Edward J. Thomas - World War II

Below letter written by Edward J. Thomas

15 March 1945
Memphis 15, Tenn Thursday

Dear Mom, Harry & Izzy:

Since I have already received letters from all three of you I believe
it's time for me to answer.

Mom, I was glad to hear that you are getting along all right. For a while
I thought you were either too busy or not feeling well because the last time
I heard from you was around Feb 5.

Your comments about the picture I sent home agree exactly with mine. The
pose was girlish and that is my main reason for wanting to keep the photograph out of sight. I will try to have another taken free of charge at Gerber's and this time I am going to insist upon a smileless expression with my head upright in a more manly pose. If Gerber's photograph doesn't turn out good, I believe there is a third place I can go to. It's Lowenstein's.

My 1945 furlough date of May 21 is the same as last year's. That's the
earliest date I can get because there must be at least a full six months between furloughs. The 21st comes on Monday. Since I am not going to work Sunday, it means that I'll have to wait from 4:30 PM Saturday until 7:00 AM Monday before I'll be able to board a train. The officers here aren't as lenient, as they were at Camp Shelby. Here they won't give a soldier his furlough paper even one minute before it is due. The only way I could get, around that would be by forging a 3-day pass and leaving Saturday night or Sunday morning after telling someone else to pick up my furlough paper Monday and mail it to Detroit. I understand that forging a pass isn't so very risky because an MP outside of Second Army Headquarters has no way of knowing whether the pass is good or not as long as it is dated right. However, upon second thought I don't think it would be very wise to do it because the person who is supposed to pick up the furlough paper may be recognized and asked why the right person doesn't come to pick it up himself. Then the officers would find out that I had left Memphis without permission.

You remember, I suppose, that on my last furlough I was at first doubtful
about what day to return to Memphis. The furlough paper did not state definitely when I was to report for duty. I didn't worry much about it thinking that if I made a mistake and overstaid my leave a half day or so nothing would happen to me anyway. Several weeks ago I found out just what would have happened to me if I came in about 12 hours late. One Irish fellow in the Quartermaster Section made a mistake in counting his days and came in about 15 hours late. He was very lively and in high spirits when he entered the barracks. "Hello everybody," he said. "Now, dont't tell me there is any bad news." He was referring to news concerning men being transferred from this headquarters to other Quartermaster units preparing to go overseas. The fellows here told him the bad news was that he was AWOL. He laughed because he thought everybody was kidding. It wasn't long, though, before he was taking it seriously. The days were counted for him and he became convinced he was one day late. He went over to the orderly office to hand his furlough in. Everybody thought, he would probably be punished very lightly by being restricted to quarters for a few days at least or else receive some extra duties. In other. camps, an infraction of this nature usually resulted in only a few days of KP and in some cases no punishment at all. But that is not what happened here. In a short while we saw this fellow come back escorted by an officer. We found that he was court-martialed and on his way to the stockade to be thrown in with the other prisoners some of whom are hardened criminals who in peace time would have been in civilian jails for the crimes they had committed. He was to stay in the stockade until his trial came up. After a few hours in the jug, he was released by the commanding officer, who like a good generous Nazi thought the stockade was too much for the offense. Instead of awaiting his trial in jail, he was restricted to his quarters. In a few days he appeared at a court which
assembled at this post. Without exaggageration I can say that this court was just as severe and unjust as any Nazi court was in Poland. His punishment was two months in the stockade, reduction in grade from corporal to private, and a fine amounting to two thirds of his pay for two months. All this just for a small violation which was unintentional. From the testimony given, the court knew the defendant tried to be here on time and did not purposely become AWOL. I know the court was aware of this fact because later it was decided the punishment was too severe and the defendant was, therefore, released from the stockade and shipped to a Quartermster unit at Fort Benning, Georgia. His reduction in grade and fine, hcwever, were not suspended.

This military court is not the only one that is so Naziistic. There are many
more in this country. The Army doesn't give a damn because it is successful
in keeping its misdeeds from civilian circulation. There was one case, though,
which could not be kept a secret because the punishment was so extremely drastic and unjust. You have probably read about it. It concerned a man at Camp Roberts, California, who was sentenced to death merely because he acted under the rights given by the United states to conscientious objectors. Of course, this man's sentence was not carried out because it was brought to the attention of the Government. If the Government had no right to interfere, the Army would have murdered this man. This is a good picture of our Army--an Army which is supported by a country claiming to be a great democracy.

