SHIPPING OUT

May 20, 1943,


Dear Mom,


I'm sorry I couldn't write sooner. I must apologize for the brefity and vagueness of this card, for it will be censored. All I can do is assure you I'm in the best of health, not having acquired the usual ill effects. ... I have been doing a lot of reading and dreaming besides going to communion each day. [unsigned]

With this brief note, courtesy of the United Service Organization (USO), Tom's family learned he was no longer at Langley Field with the Medical Detachment there. His new APO, the card to arrive several days later, with an address of San Franciso, told that family that Tom had shipped out and was on his way to the Pacific. The APO card also showed his new unit: 565th Armored Division, Signal Corp, Company "E".

June 11, 1943,


Dear Mom,


I an writing this brief and uncensored letter aboard an army transport three days before we are scheduled to dock in Brisbane. I am entrusting this letter to a member of the ship's crew to be mailed upon his reaching San Francisco. It is undoubtedly the last letter in which I can tell you just what I please.

I have'nt the remotest idea what is in store for me once we go ashore, but I expect to be able to send a cablegram in order to relieve any anxieties you may have sufferred as a result of my misleading guess as to our destination. You can rest assured though that I will write as soon and as often as possible.

Your first concern is probably my health which is splendid despite conditions. I don't weigh as much as I did at Langley, but I'm sure I'll pick up again as soon as we get three meals a day. I did'nt suffer even the slightest seasickness on the entire voyage despite the rough sea in some stretches, especially in the vicinity of the Islands. I did get a mild touch of dysentery a few times, but that was to be expected with the difficulties of storing and feeding.

I'll tell you now a little about the events since May 9. That was the day we left Atlantic City, with no clue to where we were going. The train headed north and a few hours later still north until we were in the very shadow of the Empire State building where we were shifted to a siding in Jersey City. [...] The trip north from there was even more painful, covering a territory too thoroughly familiar. [...]

We left Shanks [N.J.] on Friday the fourtheenth, getting off the train at the lackawanna Terminal ...[a] ferry boat took us down the river and across to Staten Island. When I awok next morning the Jersey Coast was still in sight and we were proceeding south, much to my consternation. I did'nt give up hope for our changing course to last for two days, when a member of the crew told me were going into the Pacific. I then settled down to a nice long voyage and the never ending effort to keep clean.

Going through the Windward Passage into the Carribean I caught a glimpse of a few lights on the Haiti shore. Next morning we saw a few birds which were probably from Jamaica. The Carribean was rougher and almost as blue as the Atlantic. It was in the Carribean where I had a day's work in the galley.

Panama is a beautiful place with the jungles covering everything right to the water's edge. The rain is torrential and every cloud carries some. In Saturn Lake the ship's pipes carried fresh water and made possible a much needed shower. Fresh water after that was for drinking only. I discovered a unique and effective way to wash my clothes. I tied them on to a rope and let them drag behind the ship for an hour or more. ...

We stopped for fuel at a little island near Tahiti and had some coconuts and bananas to break the twelve hour lapse of time between meals. The natives are remarkably well built and are expert at handling their outriggers. I hope some day to be able to go ashore and really visit these places....

Our quarters are down in the hold and you can just bet I did'nt spend any more time below than was absolutely necessary. You probably recall my passion for fresh air, well there is no more stifling and oppressive a spot than in a ship's hold crossing the equator. I slept on deck under the stars and really enjoyed it. Preparation for bed required the simple act of removing my shoes. The deck was a little hard the first few nights, but later on it became a cradle....

Well, I will sign off now....I hope this finds everyone in the best of health. You know I have'nt heard from home since April.


Your loving son,


Tom


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