Somewhere in North Africa

Somewhere in North Africa
                                                                        March 10, 1943

 

Dear Dot,

            Although this is dated the 10th, I’m writing it the evening of the 9th. This evening I’m Base Duty Clerk; in Army parlance I’m on duty all night in Base Headquarters and have to handle any business that comes in by phone, telegraph, or courier. I’m provided with a canvas cot and blankets, and if not too busy, it can be called a cinch. We all take regular turns at this job, and the last time I had it the weather was cold and very rainy. Fortunately, there were no calls of any kind and I was able to sleep. Occasionally the BD clerk will have to run around at all hours of the night if the conditions warrant it, and get whatever rest he can the following day by working with his eyes shut.

            I meant to ask you a long time ago but it has always slipped my mind; did you ever receive the perfume that I sent you? I can’t remember the exact date that I mailed it, but it was either the last of December or the beginning of January. The reason I mention it now is because my tent mate sent some home after I did and he has just received an answer acknowledging it. Perhaps you have too, but it might be in another of those letters that are taking a long time to get to me.

            I’m off on one of my old moods again. You used to hear me a long time ago complain of “itching feet.” I’ve got them worse than ever now. This being marooned in one spot without any of the things happening that I wrote to you about from Georgia right after my furlough, seems to make me feel a fool. I gave up a great deal because I was still idealistic enough to think that there were millions like me who desired a quick end. There still may be, but the seeming slowness grips one’s vitals and instead, minds long for other pastures.

            There is a thing or two that can’t be taken from us. One is the happy faculty of sitting back on an evening and reliving most of the joyous moments in the late past. In some it makes for melancholy, but with each memory I have of you and me, I breathe and live once more a human being. It is far from the most satisfactory thing in the world, but what you once termed “my overworked imagination,” stands me in good stead. Of course on some nights, I tend towards the pessimistic, and wonder whether we are of one mind yet, whether being out of sight is out of mind until my letters arrive, but I always try to squelch such thoughts. As long as you keep on writing, sign yourself MISS, and sometimes end with your love at the end of the note. (Just interrupted by a telegram, and having no pencil, had to sign for receipt by typewriter.)

            I think that some few letters ago I told you about the reactions of some of the men to news they receive from home. It still keeps on happening, and turns some of the boys into men. When the test comes, these I’m sure, will be the men who feel that they have little to lose, and will become either heroes, or dead men. Perhaps that time will never come to us, who have been fortunate in our wanderings thus far. God has been kind in only taking us away from our loved ones by space that can be measured in miles. The discomforts that we have undergone are like nothing compared to some that others I know have been through.

            One of the boys with me had some letters to get out so he relieved me for a couple of hours and I went to see the show they had on the base. Joe E. Brown in “The Darling Young Man.” Now I know corn can come in reels too. I never did give you a description of our theatre, and I can’t now, but it’s cold, the seats are square tin cans that used to hold gasoline and you have to bring them yourself. Some sit on stones, but tonight I managed to grab a folding chair and was comparatively comfortable. The sound is poor, and the films always manage to break. If the audience down at the Post Theatre in Georgia was something to hear, you should get an earful of this one. The mental age of the average soldier has, in my estimation fallen to about nine years. That is, all except physically thinking; then any woman, on or off the screen is fair game.

            Another side of the news from old girlfriends—one of the boys used to go out with a girl he was very fond of. After he entered the Army she would write to him once or twice a month. She told him she was going out with someone else. This second chap was recently drafted, and now she writes almost every day, and sometimes twice a day. As he still cares for her, he is very happy about it. So say we all of us here on this side—we’re all fighting for the same cause, let what belongs to us still remain ours. You have no idea how uncertainty plays on the minds of these grown-up children, and even those of us who think we are grown-up men. I think that we who are overseas worry more about you who are at home, than you all do about us. We know what we face from the enemy, you don’t, but we don’t know what we face from our friends.

            This, my darling, is another one of those letters that started out as an exercise into fingered typing, and became lost somewhere. I thought once again that here was one letter that wouldn’t be mailed, as I thought so often in the past. But always, I’ve sent them on. I seem to hear you say, “Don’t be afraid, I’ll always understand.” You always have, so I keep on pouring my petty troubles in your ears; it feels lots better and hope that soon I’ll get the answers I want.

            For me there is only one dream and hope left, that at the end of my journey, you will be there to welcome me. I try not to look beyond that, for an old specter haunts me. But with the dawn of the New World that we hear so much about, perhaps there will be a place for me; one that will make it possible to make it a place for two.

            All the love, darling, that I haven’t been able to give you for these many months, and all that I haven’t written into my letters has been choked up in my heart. Tonight I must tell you. You’re the ship that will carry me safely home, the armor that will shield me from harm, and the breath that comes into my body. Every wonderful African sunrise is the light that shines from your eyes, and every sunset the curve of your lips. The sea that I saw the other day with my CO was the color of your eyes, but far less beautiful. The lapping of the waves upon the shore was your voice whispering to me. Wherever I go, whatever I see, the wondrous, the magnificent and the enchanting are always you. There is nothing that is good and kind that crossed my path that doesn’t make me think of you. I’m hungry and thirsty, I’m tired and weary, I’m savage and beastly—I’m all that is wretched, only because we are apart. One kiss from your lips and hunger and thirst would flee; one touch from your hands and I’d be gentle and rested.

            You have created storms in my breast whose fury if unleashed would have torn us both apart. Even in its wildness there was beauty, for the calm that came afterwards was incomparable. I loved even when I thought I hated. I know, every fiber of me knows, that for you I live. Without you I might walk, and talk, and do what every mortal does, but without consciousness. I’m just trying to say what has been said so many millions of times before by poets and singers, and said so much better. Sweetheart, I love you.

                                                                                                                                    Bill

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