Monday, April 27, 2020

Post #10 - May 4, 1941 The First Days of Separation

Sunday May 4
8.55 A.M.


My Dear Ev,

I hardly know how to start this letter, There is so much to write about. First I want you to know, sweet, that I miss you very much. All this would be a welcome change if only I knew I could still come home to you in the evening. However, we are kept very busy here and it helps immensely in keeping my mind from thoughts of home, and helps allay that empty feeling. Right now I feel like filling this whole sheet with just one phrase.—I adore you, my sweet Evelyn. Maybe that would also help, but I wouldn’t want to bore you. What you probably want to know is everything that happened since I left you That is just short of impossible, because so much has happened. What I will do is 
give you the high spots—the ones I remember. When I left you I went straight to the draft-board, where two fellows were already waiting. Within ten minutes seven more came in making us ten. We were then sent down to the armory by trolley. After hanging around waiting my turn to be examined, for about an hour, we were all taken out to breakfast at Linton's (right now I'm listening to “Intermezzo” over the barracks radio). After that we were all taken back to the armory. While there I got talking to a few of the fellows. We played some Pinochle to keep from getting bored - no stakes. About 3 o’clock my name was called to be examined. (I'll give you the details when I see you, sweet). Twenty minutes later I was adjudged healthy (disgustingly so) and fingerprinted. Then they marched us over  to the train. By 5:07 P. M we were on our way to Camp Lee, Va. As we filed onto the train, the Jewish Welfare handed each selectee a pack of cigarettes and a pack of “charms" candies. On the train we had a couple of fellows who kept us in stitches most of the way. As badly as we all felt we couldn't help laughing. I know quite a few of the fellows now and I don't feel quite so lonesome as I did at first. Anyhow, after riding what seemed an interminable time, but only actually was nine hours we arrived at Camps Lee; and a dustier, tireder, and more disgusted crew I never saw. We were marched straight into a building and lined up for short-arm inspection (which means that every fellow shows his penis to the medical officer). Then we were marched into the mess hall for chow. (At 2 o’clock in the morning). Finally, we were assigned to barracks and put to bed. The officers down at Camp Lee are Virginians and real soldiers, which means that they tolerate no foolishness, whatever. Consequently, when the Sergeant marched thru barracks at exactly 5:45 A.M. the same morning and yelled "hit the floor," you can bet your sweet life that's exactly what we did, as knocked out as we were. Then we were taught how to make up a bunk in one incomprehensible lesson, but we got onto it eventually. We had to, or catch some kind of hell. Then every man had to mop around and under his own bunk and clean up generally. Talk about being strict!! Even the coat-hangers had to face a certain way. I could write a book on any one of a dozen sundry subjects, like "The proper way to empty a can (spittoon),” or “Proper etiquette in an army latrine." The program that day (Wed.) was much too hectic for proper detailing. Suffice it to say that we got vaccinated, inoculated, equipped, classified and a hundred other things. Thursday was my unlucky day. I got hooked for K.P., which means I spent the day in the kitchen and mess hall. Mopping, scrubbing, dishing out food, unloading trucks and a few other things too miserable to mention. Just to make the job complete, I wasn't feeling so good, which is putting it mildly, but then, nobody else was either, so I had plenty of company. The Typhoid injection is not only a pain in the arm, if you know what I mean.—Ninety nine fellows out of a hundred felt the effects to some extent. K.P. ended at 6:30 P.M. and believe me, I was plenty happy then. After a nice hot shower and shave, however, I felt like a new man, and joined in the general pastime, which wondering where the hell we were headed for. The Sgt. told us that a group of us were to be divided between two stations—Fort Eustis in Va., and Aberdeen in Md. Immediately everyone began praying to be sent to Aberdeen. The fellows in our gang (300) were all from Pa.; and after a few days of Camps Lee, everyone was most anxious to be near home. So you can imagine, Ev, how t felt when my name wasn't on the list for Aberdeen, which I saw first. Then, on looking over the list for Ft. Eustis, I was gratified no end to see I wasn't on that, either, On checking with some of the other fellows, I found that a great number of us weren't on either list, which left us all in the dark as to where we were going; and we were supposed to leave the next day, (Fri). Then the Sgt. told us that a group of us were going to S. Carolina. I almost died. All day Friday I was miserably contemplating the prospect of spending the rest of the year in S. Carolina with hardly a chance to get home. Friday night however, we had the most delicious news I ever heard. Lt. Becker, a Philly boy and a swell guy, knowing how anxious we were to know our destination, came over and told us that all but four or five of the 300 in our group, was leaving for Ft. Meade it next day. (Sat.) When we got the lists and found this was the case, there was great rejoicing. We left Camp Lee Sat. 12.30 P.M. and arrived here at Ft. Meade, which appears to be a damn nice place as Army centers go, at about 4:30 P.M. This time enjoyed the train ride. I played rhummy with 2 other fellows and lost 2 bits, The money incidentally, is holding out nicely. I already have most of my uniforms—including the dress. I paid $5 for a garrison cap & belt (and that's a story in itself). Today, Sunday, I am straightening my stuff out (which is a ritual in the Army) and writing this letter, which I am interrupting only long enough and when I go to chow and latrine. Which, my dear, brings us up to the present. As things stand now, everything is just beautiful. I'am feeling like a million; almost, though not quite organized, and best of all only about 110 miles from home, which is just about a short walk when you consider that I might have wound up in Va. or S. Carolina or God knows where else. Altogether, I'm pretty happy and almost content. This is our base for the whole year, although we will leave from time to time for maneuvers, war games, etc. My division is the 29th, famous in the World War as the "Rainbow Division". The oldest and best regiment of any service in the U.S., the 175th infantry, dating back to 1774. Now about seeing each other, although we are not quarantined, we are segregated for two weeks. So, although I can't be home for at least 2 weeks, we can receive visitors as early as next week-end. If, Ev, you are contemplating the trip either alone or with the family please let me know a few days ahead of time so I can make reservations for chow. Please write immediately, Ev, and let me know how everything and everyone is and what you have done since I left. If you are planning to come in, please make it Sunday, as we have most of the day to ourselves. Ask for 175th Infantry Company E, Barracks #5. If not, I'll be in May 18, unless thing out of the ordinary prevents it. In any event, I'll certainly write again. Keep your chin up, sweet, and I'll always love you. Kiss Mom and Tante Shush for me. Also your Mom & Pop. My love to everyone. Tell them to please excuse me from writing as I scarcely have time to write to you. You can tell them everything is fine. You can tell the boys that if they get past the first week in the Army, nothing can hurt them. So long, baby, and don't worry about me. I'm taking damn good care of your hubby.

Yours lovingly

Hint—Next Sunday is Mother's Day—ketch?

Fin. 3:10 P.M.

Pvt. Phil Strongin 
175th inf. Comp. E 
A.P.O. #29 
Ft. Meade, Md.

Fain, 3.10 P.M.