The next ten letters cover the month of November 1952.
Back from the Front, Johnny is waiting to get moved back to the Rear – and shortly gets sent to Reserve. While there he receives letters from friends back home – including a curious note from his new wife. This, among other things, has got Johnny thinking about his situation.
In these letters Johnny gets political, griping about the conduct of the Officers and getting concerned that the Army hasn’t been sending his money home. He tells the story of rendezvousing with Turkish soldiers (US forces in Korea were part of a UN coalition). He also writes about his dreams of a new Ford when he gets back home and all the deer hunting he’s going to do when he returns there.
NOVEMBER 4, 1952
My Dear Ol’ Folks,
How’s the two sweetest people in the world? Feeling fine, I hope!
I’m sitting on top of the world, and you could believe it too if you could see where I’m sitting. I can see quite a bit of country from where I’m sitting, but I wouldn’t have even a grain of dirt of it.
Dad, I hope that letter didn’t put you all down in spirits very much.
This whole thing is nothing but the biggest mess the US has ever gotten into. I get to read the Stars & Stripes every once in a while. And here lately I just have to throw it down. The way those politicians talk, this is nothing but a chess game they’re playing. I would like to see “ol’ four eyes Taxman” over here.
Well, I don’t like to talk politics so I’ll change the subject.
Right here everything has been quiet so there isn’t much to talk about.
I went back to the CP’s today to make a report. And I got to hear a lot of neat music from the radio. It sure was good to hear those songs. It really brings back sweet memories.
A lot of the boys are about to go on rotation. And I believe they are about the happiest men on the face of this earth. But it sure makes us do some strong wishing.
Well, sweet ones, I had better close. I can hardly see now. So I’ll say bye-bye and don’t worry about me. I’m having the time of my life. Ha.
I love you both,
NOVEMBER 7, 1952
Dearest Mom & Dad,
I have really gotten the letters from you two, and I am so sorry for not writing to you more often. And Dad, your handwriting is quite legible so don’t worry about it. And the magazines are very interesting so keep them coming. But take it easy when you’re kissing Betty for me. I know you couldn’t have as good as a technique as I, but no use me taking any chances, you big brown-eyed handsome fellow, ha, ha.
It started snowing this morning about 6:30 and didn’t stop until about 12 noon. Also the Christmas truck came up to our area. If we wanted to buy gifts we could, but I didn’t see anything worth buying, so I will just wait until I get back to Japan or someplace I can get something nice. And if you are thinking about a present or something for me just forget it. A card or a bunch of letters will be all that I want. Maybe something like food, of snack form, would be nice too.
Dad, if the Ford Motor Company wants to really get advertisement in the best form – just tell them to send something like the Ford Times or something to the front-line soldiers. Why I am saying this is because I am writing on stationary sent over here by Pabst Blue Ribbon and speaking for myself and the rest of the company—when they ask, “What’ll you have?” you can bet I and all the fellows here will say, “Pabst Blue Ribbon.”
How is everything there at the house? Oh yes, I wanted to tell you thanks for going by after Betty each morning. I get a letter from her about every day and believe me they help more than anything. I am getting my mail in about 8 days now since you have gotten my new address.
I haven’t seen Joel or David yet and I don’t guess I will ever.
There are rumors still going around about us moving back. I hope that deal comes through.
Right now everything is just fine so don’t go worrying about me. I can take care of myself.
Dad, when you go hunting you’ll have to write me all of the details.
I’ll be going for now so I can write E & Jasie a letter. So remember I love you both very much so love me too.
PS – Tell the kiddies and everyone hello for me!
NOVEMBER 9, 1952
The following is a collection of notes from friends and family written to Johnny during a party. According to this collection of notes, “Sixty Minute Man” by The Dominoes was a popular song at the time. Click the title and listen while you read – it will set the mood.
WRITTEN ON THE BACK SIDE OF THE ENVELOPE:
The pictures and letters mailed to JL Jr. in Korea, Monday, November 10, 1952. Recvd back in Houston, Saturday, November 29, 1952.
Sunday night, November 9th, between 7:30 PM and 8 PM.
Hi Johnnie –
This is Jackie’s mother. Best of luck.
How is every little thing? I guess as well as to be expected. You will probably gather from these little notes that we’re having a great party over at the Westcotts, fixing to give Ric a good send off. You’ll probably see him again before we do. Well, Johnny, hurry home and be careful. We miss you.
