During World War II, my parents corresponded with one another, with family members and with friends through letters, greeting cards and "Victory Mail," a photocopy of a letter written within a border and mailed. At times letters took as much as three weeks, even up to six months, before Jimmy or Emma read their spouse's sentiments, worries and celebrations. Enjoy and read along.
In this post, we'll read entries from Emma's diary and from Jimmy's. First, those of 2nd. Lt. Walter James Gregory:
Company B, 318th Infantry 80th Division Camp Forrest, Tennessee
Tuesday, May 11, 1943
Finished [Battalion] Firing test under Col. Snowden for 2 days & it seemed that everything was just slightly wrong. Rained like heck.
No word from Emma on telegram nor a letter.
5 p.m. [Regiment] Officers Meeting - Col. Hea. Sighted (perhaps?) Lt. Stringer lst, Lt. Gregory 2nd, Lt. Perry 3rd. Co. B for maneuver performance.
Sunday, May 16
[Letter from scratched out]
Telegram from Emma. 10 a.m.
Studied, went to Church, looked for room, ate a stake [steak] at the club, and tried studying along with jumping [around], excited a little over the good news.
Monday, May 17
Met Emma about 10:30 in a store uptown about 1/2 hr. after she had arrived. Just to see her again was all I needed to hoist the excitement and make me plenty happy. Instructed in Classes & arranged for blood test. Went to see "Air Force."
Tuesday, May 18
Instructed a.m. Met Emma for lunch, had tests made at Hospital, back to classes, got leave for 3 days. Went to town for evening. Dinner at Club. Down to [Regiment] drifted [around]. Saw Lt. Carney, Welch, Capt. Losi gave us a drink. Plenty warm.
Sounds like those two are getting married, what with Jim's reference to 'blood tests" at the hospital. Let's see what Emma writes in her diary from May 10-18, 1943.
Not much clue here...every entry from May 10 through May 13 says, "Worked."
May 14, Friday
May 15, Saturday
Finished working -
In evening went to the dance.
May 16, Sunday
Left at noon for Camp Forrest
May 17, Monday
Arrived in Tullahoma at 9:44 this morning.
Had dinner downtown.
May 18, Tuesday
Went to a show
Jim and I went to Camp this evening.
Well, not much clues from Emma's diary. Stay tuned!
S-2d (Intelligence Officer) in the Bn. (Battalion) H.Q. office in A.M. P.M. Off - Visited Camp J.A. Office & Sgt. Jaschin, Major Axleroad, and Miss Louise Hudelson. - Camp H.Q. and Personnel Office. All smiles & remarks as to complexion. A few beers, SENT FARE & Telegram to have EMMA Come Down. [Steak] at Club. To bed early, thinking I had sent similar telegram a year ago May 8 .
And From Emma,
412 Cherry Street
Her Diary Entries: May 6-9, 1943
May 6, Thursday
Fur Coat Inventory and dollar inventory on Div. 10-14-
Thoughts of Daughter Linda Lou: We haven't heard much from either Jim or Emma during this time period, seventy years ago. Emma's letters, when she does write, have gone "missing in action" or "AWOL...Absent without Leave"...meaning that I can't find them. Jim has been on training maneuvers and stationed away from Camp Forrest, evidently without his diary. All we have, for now, are her sparse diary entries.
Emma's Diary, May 2 - May 5, 1943
May 2, Sunday
In evening went to the show
May 3, Monday
7 years ago Buster died -
Went to see "Keeper of the Flame" in the evening.
Buster was Emma's "kid brother," and he was born 9 June, 1920, in Marion, Ohio.
Francis Marion Burklew, "Buster" Approximately 1930 Marion, Ohio
Buster Burklew's High School Photograph Approximately 1935
His death was sudden, resulting from a crushed skull and a broken neck, as you can read in this newspaper clipping from early May, 1936.
Transcription of Text:
Francis Marion "Buster" Burklew, a second year student in the Mt. Gilead [Ohio] high school was instantly killed at 2:30 o'clock Sunday morning in an automobile accident four miles south of Mt. Gilead.
Burklew was driving a roadster, owned by L. K. Ramborger whose home is near Burklew's home and Ramborger's son, William, also a student in the Mt. Gilead schools, was in the car with him.
Lost Control of Car
Travelling at a high rate of speed, according to the Ramborger boy's account of the accident, Burklew lost control of the car on a straight stretch of the road and rand off the road on the left side. The car turned over twice and came to rest in the ditch 160 feet from the point where it left the road.
