind a blank or else you are going to bust out laughing and will land in the guardhouse and lose your last chance to receive a fine medal." Theword "guardhouse" did the trick. It nade me sober enough.
I felt the tiny object fall into my hand. The commanding officer passed on. I was greatly relieved to know he didn't notice my twitching lips trying to
control themselves.

We turned aboot and marched back. The band started playing again and
nade us feel like world conquerors.

While I was eating a meal one day at the counter of the Claridge Hotel
restaurant in downtown Memphis,a young smartly dressed civilian sat next
to me. He started to talk by sewing it was hard to pick anything out from the menu because the restaurant had a knack of spoiling its meals. I told him
the place which really has a knack of spoiling meals was the Army. In talking
further with him I found that he wasn't a Memphian at all but a traveling
business man. He said his next city would be Grand Rapids. I asked him if
his business was furniture and was told it was aircraft. He worked for an
aircraft factory in Omaha, Nebraska, and represented this concern in his
travels. Sime he mentioned Grand Rapids, I told him I was there last
Novenber on a business of my own and naturally the talk then turned to mink
for a while. Later on I asked him how he liked Memphis. He said it was pretty fair but too crowded. I thought that was true of almost any fair sized city. I mentioned that Grand Rapids seemed to be more crowded. The traffic was more concentrated and congested. He said he didn't mean the traffic, but the people. There are so many visitors passing through and so many sailors stationed in Menphis, he said, and thought it wa~ funny to see such a vast number of Navy men so far inland. I then told him that I have a brother doing some engineering work on Martin bombers at Hudson's. That's a coincidence, he remarked, Hudson was to be one of his stops somewhere during the last ten days of May and there was a good chance of his meeting my brother. He asked for the nane and after I gave it to him, I asked for his. It was Bill Barrie. Both of us drew out notebooks and made entries so that we wouldn't forget. He put his notebook back in his pocket and said, it's a small world," and I said, "Yes, especially during war time."

Mom, I received the bear patches you sent me and enjoyed reading your
letter very much. A couple of days ago I mailed a Mother's Day package with a card. I hope you will find the book "Prodigal Women" interesting and that you will be able to find time to read it. I also sent as a gift as many
Hersheys as I could buy during a period of five or six days.

Izzy, your letter was appreciated a great deal. Your bowling average
wasn't very bad. At 1east it was high enough to make me jealous because toward the end of the season I degenerated into a palooka player who could be beaten by beginners. I haven't played for the last two months ever since the regular bowling season ended. Nobody seems to be interested in the game any more except me.

Harry, after reading your letter, I have changed the name of our former
refrigerator man from "Abel" to "Unable" and yours from "Thomas"to "Able".

So long until Monday, the 21st

Wed. May 23 Heirich Himmler commits suicide while a Allied prisoner.

Fri. May 25 United States sets invasion plans of Japan, picking Thur. Nov 1.

Mon. May 28 William ("Lord Haw-Har") Joyce is captured by the Allies and is tried and executed for treason.

Thur. May 31 has President Truman and two teams he sets up to find other ways to invade Japan without using the new secret weapon, nuclear bombs!

Letter from John Chris Omalis

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