Jenn was in Japan this week doing work-related stuff. She came over for dinner and we did tonyu-nabe. Then I played with my new camera's multitude of settings in a valiant but often futile attempt to take reasonably well lit, in-focus photos. As you can tell, I largely failed.
The following is a letter sent from my Grandpa to my Grandma when he was serving in the Army during WWII. My father photocopied the 12 handwritten pages and sent me a copy.
It is poignant, brilliant, and timeless.
Ode To a Foxhole
Lying in a foxhole; "sweating out" the shells bursting overhead, the thought came to me "does the average civilian fully understand what is meant when a G.I. refers to a "foxhole?" Recollecting the days before I donned an O.D. uniform, I always had the impression that "a hole in the ground," was the definition of same. I am well aware of the fact that I was entirely wrong in this assumption.
The first process in digging "this home on the front", is locating a well camouflaged spot, in the woods or under some trees. Then begins the manual labor of clearing a body length by three feet wide area of the underground soil. Usually, when one is in a hurry to complete the task, the soil beneath the sod, contains the "hated-more-than-anything," rocks. Chopping your way, below the surface is no easy job by any means. After a while, the blisters on your hands interfere with your construction progress. It must be done regardless, for 'tis better to suffer a case of "blisteritis," than a dose of that "Jerrie Schrapnel." Naturally, the more you did, the more you cuss. All throughout your "shovel and pick job," you think of the days when your "ass," rested on a "Beauty Rest Mattress," sheets, comforters, down pillows and a perhaps a hot water bag attached for those cold feet. How lucky are those "draft dodgers" in not having the taste of actual warfare. Also, the "behind-the-desk-soldiers" that are still hurting (G.I., for mad) because the Army called them. Oh! For the life of those "over 38" guys. Yes! They are far too old, but what about the G.I., born in 1909 or thereabouts? A quick remembrance of those lads, holding the defense positions in the States. Reference is not made to the mechanics in the various industries but to the "picker-upper-of-dropped-tools" blokes; classified as essential and indispensable. Fortunate are those after "
Stop your "bitching," (G.I., for complaining), Joe and get that foxhole finished before the shower of bombs commences.
Getting back to the project; after about two or more hours of excavating, the foxhole is finally dug...(three or four feet deep, body length, two or three feet wide) but not as yet complete. Now comes the task of covering the quarters of the hole with logs and putting the soil on top; thereby constructing a roof. As the logs that one is in need of do not come "made-to-order" or left lying around, waiting to be picked up; another process has to be done.
Chopping small trees and cutting up the desired logs. So, the wood chopper goes to work. With the well calloused hands, he finds this second step in building, getting worse on the general anatomy. Slowly, he accumulates the wood for the roof of his "
Well he's finally done, you think. No, not by a long shot. The last job is to camouflage his "shack.'That is placing some of the surrounding weeds, bush, or grass over the dirt on top of the logs. Phew! Tough going!
The idea of this is so that the enemy can not observe your place of shelter. At last the entire home is complete.
If one still has any reserve energy, he lines the inside of the foxhole with paper or cardboard; if available. At slumber time the two Army blankets and shelter half serve as the bedding. Hay or straw is usually put on the bottom of the hole to ease the discomfort of the hard terrain.
The dwelling place described in the foregoing paragraph is where the front line soldiers spends most of his hours. Shrapnel from those H.E. (high explosive) artillery and mortar shells , flak from the Ack Ack guns, small arms fire (rifles, machine guns, carbines, sub-machine guns, automatic small weapons) rockets, bomb clusters from attacking planes, grenades of all types, mines, tank fire power, armored infantry cannon and long range artillery pieces fly around in the combat area, day and night. A well made foxhole is the best protection and also tends to relieve the pressure, tensity, fright of the average fighting man.
At present, there is a letup in the "rockets spread glare and bombs bursting in air." So the writer will try and recovery his sense of humor that seems to have "gone with the wind." With the pulse and heart beat normal again, the lighter side of the battle should be mentioned.
The past four pages must have made horrible reading, I presume. If the reader should care to continue I'm sure she (or he, as the case may be) will find more enjoyable reading.
(LET ME STATE THAT ALL RIGHTS TO THIS ARTICLE ARE NOTE RESERVED AND THE AUTHOR DOES NOT GIVE A DAMN IF THIS STORY OR ANY PART THEREOF IS COPIED, STOLEN TORN UP OR THROWN AWAY. SAME ALSO CANNOT BE DEPICTED TO MY WIFE OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR REASON THERETO; ITS ENOUGH; I ALREADY PUT MY BYLINE ON IT; SO WHY BLAME ANOTHER PERSON FOR THIS MUMBLE-JUMBLE WORDED THESIS?)
Nightly, the foxhole serves as a quiet resting spot for the soldiers. During the day the ears become accustomed to the "boom-boom" above, and the nocturnal activity is not so hard to take. Alone in his "home-away-from-home", the solder reminisces of his past civvy days, the battle missions he has undergone, review of his Army life, loved ones and practically everything else he has experienced.
Beneath the starry sky above, the thoughts of "peace-on-earth; good-will-towards-man," also prevail. Who knows, perhaps tomorrow, tranquility will reign again?
Throughout the heaviest fighting G.I. Joe has been know to tell some good yarns, joke about and act calm as if nothing is going on above him. The "guy in the foxhole", at night, awaiting "the sandman," recalls the "good ones," he overheard during the day.
