Family Letters

    I opened an old trunk recently and found a stack of letters that my Grandma Armstrong saved over the years. I will post of few of them here. All these letters were written with WWII in the background. One letter is from my grandfather and is signed "Ruben", I have always spelled his name incorrectly. I was also surprised to see a letter signed "chicken", which is in my father's handwriting. He doesn't know why he signed it that way. I can't imagine my father ever being chicken. He was always a daredevil: racing cars, stunt flying, parachuting, etc.
    I put the letters into stacks by years, then sorted each stack by date, searched the partial letters for date clues, then I sat down and started to read. The letters were like a good novel. I could not put them down. They tell the story of a simple country family of sharecroppers sending four of their boys to war. Let me introduce you to my family.
    Lawrence is my grandma's brother, an uncle to Robert and friend to Slim, who is Robert's cousin on Grandpa's side of the family. In 1941, Robert is 23, Slim is 20, and Lawrence is about 33. Robert and Slim are in Colorado in a CC Camp. They said they spent most of their time shooting jackrabbits to keep them out of the gardens.
    I corrected spelling only in places where I had to so you could read it. I didn't touch the grammar.

Lawrence Mills
August 3, 1941
Helo Robert & Slim.
Well it is Tenaha, Bobo & Blair. Heare I come writin at you all again. Well I dont know much to write. I am ok and hope you all are to. Well I am working now. I am loading pulp wood down at Tenaha, Tex. I went to Henderson today and saw a good show. Well I havent been to Kilgore in a long time I dont know where bouts my Shorty is at now. I havent saw her in a long time. The last time I saw her was about 3 weeks ago. she was working at the Circle Y in Kilgore not over at the old stomping ground. Well I dont know much to write so I will close for this time.
Answer soon
Yours Truly
A little rime
2 Ys. U. R.
2 Ys. U. B.
I. C. U. R.
2 Ys. F.O.R. M.E.

    This is from my grandpa to Robert and was in the same envelope as the previous letter. Both my grandparents had brothers named Lawrence. Grandpa's brother was "poorly" for a long time as was their dad, Benjamin. Elzie is another son who is in the army, he contracted malaria in the jungle. I don't know what was wrong with Grandpa, but he was never one to sit around and do nothing.
Aug - 3 - 41 -
Mt. Enterprise, Tex.

Dear Son, as Lawrence is riting to you I will rite a line or two to let you know I am O.K. Hope you are the same. We stayed all day with Uncle Lawrence and Grandpa today. They are all well except Grandpa isent doing any good. He is poorly but he is not bed fast. He sits up most all the time. We got a letter from Elzie yesterday he is out of the hospital again. You know (over)
he was in there again. He has been in there about 2 or 3 weeks. It is thundern I think it is going to rain pretty soon from the looks of everything. We need a little rain. Well I have got me a bunch of bantie chickens since I have been disabled from work. you know I havent been able to work in 9 weeks. I cant do anything at all but just sit around and that sure do get old with me. Well I will close so rite soon.
From Dad

     Kilgore sick means he has a hangover. Mt. Enterprise is in a dry county and Kilgore is the closest place to have a drink.
Aug. 19 - 41 -
Mt. Enterprise, Tex.
dear slim
I will rite you a line or two to let you no I havent forgotten you. I am ok. but Kilgore sick hope you the same. I got your and Robert pictures the girls looked good. What do you think you and Robert is going to do. do you think you all will sine up or come home. well cotton picking will soon Bee here my cotton is oppening. Reggrette has sold his saw mill at Minden he sold out to some men By the name of Thresh I guess I will start night watching up thair about Thursday night. they moved the mill right down under the hill from where it was but dident move the planer it still in the same place. o yes me and Lawrence Mills went to Kilgore friday we got 4 cans Beer 1 quart of apple wine. was it good, I say yes. and I saw your Sattis girl she said she wished you would hurry up and come home to see her she said tell you if you dident hurry up and come home she was going to take Lawrence. I am going back up thair in a few days I am going to take your picture and let her see it. do you ever go to dances out thair and have you got many girls or sweet hearts out thair if you havent I will send your Sattis girl out thair if I can get her to come after she see your and that gal picture you sent me well I think I better quit for this time so ans. real soon and a long letter.
from your unkle Ruben

    This paragraph was on a separate page and was included in the letter to Slim. My great grandpa died on August 20, 1941.
Robert I rote this letter the 19 and today is 20th so I will tell you the sad newes I just got about 30 minit ago Grandpa died he will be barried tomorrow I guess