It was upside down and the youth's skull was crushed and his neck was broken, according to Dr. T. Carls, Morrow county coroner, who was called to the scene.
The Ramborger boy escaped with only bruises. He was pinned beneath the automobile. Don A. Claypool of Mt. Gilead was the first to arrive after the accident. He secured assistance and after 20 minutes work was able to turn the car over and release Ramborger.
The two boys had been in Mt. Gilead all Saturday evening and had started for their homes only about six minutes before the crash at 2:30 p.m.
Burklew was the son of Samuel and Bertha Burklew. Surviving are his parents; three sisters, Mrs. E. L. Martin of Mt. Vernon, and Una and Emma, at home; and a brother, Richard Burklew of Marengo.
Interment Made Here
The body was taken to the Craven Funeral Home at Mt. Gilead and services were held there Tuesday afternoon with Rev. E. L. Hurley of the First Baptist church and Rev. L. Eugene Rush of the Trinity M.E. church officiating. Interment was made at Rivercliff cemetery here.
The youth had been a pupil of the Fulton school before entering the Mt. Gilead high school in the fall of 1934 as a first year student. He was studying agriculture and was active in the Future Farmers of America club at the school, having participated in several livestock judging contests.
Got a raise - $18.00 (Emma works full-time at Montgomery Ward Department Store in Marion, Ohio.)
May 1, Saturday
Packed away fur coats.
Hazel bought a fur coat.
Went to the dance in evening.
And From Camp Forrest, Tennessee, a Postcard Written April 30 and postmarked May 2, 1943
By the wind [fanned] light of my little bonfire as I prepare to rest on a foot of dry leaves and bed [roll] under a very original lean-to beside an old oak log, I can't help scribbling a few of my most frequent thoughts.
Honey, if we were both sitting beside this fire, no war, no worries, just love and happiness, "Do I Worry?" Not me. Remember? [Illegible...any guesses?]
I'm really fine except I'm anxious to hear from you. Had a world of fun on this problem, earned a compliment or two and good score by Umpire.
[Written along the side] No weekend except in woods so will think of you.
A Letter From Lt. James Gregory to "Dearly Beloved,"
How you was tonight, Honey? Love in your heart, spring in your step, rosy cheeks and flowers in your hair? Wish I were there to attest to the wonderful effects of spring on the choice of my heart.
If I could just have a big kiss before I crawl in the little old bedroll and start counting stars tonight. I may count up to three tonight as I had a good sleep last night, just counted one star.
The sleep last night and four mammoth meals were all I needed to feel like a king again after two days tough going, the toughest yet, no fooling. Each problem is progressively tougher, but my new job as S-2 (Intelligence Officer) is more interesting as I learn.
I am sitting on someone's bedroll and using a paste-board box to write on. The other fellows have a little card game going on the field table but the light of a gasoline lantern in our new C.P. (Command Post) tent, which is sure a honey. The light doesn't show through, the entrance is like an alley, it has blackout windows, message holes, indirect ventilation, everything but an upstairs and a lavatory. Ha! The Captain, Battalion C.O., reserves one end to sleep in.
When I'm riding around in "Noah's Ark," that's my amphibious jeep, running the radio, I sure wish I could call you as it seems that my mail just doesn't get here or something and I'd sure like to hear your voice again.
We're two hours gone on the next problem after a 24-hour rest period. By a week from Saturday, we should be back in Camp and scrubbing our way out of the dirt. Corp Maneuvers will be over so we'll only have Army Maneuvers left, if we "stitch" long enough to make them.
Did you have a good Easter, Honey?
If I remember right I didn't write again Sunday so the Easter news is first, I ate another T-Bone after I wrote the letter Saturday evening, that is I had one T-bone at 5:30 p.m. and one at 11:00 p.m. Though some of the soldiers were rather well oiled, we left town at 11:30 as ordered and got back to the "mud puddle" o.k. The next day at 11:00 a.m. I took the truck in again with some more soldiers and returned at 3:30. While I was there I got badly fooled on a chicken dinner then went to a show and saw part of "Get Ready for Action" or "Stand By for Action," I don't know which, but I'm going to see it all some time.
I sure hope you will excuse the scribbling, Honey. I could be better if I'd watch myself even though I am setting cross-legged and using a little old pasteboard box for a desk.
The weather, thank the Lord, is wonderful. Other news is scarce, I guess, except -
Emma, Darling, I love you more that ever and can hardly wait until you and I can see each other again. How about you?