Wish you were here. Also John, he is still in med school and working hard and missing you.
Ida [illegible] (John’s mom)
I don’t know you but I’ve known your wife from the University of Houston. After this evening though, I will feel as if I do because many humorous experiences of yours are being discussed. The party is complete except for your presence but really with your lovely wife and the many tales, I don’t think your spirit could be any more felt.
Best of luck,
John [illegible] Sr.
Lots of luck to you.
Mrs. J. Witherfeed
Hi Johnny –
Long time no see. Just a little note to say hello and good luck.
Stop the damn war – Mel is gonna write a letter. Another wee little party tonite for Ric before he goes back to see Johnnie. Betty is here with your mom and dad and she really looks great. All the party lacks is the “Sixty Minute Man.” When ya gonna put a stop to all that mess and come party with us? Give Ike my regards when he gets there and tell him to employ C Company to the left flank. Hope to see ya soon, Lad.
Well, I wish the hell you could be here tonight. I sure do miss you. I am sorry I have been so sorry about writing. I’ll try and do better. I’ll make this sweet and short and write you tomorrow. I’ve got a date with one of the cutest little gals tonight there ever was. Write more soon.
I don’t know you but everybody wishes you were here tonight and I do too, we are really having a wonderful time.
I am having a scotch and we’ll have another when you come home.
Wish you were here with us. Hope it will not be long. God bless and watch over you.
I just met your father and mother for the first time; they are really swell. By the time you get to this page you will certainly know what we’re doing and where we are – to say the least I certainly wish you were here. Hurry back and we will throw another big one.
Dick and I send our best wishes.
Well, here I am again at a party and writing to you. Sure wish you were here to join in the fun. Hurry back real fast.
Your father and mother, your wife, was over here tonight. Wish you were here.
We are having a party for Richard, he just became a boot heel. Your wife is sitting here and I can see she wished you were too.
We are really missing you tonight at a big party at Westcotts. And we are counting the minutes until you will be home with us again.
Bill and Lois Kemper
Well, we’re having a big get together, but just doesn’t seem complete without ol’ JL. Johnny, I should see you about February so get some telephone numbers for me – unless you want me to bring my own. Remember, spare some of the gals for me.
I sure wish you were here, Lad. When you get home and Rick is stationed at Ellington and Larry’s out, we ought to rent an apartment for about a season or so. Write your address down and send it to me at 3119 Ferndale and I’ll try to keep you up on the local poop.
Fight em and hurry home.
Good luck, Johnny. Don’t let those “Gooks” get you! Hurry home.
Even though you don’t know me maybe a word of cheer will help, hope you and all your outfit can be home soon. Wish you were here.
We’re talking about baking you a cake and soaking it in Old Crow. Watch for it.
You’ll be shocked to hear that the ol’ gang’s playing Pollyanna now instead of Hearts. They’re really not that tame. Save us some of the cake. See you soon!
Below is a scan of one of the pages from this collection of notes. This one includes the note from Johnny’s new wife, my Grandmom. She signed it with her maiden name (or the initial of her maiden name) as seen at the top of the note. This didn’t go unnoticed by Johnny, as you’ll read about later.
NOVEMBER 10, 1952
How’s everything this fine morning? This is a nice day here, not too cold or too hot. And even better because we are leaving tomorrow morning for the rear. How far rear we don’t know, but a mile would be fine with me, although, nothing has happened up here. All we have been doing is pulling guard all night (2 hours on & 2 hours off) and then digging trenches all day in this rock. It is time we had a rest. And Dad, you must think I’m crazy if I would try to go to OCS! This Army is folded up, the sooner I am not a part of it the better. I would rather be a tramp and be a civilian – than be an officer in this Army. You see I’m strictly off of this military life. The sooner I get home and forget all about this the better.
The rumors are really flying around here about where we are going. I’ve heard – Seoul, some town 35 miles back, Koje Island, Japan, and last but not least The States. But The States is out I know because the 31st Infantry Regiment has always been known as the “Foreign Legion of the United States,” and has never been out of the Far East. But I’m hoping it will be Japan, but I doubt that (Japan, that is).
I haven’t gotten paid for three months now, so I haven’t sent any money to Betty, and I have only spent $2.10 since I’ve been in Korea, so when I do get paid I’ll be able to send home quite a bit. I wonder when Betty will start receiving her allotment check? I guess it will or rather it should come some time this month. I guess by now she thinks that it will never get there.
