Sunday, December 11, 2011

May 13, 1943

Carl has finished his army training and now he waits with his company to be sent into duty. They have been moved to three different camps in three states within the past month, with no idea where they will be sent next. He is now in New York City, preparing to ship out any day.

He writes on U.S.O stationary, with the words "IDLE GOSSIP SINKS SHIPS" printed in red on every piece of paper and on the outside of each envelop. Each letter is subject to censorship and already a few lines were cut out from one he wrote earlier in the month. Somehow, he knows that this letter will not be censored--probably the last uncensored letter he will write until the war is over.

To preserve his writing, I have not edited any spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Here are his words:

Well dearest it seems like the zero hour has arrived. I have no idea where we will be transfered from here. Plans and prepairations are being made for our exportation. It is quite certain that we will leave New York in a boat. I assume it will be either England or Alaska, according to the clothing that have [sic] been issued to us.

These two options of England or Alaska seem very arbitrary to me. What sort of clothes could they have been given which would suggest these two places? Did my grandpa really think they would be taking a boat from New York to Alaska? Was the U.S. Army really sending troops to Alaska during WWII? At first I thought this was a joke. It might be, but this next excerpt made me wonder.

I have a plan to out-smart the censor. In case they do not permit me to tell you where I am I will give you names of persons representing places. Here they are. Loyd = London, Alice = Alaska August = Australia Alfreda = Africa Irma = Ireland Isaac = Iceland, Alta some Island in the Atlantic and Paul for some Island in the Pacific (Greenland = George). I will questing [sic] you in the following manner; How is Paul by this time, hereby you will be able to tell where I am. I sure get radical ideas you may even smile at them. I hope to be “smarter” some day.

As someone looking back on WWII, I find these choices of countries very odd. There seem to be several glaring omissions. What's the code for Germany? France? Italy? Did he really think he was more likely to be sent to Australia or Greenland than to Germany? Did the U.S. Army even have operations in Australia during WWII? Since this is the last uncensored letter Carl will write for the rest of the war, it would seem he would want to cover all bases. Thoughts?

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