    Leon is Uncle Walter's son, I guess kids have been wrecking their parents' cars a lot longer than we realize. A Whippet Six seems to be pretty rare these days. I think it was made by the Willys Co. in the 20s and 30s. Willys sure knew how to make a car.
September 14.1941
Deare Robert.
    I got your letter last sunday. And I guess you think that I am a long time about answering it. But i am going to any how. if I am a long time about it ok. Boy I shure wish you and Slim was here now we could have a good time now for I have bought me a car and it sure runs good now. it is a big car. it is a whippet six oh boy i can go to see my Shorty now. Say Robert you said something a bout staying in camp six more months are you going to are not. Slim said that he was coming home. and I bet that you will to.
    Elzie and leon was here Sat. and Sunday thats today and yesterday. so thay got your auncle Walters car and so they tryed to make a curve to fast and turned it over and recked the car. but it did not hurt thim. thay was shur was luckey.
well I don,t Know much to write only I have got me a Whippet Six car now. so answer soon
Yours Truly

    Robert spent most of his time on the Pacific Ocean's islands during the war. He left here in September of 1942 and came back after the war was over. Elzie repeatedly asked about his brother in his letters. He considered being in the Quartermaster an easy job and his big brother was on the front lines. The baby is 2 months old.
El Paso, Tex.
Oct 24, 42

Dear Folks,
    Will try to answer your letter received a few days ago. Sure was proud to hear from you and know you were all well. I was proud to hear from Robert too but hated to hear of him being in Australia. I guess you know what that means. .....
    What was wrong with Jack when he died? It seems like all of the boys that I knew are dying or getting killed. You asked me when I was coming in on a furlough. Well it looks like I might not get to come until after the war is won. The boys all around us are getting furloughs but we are in the Quartermaster now and they don't give furloughs. I don't think we'll get any more time than one day off at Christmas, if we get that. The cooks won't get any days.
    You should see our boy. He is so fat, he already weighs 12-1/2 pounds.
    Well, I don't know much to write about so will go for now so answer real soon & often.
Love to all
Your son & family
Elzie, Mattie, and Roy Dean
CPL E.D. Armstrong
Ft. Bliss, Tex.

    I have other letters which come after these. They tell us that Elzie returned to the jungles and fought at the front lines. They also tell us that Elzie and Robert had the good fortune to be allowed to visit each other when they both wound up in New Guinea. Lawrence was also sent to a jungle, but wasn't allowed to say exactly where. Elzie and his wife lost their two year old son, and - as is common - it led to the break up of their marriage. Both the sisters married and moved away from home. Two younger brothers grew up and joined the military. Now Grandma and Grandpa have only one 10 year old child at home.
    I would like to share two more letters. The first is numbered "page III" and the rest of it is missing. It sounds a bit harsh in its wording, so please remember that it was written only a matter of days after the war was over by a very young man who lied about his age to join the Navy.
    In 1945, he was almost 18. He had already fought his share of the war and was excited about coming home. His mom's birthday is in August, so I believe the letter was written about the middle of August, 1945. The bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and 9th, respectively.
...I was there for about one month. After I  left there, I went to Kyushu and boy was that a hot place! woowoo I wasn't there very long until I went to Leyte in the Philippines. I was there one month. That's where I got full of beer. After I  left there I went to Tokyo. (I almost forgot but when I got to Okinawa I boarded the BATAAN) By the time we got to Tokyo the Japanese were just about finished so it wasn't so bad there. We weren't there long until they released the new atomic bomb and the war ended.
    Well I guess that will be about all for now so I'll be running along and saying again HAPPY BIRTHDAY from
Your Son

    This letter touched me deeply. Bob (Robert) is the eldest son and was in the midst of the fighting for almost three years. When he wasn't on the front lines, he was ferrying wounded soldiers. Maybe that's the reason he visited the grave yards. I didn't post page one. June is Elzie's new girlfriend.
Bob Armstrong
New Guinea
September 14,45
... I also got a letter from a friend in the Philippines, says everybody is going home from over there. I guess they have plenty of transportation over there. The only thing that ever comes in here is an Australian mail plane once a day. He brings our mail to us too. Two Aussie planes came yesterday. They came to pick up some real sick guys who had to be taken to a hospital.
    I was down at Finsch this morning and I seen the army is moving the grave yard. You see the grave yard is right down in a valley and they are digging up the graves and moving the guys up on a real beautiful hill and they have planted flowers there and real smoothe green grass. Boy it's a pretty grave yard. They are digging up the Japanese guys and moving them over about five miles in a valley. There's about two thousand American graves in the cemetary here. Every grave yard I've seen in New Guinea is kept real pretty with flowers and green smoothe grass. They really take good care of them. I've been to every air field and almost every grave yard here in Guinea and they are all pretty.
    Well Mom I must sign off now and answer a couple more letters. Tell June and all the folks hello for me.


    There are many more letters recording this family's story up through the mid sixties. Since I can't possibly post them all here, I will leave my family to their gardens and tractors and trips to Kilgore.