Saturday, June 20, 2009

Letter #3

Pvt. E. Cowley Jr. 42024054
Co. A. Barr. 2r, 2nd Area
Camp Upton, NY

Mr. & Mrs. & Peggy Cowley
35 Woodside Avenue
Buffalo, NY
Zone 20

Postmarked October 15, 1943
Thursday (I think)

Dear family,

At last I’ve earned a few free hours and have time to write a better letter. I know there is a lot of things you’d like to know about this old army life. Those postcards I sent yesterday should have given you a good picture of the set-up (at least a very small part of it)

I got your letter today and will try to straighten out a few of your questions. We’ll begin with church. The camp has 3 chaplains Catholic, Protestant and Jew. Any man of any faith can go to either of the three as sometimes it is impossible to be able to visit your own chaplain. They seem very understanding and rate as tops with the soldiers. Last Sunday I went to church at 5:30 (P.M.) not in the morning. The army wants you to go but you can’t interrupt the army schedule which comes first always. If you can’t make it on Sunday you can make it some weekday. I’m going to try to get to confession this Saturday and then I will go to communion Sunday, if I can?

Next the train ride. We had one meal on the train and two others in Childs in New York City. I was in both Grand Central & Pennsy stations. The train took us as far as New York, then after eating we took a Long Island train from the Pennsy Station (between Train stations we rode 2 subways). The Long Island train took us about 60 miles and we transferred to a bus for another fourteen (that’s the trip in a nutshell).

Next the food? We do get enough to eat and its pretty good but it isn’t anything like what I used to get, Mom. I’ve got 4 or 5 dollars left (I wanted to be sure and mention that) Oh! By the way I intended to enclose my insurance & bonds policies in that last letter but I forgot. I put them in the pocket of my fatigues (an excellent & appropriate word) and they got soaked on K.P. Tuesday. For K.P. we have to get up (rather they come in and shake you) at 4:00 A.M. You work steady from 4:15 A.M. – 7:00 P.M. It’s the most grueling detail possible and I think I lost ten lbs. on it.

My clothes should have reached home by now. Let me know. I think I’ll illustrate one of the better days at Camp Upton. Today at 4:45 (not 5:30, That’s unheard of) the squawker on Telephone loudspeaker breaks out in a squeaking, cracking voice and repeats "Rise and Shine, barracks 2r, rise and shine etc" I roll over in my bed and that "Rise and shine" has come to mean "Sink and shudder" to me. Everyone (even I) leaps from his bed and is dressed in about 2 minutes, then we break out bunks and roll all the blankets & mattress into a neat pile. There isn’t time to wash in the morn so I just brush my teeth. Then we start cleaning every thing (an army camp ever thing in it is cleaned about 5 times a day) We scrub the latrine from top to bottom including toilets, mirrors, bowls, floor, walls, part of ceiling etc. Dad would love the way every thing is cleaned so thoroughly (even beyond his farthest greatest desires) The entire barracks is cleaned that way. At 6 o’clock the squawker calls out "r barracks, fall in on the double" We make a made dash to the street and line up. After roll call we march down to breakfast (you stand in line at the mess hall usually half an hour)
After mess or about 6:30 7:00 we go back to barrack & repeat cleaning process mentioned before (no one can touch anything in the wash room from then on until 4:30, or retreat) Besides cleaning, a group polices the grounds and picks up "Everything that doesn’t grow". You can’t even find 3 match sticks or butts in the entire camp.

7:30 – Squawker calls barracks and we fall in on the double (running) on the street. Here we are assigned duties for the morning or perhaps the entire day. (This is killing me right now, as I am thinking about tomorrow) This morning I worked down at the Post Engineers, which is about 2 miles from our homeground. (we rode down & walked back.) Here We (Dick Cornell, South Buff – lives on Harding rd. & Matt Juuck, east Buff) volunteered as experienced carpenters and naturally we were sent loading coal trucks for 4 hours.

At 11:30 we came back for mess, ate and immediately were assigned to a detail loading sod onto trucks. We rode out to a place 4 or 5 miles from camp and even rode back. At 4:00 we scrubbed and mopped the barracks floor once more and at 4:30 were on the parade grounds for retreat (final assembly, taps etc) Then we march down to the mess hall & have supper. I fell out of line (which is legal and went back to barracks, took a shower and put on my O.D.’s (dress pants, shirt, tie & field jacket) If you have these on you can’t be picked for another detail after mess (I’m getting on to things down here). After straightening out all my belongings and making my bunk, 3 of us dashed down to the PX (post exchange) and had two chicken sand (10 cent apiece pt. of ice cream (15 cent) and bottle of pop. Then I bought some shoe polish for tonight. Its about 7:45 now and I have to get back to barracks to wash out my clothes and shine my shoes for future use. Guess that about covers everything (I might go down to the PX and have a glass of 3.2 before bed.

Marty McCarthy & I get along fine. Jimmy Donovan is also a good soldier pal o’mine. They are both nice guys as almost all the fellows are.
Now for my classification. I took the letter (v-12) down to records office today, which was the 1st chance I had so far. The Sergeant said I would probably be sent to A.S.T.P. (Army specialized training program) which I hear lasts 18 months & terminates with a commission as a 2nd looey. Now Rochester, Cornell, U.B. etc, are all ASTP schools and I have a chance (don’t mention this to anyone because nothing about being sent to school is definite yet) or getting close to home & being within distance of weekend passes which are frequent. I made 130 in my I.Q. (think I told you before) and only 110 is needed to qualify for officers school so that leaves me a good leeway. Chances are I will study either art or psychology. All I have to do is wait. A shipping list comes out at 8:30 every night and after 3 days your eligible for shipment so I expect it at any time. However if I’m here in 21 days I get a 60 hour pass and might be able to make it home for a day or so.

I’m glad to hear my watch chain is useful at last! Dad! Don’t forget to write that letter & Peggy also. Well, I hope everyone is in good health and guarding my paintings, carefully.

Lots of Love,

Eddie Jr.

P.S. we got 2 shots they hurt everyone, but I didn’t get sick. we get 1 every ten days from now on.

P.S. Give my love to all the relatives and tell them I’ll write as soon as I catch my breath.

P.S. Please send five

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