Thursday, September 11, 2014

5. 'They think I'm tough but they all like me'

This is Dad as a corporal, the rank he held as an
officer candidate in 1943. He won his lieutenant's
 bar, trained in tank maintenance at Fort Knox,
Ky., and was sent to the West Coast.
Twenty-three years after Dad enlisted in the Army,
and under very different circumstances, I followed
in his footsteps. Here I am in 1966 as a squad leader
and acting corporal at Fort Jackson, S.C.

My father, Charles M. Pride, spent the late months of 1943 and the early months of 1944 with the 104th Cavalry, a Pennsylvania National Guard unit assigned to guard the upper West Coast. My mom Bernadine and their daughter Bonnie moved to Washington State near Fort Lewis. They did not accompany him when his unit was transferred to the beaches of Oregon.

The location made it pretty obvious where he would go next, but a soldier never really knows.

Dad wrote this series of letters to Mom from Oregon. The first was datelined only “Tuesday night” but was almost certainly written on Jan. 18, 1944. Gold Beach is just north of California.

Late in life when Dad began talking more about his military experience, he told me he disliked the coastal duty in part because the Pennsylvanians treated him as an outsider. In these letters he seemed satisfied with his unit but also flashed anger at the hint of a less qualified officer, presumably a Pennsylvanian, being promoted over him.

                                                                                         Tuesday night

Well here I am at Gold Beach. I really do get around, don’t I? I miss you and love you more than ever. I can’t get used to sleeping alone. At six o’clock I awaken and I guess I roll over to see Bonnie being fed, but nothing doing.

The weather here is beautiful, warm, sunshiny. I wish we were going to stay here, you’d love it. This is the first troop I’ve been to where there is some real training going on, they really are “on the ball.” Gee, I miss little Bonnie, and I’m so worried about her cold. I wish she could shake it. We are supposed to be prepared to move the week of the 24th so you can plan on seeing me sometime that week. You had better stay put until we can get something together.

The reason I was sent here was that there are only 2 officers here and they need help. You don’t know either of them Lt. Stokes and Lt. Strothers. They are both 1sts.

Here is a letter from your gal-friend I received. I hope you sent Bob’s [Dad’s brother] stuff to him. I’m kicking myself for bringing all of the damned junk I brought with me, but that’s life, I guess.

Magnus is a lucky pup going to San Diego. I wish we were going. I can’t get excited about Ft. Lewis. 

I suppose Libby took most of the food that was ours not theirs that I brought home, but I know you. The class of men here and their state of mind is better than any I’ve seen in any troop. If I knew something about new troops I wouldn’t mind being left here. Who knows I might be anyway. I’ve ceased to worry about such trivial matters. Lt. Ux just got back from school and they put him in F Co. and he’s never been in a tank in his life. He’s a new man, and they send me here instead of him. Capt. Throckmorton is madder than hell. There is a 1st open in F Co. If they give it Ux, and then I have to teach him all about tanks, I’ll really give up.

I’ve folded this letter backwards but I guess you’ll forgive me cause I love you so.

I’m sorry we couldn’t celebrate your birthday a little more.

I’m sleepy – hope you can read this – I love you – kiss Bonnie for me.


P.S. If she doesn’t improve take her to the Drs. again.

                                                                             Thursday night
                                                                             Jan. 20, 1943 [actually 1944]

Darling Bern,

I’m sorry I haven’t written as often as I’d like to but I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been here. I have learned a lot here also. Today we wanted to get rid of all our ammunition rather than move it so we had a gala time firing mortars, throwing hand grenades (the real ones), firing machine guns, and blowing up sand dunes with T.N.T. Some fun, luckily no one was killed.

I give calisthenics every A.M. at 6:30 and take them for a run (the whole troop). They think I’m tough but they all like me. If they only knew the exercise was killing me, they’d get a real laugh. I can hardly move right now I’m so stiff.

Gee I miss you. I never realized how much I’d miss Bonnie either. I’m dying to make her laugh again. I hope she is getting a little better. I worry an awful lot about the little tyke. Don’t forget to take her to the Dr. if she is no better. I want her to be well, the little stinker.

We are moving out of here Sunday A.M. at 5. We will spend the night in Newport and then on to Salem and then to Ft. Lewis. I will come and see you as soon as possible. I can hardly wait. I hope you miss me and love me too. I wish we were going to stay here. You’d love it. What a setup. Here are a lot of letters and my license that finally caught up with me.
Hope to see you soon. I love you. Bonnie, too.

                                                                                XXX Bonnie
                                                                                Good night Sweetie
                                                                                Friday night
                                                                                Jan. 21, 1944


Well I just got through talking to you, so I haven’t got much to say. Did you notice that I told you I loved you right away. I guess when you give me hell it means something. We are going to pack up tomorrow and leave Sunday A.M. at 5 and spend the night in Newport and then Salem. I don’t know how long we’ll stay there, not long I hope. I have heard rumors that C troop is going to Portland air base for guard duty, and this one to Seattle are base for the same thing. I hope not. I think we’ll go to Lewis. Anyway F Co. is going there and maybe I’ll be with them.

Gee I wish we could be together. I miss you like the devil. I love you with all my heart. I may not be able to write while we’re on the move but I’ll be thinking of you and loving you always. Kiss Bonnie for me.

I love you – See you soon I hope.


Next: 'Just between you and me'

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