Well, I’ve got to be going so tell everyone hello for me and tell The Kiddies hello and Dad, you can kiss Betty for me, ha, ha. Mom, you better keep a good watch on him. I’m beginning to distrust my father’s intentions.
Well, bye now.
Love me because I love you,
PS – How about some pictures!
NOVEMBER 15, 1952
Well yes, you are finally hearing from me. We are now about 40 miles from the lines in the reserve. We are supposed to stay here for a month. Five days of rest and three weeks of training.
Old Man Winter is really on his way. It freezes about every night, but my cot is right next to the stove so I’m burning up all the time.
The Turks came up and took our positions and what a bunch of trigger-happy fools. No sooner than we showed them what hill the Chinks were on they started firing everything at it. They even captured one of our Hawaiian fellows for a Chink. We had a time talking them out of the idea that he wasn’t Chinese. Now everyone calls him Chink.
Say Dad, I hear that you all are going to get a Country Squire. Mom said she would like to have one. That really surprised me with that. I think it would be a fine idea. But you will have to trade with Betty & I every now and then.
Betty sent me some examples of this fellow’s work, where she works, so I could get an idea of what to send him for examples. I wish I had some equipment other than a pencil, but I’m afraid that a painting box wouldn’t fit in my pack.
If you want to send something, I could do with some can goods every now and then (please not beans). But I do get hungry a few times and I can’t run to the ice box. And don’t forget the pictures.
That duck hunting trip sure sounds terrific. I sure hate to miss this hunting season, but I guess I’m not missing it after all, huh?
I’m glad Ike won, too. I hope we see some results soon. But I know it will take quite a while before anything happens.
I am now gunner for our squad, on the mortar, that is. I carry a .45 auto for myself, which makes it convenient to carry. I am going to try to get a M2 attachment for one of those carbines at home. As soon as I see one running around by itself.
Tonight I will be able to go to bed without my clothes for the first time. I think I will just sleep nude.
Dad, your letters are coming through OK so keep them coming. And Mom, don’t let the Old Man work too hard.
I got 8 letters today (3 day mail) and I sure enjoyed them. I will have to write Russell and tell him that I am not in the Artillery or attached to the Infantry but that I am in the Infantry and not a 2+3 point Artilleryman. When we go back for reserve we go and stay by the Artillery. But this time we are way back. I haven’t heard a round all day, so we must be back. In fact, I heard we might get passes, but I haven’t seen any place to go. I believe I will try to get a shotgun and go pheasant hunting.
It is about chow time so I had better close for now. Tell everyone hello for me and tell Betty I love her.
I love you,
NOVEMBER 17, 1952
Christmas has arrived for me. I received your fruit cake last night and we ate it. Now instead of Christmas because we were afraid it might spoil – ha.
Mom, it was really good and thanks a lot.
I also got my present from the Worms, which was a nice shaving kit.
Then tonight I got two packages from Betty. She really sent some things I can sure use – a knife combination, which took the place of an old bayonet that I had worked over, and two handwarmers which will come in mighty handy, and ten rolls of film. I can send some pictures of Korea home now.
I’m just popping with Christmas presents.
What type of car did you order, Dad? I just kinda hope you ordered a Country Squire just so I could borrow it now and then.
I think I had better close, everyone is crowded around this candle talking and I can’t think straight, so bye for now.
Love me cause I love you,
PS – Thanks again for the cake! Tell everyone hello!
NOVEMBER 20, 1952
Well, here I am in the outhouse writing a letter.
We finished our Battalion inspection this morning and going to Regiment inspection tomorrow morning.
They haven’t given us time to do anything but prepare for inspections. Oh, yes, I went to the showers again yesterday. Sure did feel great.
Tomorrow I will be able to do quite a bit of writing. After the inspection we are off. Goody, goody, we also get our beer ration tomorrow night. That I will appreciate.
Dad, I got your envelope with everything in it. (What a laugh.) Also the pictures were really good, but I will send them back. I might lose them in the rush.
Mother, I’m sorry now for writing that letter. Because there will be a lot of times I won’t be able to write – simply because my stationary will be packed, I won’t be able to get to it. So don’t worry.
Betty is really thoughtful! The things she sent were really great. Did you get to see those wedding pictures she sent? But she made one mistake (but don’t tell her), she sent 120 film for a 620 camera. I think I can exchange it somewhere. If not I’ll have to tell her about it, so she can send me some film.
