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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

December 6, 1942

Fort Riley, Kansas
Dec. 6, 1942
Sun. Nite

Hi- Honey,
I received your most welcome letter yesterday. Maybe you don’t believe it, but I really look forward to your letters. I didn’t think I’d miss you so much as I do. I don’t know why I do – I just do! I’m laying on my bunk writing this letter, so tell me if you can’t read it. How about sending me your picture first, it will probably be a couple of weeks before I have a chance to take mine. Will you please? I’d like to show it off here. I’ll be expecting it. Yes I will!

I haven’t been doing much lately that’s new. Just reviewing the Tommy gun, machine gun & pistol. We practiced guard mount Sat. Last Fri. we went over the obstacle course again. Now I’ve got a stiff left knee & a twisted right ankle. Softie Huh? We had an 8” snow here Sat.

I didn’t do much today. Went to 11:00 Mass & then had dinner. After that I went to the Service Club, & messed around. Then I came back & washed some socks & hankies. It gets kinda boring laying around the barracks day after day. But there are times that make up for it.
Say do you write those letters mixed up on purpose? I about go nuts trying to find the next page. It slows me up & I don’t like to be slowed up. I’m not bawling you out, it’s alright. It keeps me in suspense or sumpin.
I went to the U.S.O. show last night. Guess what I saw. Real girls. They even moved & talked. Oh to be back in K.C. again?
Are you sure you didn’t run into a door to get that black eye???
I don’t know where Cec. is yet. I haven’t heard from him.
I just took a 10 min. break & helped my buddy eat a pint of ice cream. Another guy just got off of K.P. & brought back some apples. I’ve been pretty lucky. I haven’t had K.P. yet. I better not talk too soon tho. Tomorrow we go out on another hike & pitch tents from 7 P.M. to Midnite & no light of any kind. No fires or flashlights or cigarettes. What you been doing? Getting drunk much lately? Or just your regular Sat. nite binge? What was that dream about, or do I know? Well sweetheart I think I’ll turn in now. Goodnite. Why can’t you come down or up here? Write soon.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

December 1, 1942

Fort Riley, Kansas
Dec. 1, 1942
Tues. Nite

Dear Mark:
I received your letter this noon. I had just got back from that overnight hike, I sure was glad to get it. I needed something like that to bolster my morale. I hope I never have to spend another night like that.
We marched five miles to the camp site & then pitched our shelter tents. Boy, it was cold! After that was done we had “chow”. Then we built a big bonfire, and gathered around & sang songs & told jokes. My buddy & I decided to turn in so we went to sleep, or, I might say, try to sleep. We only had 2 blankets, to sleep on, and two to cover with. That ground was hard & cold.
About 9:00 I got so cold I went out to the fire. Most of the fellows were sitting around it. One side of you would roast & the other would freeze. So, I went back & got 2 blankets & wrapped around me. I looked like Chief “Sittin Bull” himself. Well, we stood around the fire the whole night & morning till 8:00 A.M. Boy, I was tired & sleepy. My eyes were burning from smoke & I smelt like a smoked ham er sumpin. At 8:30 we ate breakfast & then we striked tents & headed back for camp. We arrived back at 11:00. Then till 12:30 we studied & dissembled the Thompson 40 cal. sub-machine gun. A neat piece of iron. Well after that we had dinner again, & was I starved.
This might be boring you but I don’t know what else to write about. Well, to continue, after dinner we had a first aid lecture. We had to learn to put broken legs & arms in splints. After the first aid we went back to the barracks for a ten-minute break, to smoke & stuff.
Now we have gas mask drill. We practiced donning masks & then we went into the gas chamber. We stayed in about 5 minutes & then took off our masks & walked out. My eyes were burning & watering & I was coughing like H___. I really trust that mask now, which was the purpose of the whole thing. It was snowing when we got out of the gas chamber, but it only lasted about 1 hour.
Well – (I use “well” a lot don’t I?) we’re back in the barracks & still practicing with the gas-mask for another ½ hour. I have just taken a shower & shaved & am ready for “chow” again. After we get back from Chow, we have to scrub the barracks, - every Tues & Fri.! I duck around till they’re finished so I get out of the work. I’m learning fast, to get around here, believe it or not.
We are now being interviewed by the Lt. He wanted to know if I spoke any foreign language. I told him no, except for a few ox!z words. I don’t want to be a spy anyhow. Well – I’m about out of Army dope, besides I written 4 large pages – now say something! Do I think I’ll go overseas? Listen Honey I don’t expect to see June in U.S.A., unless something turns up. They’re shortening our training period from 12 wks to 8 wks.
Goodnight honey, I’m pretty tired & I’ll think I’ll turn in. How about your picture? When you coming up?