I can go on and give a better example of injustice in the military court here,
but there is no need to give more proof.

Mom, about that Black Cross mink which won 5th place at the show, I am wondering if Gladfelter gave us the ribbon or certificate which he received from the judges. Do we have anything to show that this mink did win 5th place?

Harry, the response to your ads seems to be exceptionally good. I was overjoyed to hear about your first sale of two bred females for a total of $500. I never expected such quick results even though I knew our price was somewhat low. I noticed Osborn's mink ranch is selling bred females for $450. Compared to that, our price could be considered ridiculously low if it weren't for Whittingham's price of $250. Why Whittingham is so low is something I don't understand.

Of course, if you think you can take care of the remaining mink without
much trouble, it wouldn't pay to continue selling any more bred females because your profit can be much greater in the sale of kits or pelts, depending on how many mink each female produces. If a female produces four kits, the pelt value alone of the entire litter could be close to $300 and their value as breeders about $500 or $600.

By your good draftsmanship you gave me avery clear picture of your new feeding tray. I see that it has been developed to a point where you can now say it is one of the best mink feeding trays in the country.

Have you heard anything more about the meat situation? I was wondering if
that Grand Rapids slaughter house has definitely agreed to deliver the meat to Detroit.

I remember you were going to see some second hand sailing vessels quite a while ago. If you have inspected them, I would be interested to know what they were like. Since you haven't said anything so far, I imagine they are old hulks not worth writing about.

Izzy, the curfew you referred to in your letter doesn't affect me at all.
Midnight is about the latest I ever remained downtown and it was only very rarely that I ever wanted to go anywhere after midnight for a drink. Even before the curfew, Memphis was quite a dead place after 11:30 PM and almost everybody was in the habit of leaving the downtown section about that time.

The dimout, I would say, makes a greater difference to me than the curfew.
At least I am reminded of it whenever I walk through the downtown streets in the evening. the absence of lights makes 8 or 9 o'clock look like 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning.

Your opinion about CQ duty being worse than KP is all wrong. KP is real
drudgery lasting for about 15 hours at a stretch. This length of time isn't the only bad point. The worse part of it is working under someone who takes his position too seriously and sees to it that you keep moving about regardless of whether there is work or not. On the other hand, the CQ sits at his desk and has barely any work to do outside of answering phone calls and waking soldiers up in the morning. When he hasn't anything to do, he can read or write whatever he pleases.

Due to unavoidable circumstances, I didn't do very much bowling lately.
For the past two or three weeks it was very hard to get alleys, and when alleys were obtainable, there weren't enough pin boys. The last time I bowled was about two weeks ago on a Monday afternoon off. I went along with ten other fellows to the Southern Bowling Alleys and bowled on two alleys. One master sergeant and one technical sergeant had a bottle of whiskey. They asked me if I wanted to chip in for a few highballs. I agreed and had a couple of spiked cokes before I started to bowl. My dizziness in the first game held me down to 115. During the second game another bottle was purchased and I drank quite a bit of it mixed with 7-up. My score fell to 110. Another bottle was brought in and when half of it was consumed, I didn't know whether I was bowling or playing golf. My score went down to 92. The master sergeant had to be shown how to get to his home. In the barracks I tried lying down, but the cot began to whirl around like a top. To keep from getting sick I got up, took a shower and went to a show. I was very angry about the whole affair because it spoiled one whole afternoon for me.

Spring is now here to stay. It is more comfortable to go outside without a coat or jacket. The present strength of the sun's rays is a sure sign of the heat that will be here in a few weeks. My next letter will quite likely be spotted with my sweat. Today the tanperature rose to 81--the highest mark reached this year.

With love to all, Eddie
(See PS on next page)

PS -- Mom, I sent a $5.00 money order to Writer's Digest and asked them to send me as many back-copies as possible. I gave them my Detroit address and therefore their answer will be sent to you. If you receive any word from them, let me know what they say and how many back-copies they are able to send me.

I am going to collect some Hershy bars and will mail them to you in three or
four days.

Thur. Mar 15 United States forces have completed two days of raids on Osaka, Japan

Sun. Mar 18 over a thousand U.S. bombers bomb Berlin.

Thur. Mar 22 the United States crosses the Rhine River for a late night surprise. This is just south of Mainz.

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