Archive | August, 2011

The whole army’s crazy, but I’m beginning to like it

29 Aug

August 29, 1943

Barstow, California

Dear Pop,

I am here in Barstow today. It sure is good to get off that desert for a little while and get here where there are some trees. This is a small place about the size of Salem. They have a little place here for the U.S.O. but it’s air conditioned and it sure is good to cool off a little. I got a Pepsi Cola a little while ago. They don’t have any soft drinks out at the desert P.X.

This is our last week on the desert. We will fire the 40 mm guns this week and that will finish our first three weeks. We will go back to Haan and then I don’t know what we will do. We are supposed to have five more weeks on the desert but they may take them on the beach. These 40 and 90mm guns have to be a long way off before they can be fired safely because the 90 has an eight mile range.

I came to town today with a man named Smith from Baltimore, Maryland. I never saw anyone so homesick as he is and he stays that way. Lots of these guys are married and it is pretty hard on them to take them away from their wives. There is one man in the same gun section that I am, he used to work down at the N&W and I believe this desert has about driven him crazy. They are going to take him to the hospital I think. This place is enough to drive anyone  crazy. Well, from the way I see it the whole army’s crazy.

Civilians have the wrong idea about the army all around. Friday they told us we would have from Saturday noon til Monday morning free. They put me on guard that lasted til 5 o’clock then at 6:30 we had to clean guns and this morning we had to go out on the range and dig holes to put guns in. We got from 1 o’clock this afternoon until 8 o’clock tonight free. Believe it or not I’m beginning to like this old army. We work pretty hard but when work’s done you feel like you’ve done more than earn a little money like it was when I was a civilian.

I have been taken from my position on the gun temporarily and I am gunner now. That is a pretty good position and it calls for a corporal’s rating, if I can hold down the job I may get it for a permanent position.

I don’t want to do anything until I find out whether we will be shipped east or not. It looks like they are getting ready to do something; they are taking a lot of the men out of this battalion and putting them with others. Tommy Hawkins is being taken out of this battalion so I guess he and I will be split up.

I guess I’ll close for now.

Love, Tom


The land that God forgot

28 Aug

August 28, 1943

Camp Irwin, California

Dear Mom,

Whenever you don’t hear from me for awhile don’t worry, I just don’t have time to write. Almost every time when we get off I just drop in bed and go to sleep, I’m so tired. We will be back at Haan by this time next week I’m pretty sure.  I am on guard today. We walk post 2 hours and are off 4 hours so it gives me some time to catch up on my writing.

When I get off guard this evening I will be free until Monday morning. I may get to go to the nearest town which is Barstow. It would be good to get out of here for a little bit. I don’t think we are coming out here anymore. If we don’t go east we will probably go to the beach to finish our training. I’ve heard that this desert training has been discontinued, but I don’t know. We don’t get much news except we get Sunday papers.

I guess you are right, there are better days ahead. It doesn’t seem right that we should be sent  all the way out here, but that bunch that left Camp Lee just got a bad break. Most all of us are from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. I’m getting used to being away from home but still sometimes I get to thinking about home and I get mighty homesick. I don’t think the war will last so much longer, I hope not anyhow.

There is one thing you ought to see out here on the desert and that is the sunset and sunrise. I haven’t ever seen a more beautiful sunset than the one last night. When the sun goes down it makes the mountains and sand look red and the shadows on the mountain are a darker red. Then as the sun goes on down they turn to a deep purple. It really is beautiful. Out here, they call this desert “the land that God forgot” but he didn’t forget everything. That is really worth seeing.

When I think about it I realize that since I’ve been in the army I’ve really gotten around some. Two months ago I never expected that I would walk around in Hollywood and see those movie stars and be out here on this desert. It really was a thrill the first time I went to Riverside too. That is one of the most beautiful  towns I ever saw. I have a large map of the U.S. that I got on the way out from Camp Lee and I’ve marked down our course and everywhere I’ve been in the U.S. It kind of surprises me when I look and see where all I’ve been.

Next week we will go on out to Death Valley.

Love to all, Tom “The Duke of the Desert”

P.S. Sgt. White  gave me that name when they called us out for formation the other day and I came running out in my shorts.

I made marksman on the rifle

23 Aug

August 23, 1943

Camp Irwin, California

Dear Mom,

It’s pretty bad out here and I’ll be glad when we get back to Haan. Tuesday we have to crawl 200 yards under machine gun fire. That’s not much though. The thing I don’t like out here is the heat. Then too, I just get sick of the whole army. I haven’t heard any news for a week, I hope we are doing ok out there.

One week of the desert is over. I made marksman on the rifle and I made expert on the 45c tommy gun (that is a small submachine gun used in close fighting.) So far I’m doing ok. If I keep it up I’ll be a Pfc. or Corporal in no time.