Buck Johnny

Friday, June 18, 2010

November 27, 1942

Fort Riley, Kansas

Nov. 27th 1942

Fri. 9:30.

Hello Sweetheart!

I was sure excited to get your letter this morning. I’ve read it 4 times already.

I’ve been pretty busy this week. Pitching pup tents, drilling, listening to lectures, studying the 45. cal. Colt. Today we had gas mask drill. We also went over the obstacle course. Going hand over hand on ropes across streams, a couple of fellows fell in, it was sure fun to see them. We jumped hurdles & 8 ft. board fence, crawled thru pipes & wire entanglements, climbed barriers & ropes & jumped hurdles & then double timed back to the barracks.

We really had a swell Thanksgiving dinner – Turkey & stuff – you know. It would take a half a page to name it.

Then Thurs. afternoon we got another shot: (in my arm). It’s still sore. We just got thru scrubbing the barracks for tomorrow’s inspection. We went to a show last night, put on by Vance James from Manhattan. Tomorrow night we get some free beer. I feel like getting sloppy drunk. I feel kinda blue tonight, but I think I’ll go to confession & be a good soldier. We’ve really been going thru our training fast. A 2nd Louie told me, we’d probably be “across the pond” by summer. They call this Div. a suicide squad, & I believe it.

I’ve written to Lucy but she hasn’t written yet, is she mad?

I’ll send a picture as soon as I get some developed. We’re still restricted to the camp area.

Don’t forget, the first time I’m back, we got a date!

Well, honey, I’ve got to shave & polish shoes by 10:00, so good-bye for now.


Buck Johnny

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Boot Camp, November 21, 1942

Fort Riley, Kansas

Nov. 21st 1942

Sat Nite, 7:00 PM

Hello Honey!

I’ve got a few hours off, so I thought I’d write & let you know I still think about you. I’d sure like to get back there & have a nice good fight with you. I’m really getting in shape, so you had better be careful when I get back!

I’ve been drilling & marching every day, and believe me, I’m really tired & sore. Today we took up the manual of arms. (I mean rifles.) Yesterday we had to scrub & clean up the barracks for today’s inspection.

Today it was cold & rainy, and we had to drill & march in it. I don’t care so much for that part of it. This Army life isn’t so bad yet. After we get to studying and working out tactical problems, I’m going to be pretty busy.

I got my G.I. haircut, it’s about ½ inch long now. You ought to see me, you’d get a big laugh. I made a high enough grade on my test to go to officers training after my 3 weeks basic training is up, but I don’t know if I’ll go to the trouble. Well Babe I’ve got to go back to the barracks now. Write soon will ya? As ever – Buck Pvt. Johnny

The Players

Mark (nickname for Margaret): Johnny’s gal, the recipient and love interest of these letters

Johnny: Mark’s suitor, and the author of these letters to Mark

Cecil, also known as “Cec”: Johnny’s best friend

Lucy, or “Lu”: married Cecil and became Mark’s friend. As a couple, they were known as Lu and Cec.

Ralph: Johnny’s younger brother

Frank: Johnny’s older brother

Bobby: Johnny’s youngest brother

Babe: Johnny’s ‘baby’ sister

Sis: Johnny’s older sister

Dode: Johnny’s oldest brother

Mary: Dode’s wife

Dora: Ralph’s wife

DeeDee, or “Dedi”: Mark’s niece, daughter of her sister Irene



Letters From My Soldier is an upcoming book, containing a collection of letters from a soldier in World War II. The collection starts in Boot Camp, through training, and into the European theater in June of 1944. The letters are real. The people are real. The romance and pathos are real.

The soldier was my father, and the recipient was the woman who was to be my mother. No one knew the letters existed until both my parents died, and we found them tucked away in her hope chest, 60 years after the letters were written.

Come back for news and updates. I’m looking forward to sharing this piece of romantic history with you!