Edward J. Thomas - World War II

Below letter written by Edward J. Thomas

Memphis 15, Tenn.
1 September 1944 Friday

Dear Jerry:

Ever since Williams was put in charge of me by special order, he began
to train himself for the grade of FCP(First Class Paranoiac) which he believes is better than PFC. Delusions of grandeur are spreading through his being like Los Angeles is spreading throughout the United States. In the dictorial manner of General Fredendall himself, he commanded me to write this letter to you for Williams & Thomas Inc. I put up no more resistance than a PFC should in the presence of a General, and amiably agreed to comply but did not use the word "sir" just to show him I was not yielding too much ground. ("Objection! Objection! Williams yells. Conference held over objection. See P.S. for results.)

From previous letters you probably know that we started our new lease
on army life by crawling into tents like Aleutian pioneers. After living
in them for a month, we suddenly had to vamoose not by the command of FCP
Williams but by the command of God. A storm was hurled at us during the
night. It was so violent that it made our tent flap and shake like a fighting
rooster. Water sprayed and splashed everywhere over our beds, clothes,
and barracks bags. I saw Williams sitting up in bed looking like a dejected
fisherman in a row boat. At first I thought he was going to start rowing
with imaginary paddles, but he merely scratched his head in the thunder and
lightning and then looked around as hopelessly as a private in a depot searching for his stolen furlough money. Sitting up in bed was a mistake because it gave the wind-lashed rain a chance to soak up the spot he was lying on. To lie back was out of the question; so he stood up, gathered up his bedding and crossed the aisle to another bunk which was receiving two or three rain drops per minute less. Come what may, I planned to hug my dry space for all it was worth and in that manner was able to keep quite comfortable throughout the deluge. In the morning we had a problem of finding dry clothes to wear. I was lucky enough to have a pair of trousers under my mattress in the process of being pressed. However,the only shirt I had was drenched, but I put it on anyway and waded like a sewer rat through the mud out of the tent.

Now we are quartered in a huge brick exhibit build probably fomerly
used for exhibiting pigs during state Fairs. Williams has a lower double bunk
at one end of the building and I have a higher one at the other end. At
all the other camps we were most of the time within spitting range of each other but now we aren't even within effective pistol range which is of some advantage to me because Williams has proved himself to be a better pistol man than I. He made a score of 60 against my 49. 62 is qualifying which means that both of us will have to go back to the range and listen some more to "Ready on the right, ready on the left, ready on the firing line".

From what Williams tells me, his FA S-1 Section keeps him pretty busy
writing up all forms of correspondence. He is riding along smoothly on his
knowledge of AR's and becoming quite chummy with the assistant adjutant. It may mean stripes for him pretty soon--probably blue ones across his hinder administered by his office rivals.

I am in the training section of Quartermaster. It could be called S-3
but it isn't. I have a stenographer's desk which is surrounded by two colonels in front, two captains to my immediate right and lieutenants to my immediate left. Literally I could say that I am confronted and outflanked by bars and eagles with my back against the wall. A few days after I started working here, the staff sergeant in my section told me to take the desk a Tec 3 was using. I did as I was told and began to look into the drawers. One of the colonels eyed me and then jumped as if someone gave him a hotfoot.

"Say, private," he yelled. "What are you looking into those drawers for? Get away from that desk. Who told you to sit there?"
"The master sergeant, sir," I answered without clicking my heels.
"Where did you work before?" he asked.
"The l53d Infantry Regiment," I proudly replied.
"l don't mean that," he said. "What desk did you have before?"
"I pointed to my desk.
"Then go back there," he ordered.
"Another Shvykerrt," I hissed under my breath.
Upon second thought the colonel called me back am asked, "Say, how fast
can you write shorthand?"
"160, sir," I replied fearfully, thinking he would court-martial me for
going faster than a PFC should."Well, that's different," he beamed. "You're the man I want. Go back to: that desk. It's yours." Then he added, "If you can do 160 we have a job for you. There is a conference this morning that we want you to take down."

The conference consisted of three sessions of two hours each. It was the
biggest shorthand job I have had. I must have transcribed it satisfactorily
because I haven't as yet received any complaints. Maybe it was because I had my fingers crossed. What worries me now is deciding just when it will be
safe to uncross them.

My main job is to take down telephone conversations. I have head phones
in my desk drawer and whenever an important phone call comes in I pull out
my head-set and take down whatever I hear and make up whatever I don't. These calls don't come in very often, but when they do they usually are in bunches which keep my pencil and ears on the defensive with the white flag ready to be hoisted any moment. The time in between calls, which sometimes stretches out into days, is spent on status reports, buckslips, letters, indorsments or doodling--mostly the latter.

Whatever Williams or I write, we don't want to give the impression
that we believe our life is too easy here in Memphis. Besides our office
work, we have a training schedule which we must follow to become POM qualified. In the early morning classes which begin at 7:30 we have calisthenics and close order drill or pistol practice. Then scattered throughout the day we have medical, practical first aid and orientation classes. On top of that there is a physical fitness class and a hike which we manage to pull through with flying colors on the flag pole and with swimming heads and drooping tongues on our bodies. I remember the first hike we had was made on the horse race track here at the Fair Grounds. It was the hottest and dustiest merry-go-round I have ever been on. There were some horses in the middle inclosure of the track who stuck their heads over the fence and looked at us with contemptuous amusement as if they thought the whole human mess wasn't good enough for 10,000 to 1 odds.

When we were in the l53d, our motto was "Get out of the infantry".
Now that we are out of the infantry our motto is "Get out of the Ground
Forces". These mottos may get us somewhere, somehow,some time--oh, yes,
they will, after the war plus six month plus X which equals X plus Y plus
six months which equals homecoming day, Hurrah! Ain't mathematics wonderful! It can even tell beforehand just when you are going to put on civilian pants.

We suppose that by now your rush work in the office has dwindled down
enough to give you an opportunity to enjoy some degree of liberty in your
new surroundings. Of course, Williams and I know that it never is a good
policy for a soldier to tell his correspondents that he has a satisfactory
amount of leisure time. Therefore, when you write us again and tell us you
couldn't reply soon because you were as busy as a flea-infested pooch, we'll
understand and be very patient. If Eliza, Martha, and all the others on your
fish line are as understanding and patient, why shouldn't we?

Psychopathically yours,


T. D. Willians

E. J. Thomas

P.S. Williams objected to the first paragraph because it degraded him. I
told him that he misinterpreted my words--that actually I was the victim
of the degradatdon and not he. I explained that I carried out the orders
of an FCP, and then asked, "What does that make me?" He thought awhile
and then said that the paragraph was all tight.

Fri. Sep 8 "Bob Hopes" or V-2 rockets hit London. They are called "Bob Hopes" because you have to Bob down and Hope for the best.

Sun. Sep 17 20,000 Allied troops get behind German occupation in the Netherlands. This 'Operation Market Garden' will cost the Allies. Tues. Sep 19 the Allies are surrouned in Arnhem.

Sun. Sep 24 San Marino is at war with Germany. The next day Sep 25 the People's Militia (Volkssturm) drafts men up to the age of 65 in its frantic attempt to stop the Allies from advancing and winning the war.

A Day at Work in Memphis - Oct. 7, 1944

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