Edward J. Thomas - World War II

Below letter written by Edward J. Thomas

October 18, 1944 Wednesday
Memphis 15, Tennessee

Dear Mom, Harry and Izzy:

When I finished writing my last letter I told you that the temperature
was going down and that I was freezing. Well, it kept going down
right along until the next morning when it sunk to 38° which according to
the papers is a record low in Memphis for this date. This was the date
when we changed from summer khaki suits to winter uniforms. Also our
entire office section was moved from the big frame building it originally
occupied to the large brick Special Staff Building. This move to another
building was made because it would have been impossible to heat the
flimsy and leaky structure which our office formerly occupied. The only
advantage the new solid brick building has over the other is that it is
heated. Otherwise it's very inconvenient because I have to walk a longer
distance to work. Also, our section was allotted only about 1/3 of
the office space we originally had and consequently the desks are much
closer together. Where before I was about 20 feet away from one of the
colonels, I am now only about 5 feet away. It's a little more risky
to write personal letters while the nearest colonel is at his desk; there-
fore I'll have to make them shorter.

I purposely intended to write this letter to thank you for the
packages I received. The first one that came to me was the one containing
pies, cakes, and doughnuts. It came to me on the 11th (Wednesday) of October.
I thought it was an excellent present, and quite sufficient for anybody's
birthday and almost neglected to check the post office for further
presents. On a hunch I went back to the post office the next day, which
was the 12th, and to my surprise found that there were two more boxes.
The one with the candy satisfied me a great deal because it was a supply
I always wished to have but never could get from the PX here because
they sell only two bars at a time. Buying at this rate, I never could
save any bars because I couldn't resist eating them before returning to
my barracks. The other box was a shocking surprise. I opened it up and
drew out a bottle. I looked at the label and when I read the word "wine",
I jumped, dropped the bottle back into the box, and furtively looked around
me to see if anybody saw the wicked stuff. The present was too hot to
handle in the daytime. I waited until I returned about 11:30 PM from my
bumming around downtown. It was dark then in the barracks and safe to
drink the alcoholic juice. I drank half the bottle as a nightcap to blank out the 12th (Thursday) of October and finished the, rest the next night. Not being accustomed most of the time to anything stronger than coke, I quickly felt the effects of this wine. It put me to sleep even before I could to a little thinking about the additional crazy army experiences I had during
the day.

The box of doughnuts, cakes, and pies was gobbled up in no time.
Reluctantly I had to offer some pieces to my neighbors. The doughnuts
and pies were especially delicious and slid down my gullet like whipped
cream. Since I don't want to get up in time for morning chow, I used
this box of delicacies as my breakfast for several days, washing it down
with coke which I sometimes can get from the coke machine in our barracks.

This afternoon, which is Wednesday, I had my physical fitness per1.od.
It is the period which is scheduled for every Wednesday. It consists of
running 300 yards in 45 seconds, carrying a soldier on my back 75 yards
and then having him carry me the same distance, 'push-ups, burpees,
calesthenics; creeping, crawling, running and jumping over a 75 yard
course; and then a stiff hike around the dusty State Fair race track.
I had to go around the race track 8 times in 50 minutes with a full pack
on my back. I am told that the race track is 1/2 mile around, but I
think it really is 5/8 of a mile. Eight times around would make the total
distance 5 miles. To do this in 50 minutes required a great deal of running--
almost as much of it as walking. You can readily imagine how tough this
is, especially when it is as warm as it was today. I believe the temperature
while I was hiking was anyehere from 80° to 85° About 50% of the men
dropped out and ambled along behind to be outlapped two or three times by
the main group. For some nutty reason I stuck it out for the full 8 rounds.
At 5:30 PM I came in all wet from sweat and went into the mess hall to
eat. After I finished eating, I dressed up and went to the Catholic Club
for a shower and a swim. The room the large pool is in was almcst pitch
dark. Nobody was using it. In spite of the darkness I went in anyway.
I splashed around for about 5 minutes. The water was too cold--just about
as it comes from the faucet in Memphis. Also, 1 didn't want to stay
in longer because my legs were too tired from hiking. After I warmed,
myself with a shower and dressed up, I went, to the Catholic Club lunch
counter and ordered a bottle of beer. I was told that only quart bottles
were available. That, hewever, did not discourage me. I ocrdered a quart
and had a hard time drinking it all. It was a Pilsner brand called "Champagne
Velvet". The first couple of glasses tasted as weak as near-beer. The
next three or four glasses almcst knocked me out. I staggered up the stairs
to the Catholic Club library, which is filled with musty old chestnut and
reference books, and sat down in an armchair. It was my intention to dash
this letter off in shorthand. I was so drunk, though, that I doubted whether
I could get started. The library rocked like a boat and the juke box in
another room filled my head with confused sounds. I wanted to settle back
in my chair and fall asleep, but I resisted, and in my besotted condition
managed to scribble this letter out.

Mom, I was very glad to receive your last letter. I noticed you
said that I haven't written anything about the City of Memphis. That
is perfectly true. It seems strange even to me that of the thousands
of words I have already written very few of them dealt with Memphis itself.
I must do something about this omission. I don't believe I can do it
now. Maybe in my next letter.

I'll haw to write a letter to Gertie & Gene now to thank them for
their present.

With love Eddie

P.S. Life is a little mere endurable in the barracks. Some soldiers
were moved out and enough space was gained to break down the remaining
double decker beds into single beds. That means I now have more room
and can easily sit or lie down in the evening without having to crawl and climb over someone else in order to get on my bed. I am not, however, taking full advantage of this improved condition because I haven't broken the habit of scramming out for a street car to take me downtown.

Fri. Oct 20 Belgrade is liberated by the Red Army and Yugoslav Partisans.

Wed. Oct 25 Relations with Italy are opened by Russia, Britian and the United States.

Sat. Oct 28 A Japenese kamikaze hit the U.S. cruiser Denver in the Philippines.

Mon. Oct 30 The tragic murders at the largest German death camp, Auschwitz end after this date.

Eddie's Furlough

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