Well, I’ve got to go now before they come down to pull me out.
I love you both,
NOVEMBER 22, 1952
Well, today I’m Tent Orderly, so I’m just sitting around keeping warm. We started our training today. There are a lot of new men, so I’m sure there will be a lot of training.
I don’t know if we get this afternoon off or not, but right now I’ve got to go and get in the chow line. I will be back after that. While I was getting warm I happened to run across a Stars & Stripes and look who I found in it! My, what a small world!
I thought you would get a kick out of it.
I’m back from chow now. I brought a hot cup of coffee back with me. Say, Mom, did I ever thank you for that fruit cake? Just in case I didn’t I’ll thank you again. Thank you!
I sure hope we get this afternoon off. I need some time to catch up on my letter writing. These pictures of Pam and everyone else were really nice, but why didn’t you take more of you two? I would like to see you ones in a while also.
I wonder what Capt. Rodriguez thinks about Korea?
No, it looks as if we won’t get this afternoon off. They don’t believe in Holidays over here.
Well, I had better say good bye for now.
I love you so love me too!
NOVEMBER 28, 1952
Here I sit waiting for chow call. We’re supposed to really have a nice dinner today. Any minute now I might have to jump up and run, so don’t be surprised.
I got the two cans of fudge last night. They sure were good. I saved one can for today, so we could have some home cooking on Thanksgiving.
I went to church this morning and then the Company had to attend a Regiment ceremony to dedicate this camp to a Korean soldier who was killed on Triangle Hill after serving 20 months with the 31st.
It is raining outside, but it seems cold enough to be freezing. Every morning there is a lot of ice and frost. The snow should start staying on the ground next week.
Did Betty Yates tell you that Betty Mc is planning to move? That doesn’t make me happy. She ( – chow – ) Betty Mc would foul things up. I was afraid something like that might happen. I hope Betty does something that is stationary.
I suggested to Betty that we could rent a room from you, but I’m afraid she wouldn’t want to do that; although I do think that would be the best solution. But it’s up to her.
That dinner was a real dandy. I felt like going back for seconds, but I’m sure I would have pains if I did.
Well, I will close for now but I’ll write tomorrow. Bye now.
NOVEMBER 30, 1952
Dad, I understand you mistook my statement about OCS. I was joking and I know you were only trying to help, but frankly I have no intentions of trying to become an officer. Maybe if I intended to stay in the Army as a career, I would try, but I don’t intend to make it so. And if I did I wouldn’t be able to apply while I’m here. I doubt if they would send me all the way back to the States to attend OCS. And as now I have a bad stomach toward officers, I know there is always a few bad apples in the barrel, but I can’t figure out why they should all be over me. But I do appreciate you being concerned about me in that way. Enough of that.
How about deer hunting? Have you been yet? Now don’t come up and tell me you got a 12 point buck! They say that there is deer over here, but I haven’t seen any as yet, but I’ve been looking. I’ve seen some good spots that were ideal for deer – but no deer. There are a lot of pheasants but there is only one shotgun in the supply room and the officers are the only ones who get to use it. But it is said that it is for the Company’s use.
We went to the showers today. It’s been about two weeks since I’ve gone, so I was in bad need for one. The officers can go anytime, but they never do anything, so they never get dirty or in bad need of a shower.
We had a good dinner today – chicken – but I could have used seconds, but there wasn’t any. I noticed our officers had as much as they could eat and more (they get to eat family style and it’s piled up on plates and the plates get filled again if it goes down halfway).
We had a beer ration about two weeks ago, but go by the officer’s tent and you can hear them having a party about every night.
A little time has passed. I am now in the guard tent. I’m on Battalion guard tonight and I just got off of the first shift. The next time I’ll go on at 12 (24:00) and get off at 02:00.
I am sure waiting impatiently for a look at the new Fords. Chrysler has made some nice changes. They really needed it. Well, I had better get some sleep, so I’ll close for now.
I love you both,
PS – See why I don’t care for officers? And that isn’t the half of it.
This will have to be short because my candle is running low. So I will just say hello and things are going nicely. The weather the last two days has been mild, but I’m afraid it will be just the opposite hereafter.
We have been firing our mortars here lately. We are just training every day. Tomorrow I’m on Regiment guard, so I will have a lot of time to write. I will say good-bye for now, but I’ll be back tomorrow.
PS – Don’t forget to send the pictures and tell everyone hello.