The game is breaking up and I better scram as we are to be ready to march in 2-hour's notice after midnight. Maybe no sleep so much tonight.
I'll be dreaming of you, Honey, and wondering why I haven't heard a word since I left camp. I know the mail is running late though so I won't be thinking things I shouldn't.
A Letter From Lt. Jim Gregory to "Dearest Emma," Saturday, April 24, 1943
Boy, I'm really going places and doing nothing much. From the end of the 2nd phase of a problem yesterday morning (in the rain) to Shelbyville for eleven hours sleep, to Tullahoma, back to the outfit, to Lynchburg for a critique and now in Winchester in charge of trucks to bring some enlisted men in to town on an evening's pass. I'm on duty so gotta stay sober and have until 11:30 to think of you as at that time, it's up to me to get 'em back on the trucks, drunk or sober, and get them back out in our muddy Bivouac.
Down to more detail and to start at the beginning of the week's news. Honey, I sure got wet the first thing Sunday night as soon as we started. That night I got 2 hours sleep then didn't get any more until Tuesday night at the end of the first phase when I slept eleven hours. I didn't get another wink until last night when I went to Shelbyville on a pass where I got a shave, took a shower and even washed my shoes and leggings in the shower. Ha! After a square meal I went to a show, a crazy thing to do as I soon went to sleep and didn't wake up until about ten when the show had been on the second time for awhile. I don't know what it was all about but the name was "Careful, Soft Shoulders." Wondering why they didn't throw me out for snoring. I ambled off to bed and just plainly passed out until 9 o'clock this morning. Fifteen minutes later I was on the bus to Tullahoma to catch a bus to Lynchburg for the critique.
I think I really got along good as a member of the Battalion Commander's Staff and I sure like the work. Getting enemy information is mighty interesting, which is why I missed so much sleep. If I hadn't been so interested I might have slept more. It's kind of a dream come true to be a Staff Officer, especially in the Intelligence Section. If I could just speak two or three foreign languages now. Anyhow, I have my own special built Jeep to ride in most of the time and jump around everywhere.
After almost drowning and freezing all week, I'm back in my shirt sleeves tonight, feeling and strutting like a king in the air of a wonderful evening. Honey, how about going for a little walk, a little window shopping or whatever you can think of. We can't go in to Camp Forrest though to the dance, as the camp is off limits to keep the opposing (Reds & Blues) forces from mixing up and giving away information.
I don't have to start fighting again until 6 p.m. tomorrow so I can spend Easter at least thinking about you and wishing to Lord we were spending the day together. Wish we were getting married tomorrow. How about you, Honey? I could wear my G.I. shoes, leggings, O.P. and no tie, just as I am now and you could really deck out in Easter style.
I hope you didn't work too hard this week and are all set for a swell time tomorrow. Please think of me a lots though, Honey. Will you? And write to me in afternoon or evening and tell me all the news. I haven't received a letter this week but maybe it will catch up soon, here's hoping.
I expect to get back in Camp about two weeks from tonight, Honey, so please get everything already to visit Camp Forrest again, for a long time, I hope. I do still have that ring, Sweetheart, and I can't wear it. I know it won't be too nice down here but I promise to do my best, Darling, and to be reasonable.
The Grand Ole Opera is on the radio here in this little old hotel lobby, where I just borrowed some stationery and made myself at home. There's a half a dozen soldiers taking it easy while they wait for their turn to take a shower rather than to tip up the beer uptown. They've sold so much beer, the blinkin' staff is hot anyhow.
I was going to send you a telegraphic greeting but the blinkin' office closed before I got in to town. Hope you got my card, Honey.
Are you going home for Easter tomorrow or not, Honey? I sure wish I were.
I think I'll stack up all the sleep I can get, maybe go to Easter Service, then get my maps etc. ready to go to work again.
Dang it, today is Vincent's birthday (one of Jim's brothers) and I never sent him a card. Not long since I wrote though.
I have an hour yet to wait for the boys so maybe I'll write to Mother. In the time I wait to see you, Honey, I won't forget for a minute how much Spring seemed to be your middle name last year for those three weeks we spent together. That's the most spring we ever did have together. Guess we should have let spring get the best of us back in "37" when I interrupted a little fishing expedition for a date one evening.
Excuse the shop, Honey, and write me a nice long one.
Missing you and excited already with my hopes. Honey, I remain only yours forever. I love you, Emma.