The one about the paratrooper that was captured by the Germans. This G.I., in this German Prison of War Camp, he knew how to speak the Heinic language very well. Day after day he plotted an escape. Within a few days, he got hold of a German Colonel's uniform. He dressed up in this "Jerrie", getup and proceeded to walk one of the prison camps. As he passed the guard at the gate, the sentry snapped to attention, saluted him and waited until he passed. After walking a few feet beyond the exit, the escaping paratrooper, turned around and came back. The other G.I. prisoners of war, knowing of the paratroopers planned escape, thought he was spotted and caught; while they watched the proceedings. Upon his return to the guard at the exit, all the could see was his hands moving up and down, in conversing with the German guard. After some words, the paratrooper departed again. Later, the G.I.s in the prison camp found out that when the escaped paratrooper passed the guard at the exit, the sentry did not snap to attention and salute him in the proper manner, so he came back to bawl out the guard and instruct him on his military courtesy towards an officer in the German Army.
Another one about the German soldier that was captured. Said the M.P. that was escorting him to the Prisoner of War Stockade, "Your a lucky Nazi, you'll be going to the States, while I have to stay here in
Not to forget the latest stanza of the famed song of Word War #1 "Madamoiselle from the Armatiers"
I've met the daughter of the mademoiselle
I've met the daughter of the mademoiselle
I've met the daughter of the mademoiselle
SHE TOO, CAN *__________ LIKE HELL!
* The omitted word; should you care to know is XXXXXXXXX Oh well! You wouldn?t believe me anyway!
Let me recollect a while of those past civilian days. That Saturday night date with the female companion was indeed of the utmost importance. Usually the first complaint to the errand boy or girl (kid brother or youngest sister) was that the suit being pressed would not arrive in time from the tailors. Priorities on the bathroom came next for the preliminaries of showering, shaving, shampooing and generally freshening up the entire organism. Following that the dressing ordeal took lots of time. Standing before the bedroom mirror for two or more hours was not an uncommon sight. How well those times come back to me now, of when it took about fifteen tries to get that necktie to meet with the satisfaction. Naturally the coiffeur also took time. Parting the hair and setting same via the finger method took plenty of patience too. Need I mention the affair of the putting on that sharp slouch hat? Laugh; yea not every minute detail is important. Checking his pockets for cigarettes, handkerchief, comb; and not to forget the glancing over of the greenbacks the wallet contained therein; et cetera, everything was was just right at last. The "Household Cassanova," was ready his evening's rendez-vous. The entire getup and personality stood out like a neon sign. Proceeding to the prearranged corner, this "not-a-worry-in-the-world," guy to wait the "belle of his heart."
All this has changed no, G.I. Joe. Tomorrow when you awake in your foxhole, you will also have a date; a date with a "Nazi." Complaining will not be of help; for there is no one to complain to. The fatigue clothes you slept in will be your getup for tomorrow's rendez-vous. If time permits, a steel helmet , full of cold water will serve as your outdoor washing facilities. Mirror, ties, hair-slicking are passé. After that hurried K Ration breakfast you'd better check your pockets to see if you have enough rifle ammunition, hand grenades, and full canteen of water. No more brilliance like that Neon sign, plenty-worries-in-the-world, the belle of the heart very distant, proceeding to that at the "break of dawn attack."
Again, gloom creeps over this script. Get away from the misery and misfortunes of war; the cerebrum tell me. Yes! I must so I'll pass over the "close-to-death-incidents," in my past battles. Many a time, I could feel the "devil sticking me in the behind with that red hot pitchfork." Why review it? It's over with, so why bring it up again, telling others? They have their own troubles to worry about.
Then to the thoughts of Army life. Seems as if I've been in the service for centuries. Aw! Don't want to think "shop," now anyway; got more important subjects.
The loved ones I left behind are lonesome too. The girl I use to meet on Saturday nights, has been married to me a few years now. Our son must be quite a little man by now. Nothing must break up our happy family. I miss them so very much; they miss me.
(Say, G.I., Joe, there are plenty of other guys in the same boat too
We all got to make the best of it)
With a prayer on the lips; "Dear, God," end this unwanted way of living; put a stop to all this destruction and killing, send the boys home again; G.I., Joe in his "
[Wat a man!]
According to Papa this last line was written by the censor who was assigned to black out any words in the letter that might reveal anything to the enemy.
And damn straight: my grandpa was a serious war hero, a stand up family man, and one of the greatest drummers whom ever lived!
I am now one of them: the crackberry addicted. I really didn't want this evil machine. I still don't, but I must admit it is useful...for ensuring I get no sleep and spend no waking seconds doing anything other than checking work email.
Then again for once I am glad that my IT policy blocks gmail, all IM apps, and anything even remotely fun, so I actually don't spend all my time on the crack because all I can get is work email and Bloomberg messages.
Mama also checked out the cameras, and perhaps JewSanta will bring her something this year...
Then we headed over to Loft to replace the battery in P's watch, look for calendars (lame), and get Mama a new organizer (cool.)
Hit TGIF for lunch and then the fabric store where we loaded up on cool Japanese cloth for quilts of the future. And then off to Mecca: Tokyu Hands. We got slippers and beads and scissors and sewing stuff, and discovered that we could make millions buying at Tokyu Hands and selling in America all the cheap little crap like silk thread, needles, and thimbles.