They are still talking a lot about us going to Massachusetts, only  the latest is that it’s Mass or Fort Hustes, VA. I don’t pay much attention to those rumors though. I won’t believe it until I see it.

Thanks again for the candy and cookies. I am still eating them. I’ll write again first chance I get.

Love to all, Tom

P.S. Here are two double A’s for Bill and Charlotte

double A

It’s a hard life but they say it’s good for you

20 Aug

August 20, 1943

Camp Irwin, California

Dear Mom,

It’s awful hot out here and we work awful hard. It gets up around 120 and 125 here at Camp Irwin. We have been on the rifle range for the last 2 days and we work with the machine guns starting tomorrow. We will be back in three weeks and one is almost gone. Some say we are going to Massachusetts when we get back and some say we aren’t. I wish we would but it’s not likely.

Tell Dad my Battery Commander’s name is Captain Hawthorn. What that captain said to pop was right, the army doesn’t do anything right. They tell us that we get the best training in the world. Well, I know that Bill Ferguson knows more about first aid than the Lieutenant that teaches it to us. Everything around here is like that. I get mighty disgusted sometimes. Oh well, it’s a hard life but they say it’s good for you.

I laid down on the firing range today and went to sleep and I sure have got a sore face now. This sun is tricky out here, some fellows have been killed by it just by laying out to get a sun tan. They warn us to keep our shirts on all the time.

I won’t be able to write much out here, part of the time we will be up in Death Valley on combat problems. If you looked on a good map you can find a little town called Mahaja (that’s not spelt right but it’s something like that), well Camp Irwin is about 10 miles north of that and our area for maneuvers is about 15 miles above that. Two months ago I would never imagine myself being out here but look at me now!

Love to all, Tom

One night pass to Hollywood

17 Aug

August 15, 1943

Camp Haan, California

Dear Mom,

We are getting all packed up to leave in the morning. I have been out on a pass but they were cut short til 12 noon Sunday. I was in Hollywood last night. I went to the famous Hollywood Canteen and saw Kay Keyser’s band, Jimmy Durante, Robert Benchley, Deanna Durbin, and some others. Beverly Hills and Hollywood are awfully pretty but L.A. is right dirty. I had a good trip though and enjoyed it a lot. I couldn’t find a room last night so I had to stay up all night. Everybody else does that out here anyhow. I met up with two Marines before I went to the Canteen and we had a swell time. They were from San Pedro, about 20 miles from L.A.

I don’t expect you will hear from me so much while I’m on the desert. Part of the time we will be out in Death Valley studying combat problems. And some of the time we will be at the regular desert camp, Camp Irwin. My address will be the same and we will get our mail delivered about twice a week from Haan. I’ll write again the first chance I get.

Love to all, Tom

Plenty of zoot suits out here

15 Aug

My gun position

August 15, 1943

Camp Haan, California

Hello Bill,

Thought I would write you while I have time. We were out on a truck convoy last night. We went about 30 miles, stopped and slept for about 2 hours then turned around and came back. I have a good sleeping bag. I got it for $8.75 from Uncle Sam. It keeps me plenty warm. You almost have to have one when you go out on the desert. We are leaving for the desert Monday.

I am going to try to get over to Hollywood this weekend if I can get a pass. One thing you should see in this part of the country, there are almost more Mexicans and Indians around here than there are Americans. And they have plenty of “zoot suits” out here.

To let you know what I do here I pointed out my position on the gun on the picture at the top of the page. I like it pretty well. It’s better than any other position on the gun. We use those wooden airplanes, like you make in school, to study aircraft identification so we won’t shoot down any of our own planes. We look through a tube and a light is flashed on the plane for just a second and then we have to tell what it is. The other things we study are first aid, tank identification, gas attacks, telephone and radio, and different types of guns.

I’ll write again and tell you how the desert is.

“Zoot” Ferguson

Getting ready for the desert

11 Aug

August 11, 1943

Camp Haan, California

Dear Pop,

I got the shoes today and thanks a lot for getting them for me. One thing I would like for you to do for me is get one of those little metal bin tags made for me if you can. Just put on it:

Pvt. Thomas R. Ferguson

A.S.N. 33652379

I could use one to put on my bunk.

I crushed the knuckle on my second finger of my right hand and tore the skin on the back of my finger yesterday when we were lowering a gun. They have it taped up with a splint and I will be able to take that off in a few days. It sure did hurt when I did it. I caught my hand between two pieces of metal and the whole weight of the gun was on my hand. They took x-rays of it and said it would be ok. It’s pretty hard to write though.

We passed inspection today and are getting ready to go out on the desert Monday. I’ve heard some awful stories about that desert but I think I’ll make it ok.

Love to all, Tom