Friday, September 19, 2014

8. 'I hope to go up in the hills on patrol soon'

Dad's V-Mail: 28 bottles of beer per officer per month, "so we have to be stingy with it."
The letter above (and transcribed below) is from my father, Lt. Charles M. Pride, to his sister-in-law, Jean Pride. It was sent via V-Mail, short for Victory Mail. Soldiers wrote on special forms which were microfilmed, shipped home, blown up and delivered. This process reduced the weight of  mailbags from overseas.

I’m pretty sure Dad wrote his V-Mail from New Caledonia, a French possession in the Coral Sea 2,000 miles east of Australia. His eagerness to lead a jungle patrol and his bravado are sure signs that he had not yet been in combat.

Hard as it is to fathom, considering the fate of George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn,  Dad was always proud of having been in Custer’s regiment. The 1st Cavalry Division, including the 7th regiment, was fighting the New Guinea campaign when Dad arrived in the Pacific Theater. He joined it as the leader of an infantry platoon.

In his V-Mail Dad continued to grouse about his brother Bob’s failure to write to him. Here’s the letter:

Mr. & Mrs. R.H. Pride
Cold Springs Rd
Easton, Conn
                                                                        Lt. C.M. Pride 0-1031938
                                                                       APO 201 Wpns. Tr. 7th Cav
                                                                       c/o P/M. San Fran, Calif.
                                                                       3 August 44
Dear Jean,

Don and Ron with Uncle Charlie in Connecticut, probably in
1943. Dad hoped to bring them a souvenir.
Your letter just caught up to me. Sure was a pleasant surprise. You notice I addressed just you in my salutation. I cut Bob out because he’s too lazy to write me. Well, you know I am with the 1st Cavalry Division, an outfit really to be proud of. I am in the 7th Regt – General Custer’s own.

Glad to hear you are keeping Bern busy. I really appreciate it. A man doesn’t realize how much he loves his wife until he’s this far away; then it’s too late to do anything about it.

This island is beautiful white sands, palm trees, and beautiful blue water. My tent is right on the beach. We are more or less resting, waiting for bigger and better things. I hope to go up in the hills on patrol soon. Maybe I can put a few notches in the stock of my gun.

We have a nice little officers’ club. We even have beer, 28 bottles a month per man, so we have to be stingy with it. Saw a good movie tonight, “We’ve never been licked.”

Say hello to Don and Ron [Bob and Jean’s 10-year-old twins] for me, and thank them for their letter and picture. They sure are clever kids. I’ll get them a souvenir yet.


Next: 'I never dreamed it could be so horrible.'

Taken 10 years after the war, this photo shows three generations of Prides in the Elks Club in Clearwater, Fla. My dad and
his older brother Bob flank the formation. Bob's twin sons, my cousins Don and   Ron, flank the man in the middle, their grandfather (and mine) Royal D. Pride. Don and Ron both became excellent journalists (though not excellent Elks) and helped me start my career in newspapers beginning when I was 14 years old. 

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