Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Umnak, 16 July 1944

My darling…
I sandwiched some sleep between two moving experiences today. One experience came in the evening and was beautiful. I listened to the Sunday symphony broadcast. A supply of beer has arrived at the rec hall so in the evening, after dinner, most to the fellows congregated there. I went to our hut; it was empty. A big chair, shaped like the one Bill [Fett] had made by the maestro carpenter in Patzcuaro but covered with a padding of old sacks, stands by the radio. It is very comfortable, and to sit there in solitude after a good meal and listen to Tschaikowsky’s Fourth and Wagner’s Lohengrin overture and prelude was both sedative and stimulating.
The music was the main thing, but the fact that Wagner can be broadcast over an Army station in wartime gave me comfort. It shows a growth of either tolerance or appreciation of the beautiful in our country. And after the experience of the morning I needed such assurance.
There is in our outfit a Scandinavian with a broken nose and a broken accent. He looks rather like a superannuated boxer, which may be why I have had a somewhat abstract liking for him although I had never spoken directly to him until today.
When I went into chow this morning I had with me Koestler’s book “Scum of the Earth.” The fellow across the table from me – one of those Jack Martin classifies as “the little men”—asked what I was reading. I told him, adding that it was a book about the fall of France. He wanted to know the author and on being told “Arthur Koestler” said, “Never heard of him.”
I explained that Koestler was a former radical who had broken with communism because he could not stomach the belief that any ends justify the brutal means. I added that Koestler was Hungarian. The Scandinavian sat at my left. He looked up from his hot cakes and said, “He’s a dirty Jew.” I felt as if someone had raised a knee between my legs, but all I said was “What?”
He pointed at the books with a syrupy fork and said, “A Jew wrote it.”
“What makes you think so?”
“Dey write all that propaganda,” he said. “All dose books against the … about the war written by Jews.” He mouthed some more hotcakes and added, “Dirty Jews.”
I asked if he had read the book.
“Never read nothing dey write. All propaganda.”
I fought back the impulse to ask why he hadn’t gone to Germany instead of coming to the United States. I didn’t even tell him he was fighting the wrong war. I just swung around so that as much of my back was to him as the bench would allow and said nothing. But my breakfast tasted bad and lay heavy in my stomach.
When I went to bed it was a long time before I could go to sleep. I know it is foolish to allow racial intolerance to so upset me. It exists and the only ways to combat it are by laws and education. Anger at the intolerant will not overcome it. But God how I fear for the future of our country when I hear a man in uniform preaching race hatred. Rage and impotence make poor bedmates, and I did not sleep well. But after the symphony I went back to bed and caught four satisfactory hours.
Rosa with HVM
Today brought no letter from you but one from Dad. [Henry Victor Morgan, a Universalist minister in Tacoma] In it he wrote a very charming little autobiography of his first 79 years. He seemed to have such a fine time at his birthday party at the church. His main disappointment being that Vic and Ev and I were not there. I keep my fingers crossed and hope that all of us will be able to make it next year.
The war is going so much better than had dared to hope. It seems very possible that Germany will be knocked out this year. And how Japan can stand up for more than a year after Germany goes, I don’t know. I’m setting my sights on being a civilian again by January 1, 1946. That should give us a couple of months of pure loafing before the weather is good enough to start down the Mississippi in the canoe.
Last night we had our weekly show in the rec hall. I was not particularly anxious to go, but ….
Constance Moore
The only saving grace to the show [“Show Business”] was the presence of a very bad actress, Constance Moore. She is the gal who played opposite Ray Bolger in “By Jupiter,” and though her dramatics were really Roquefort, I enjoyed her because she reminded me of our evening with Phyllis in New York, of how we laughed and Phyllis looked shocked at some of the jokes, of the two quarts of coconut drink that she bought and how they both went sour during that long, warm ride home on the streetcar. That was our only streetcar ride in New York, wasn’t it?
Besides the movie, we had a projectorful for shorts. There was a sports picture about timing in tumbling, narration by Ted Husing and bad enough to have been written by Husing himself. There was a news reel of the invasion and, I am almost ashamed to admit, the biggest thrill I got out of it was in seeing a shot of the CBS newsroom broadcasting the flash. Ned Calmer was talking. He looked exactly the same—as if he wanted to get the hell out of there, have a quick drink and ogle the waitress. Paul White was in the background for an instant, no more. How I wish I could have been there at that moment.
The best short was an Anglo-American documentary called “Eve of Invasion” It had the usual British charm of understatement, combined with very effective photography and a minus quantity of Mazzola. Its simplicity and straightforwardness was emphasized because it followed a tear-jerked short about Yugoslavia, based on the “Letter to an Unborn Baby” which Stoyan Pribichevich adapted from the original.
I am sure you remember the letter. It came out first in “Time,” and later was reprinted by Louis Adamic and other publications. It was a beautifully written little letter, calm as the death it dealt with, yet serene with hope and filled with belief in the necessity of struggle for a better world. And the most moving part of the story was that the letter never reached the writer’s pregnant wife, that the force of evil against which the father fought was strong enough also to claim his future. But not so in the movie version. The narrator shouts his lines like Bill Stern doing a sports broadcast, and there are shots of fat babies in rubber pants, of the wind blowing the message to mama, of the sun streaming thought a bank of clouds. All the disgustingly state cinema clichés were there.
But anyway there was a good Disney.
Darling, darling…how I long to be with you,

Umnak Island, 18 July 1944: Washington State Politics

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Umnak Island, 19 July 1944

Nunny darling…

Yesterday was sort of a jackpot day for me. A lot of my second class mail from APO 980 finally reached me. There were two packages from you—the one containing slippers, socks, and vitamin pills, and the one with the pajamas.

Everything in both packages was swell. I have taken the pills regularly (one a day for two days). The socks came in especially handy because I was down to my last two pair. My second barracks bag has yet to arrive from the old place and I am rather pressed for clothes. Perhaps I should say rather unpressed. The slippers reminded me of the houseboat and made me more homesick than ever. The fuzzy pajamas will be especially good when the weather begins to worsen. The tops fit perfectly and the bottoms would fit us both at once. I spent part of last night taking an impromptu tuck in one of them. 

Besides the packages I got a carton full of papers and magazines. …I feel like the library lad himself. 

Of course the New Yorker was the high point of the collection. It is the issue of  June 10 and the cover is a shot of Riverside Drive. I believe it is the walk where we used to go with Haj—and Howard Lewis—in the early mornings, the one which ends by the underpass where you can get down to the Hudson. It almost made me homesick for New York and Hay, illegally unleashed, high tailing after pigeons or sniffing the grass next to the wall. Almost hell—it did.

I hope that you have a copy of that New Yorker. It has a very interesting profile on Edward Steichen and his career in photography, and the mentions of Clarence White gave me that old “Why, I know him” feeling. Only, come to think of it, I don’t. I especially liked the stories of the way Steichen used to get blurred, soft-focus effects. He spit on the lens. And sometimes he kicked the tripod just as he snapped the shutter.

I didn’t write yesterday. I thought I’d have time at work, but I forgot it was our night to wax the operating room floor. We spend most of the night at it. The job was supervised by one of the little men, a Pole with the face of a perverted Sunday school teacher and a whining voice that has the tone but not the volume of a scream. He is unpleasant and I usually manage to keep away from him, but last night it was impossible. After a few hours of him I was in no mood for letter writing even when I did have a few moments.

Jack Martin and I had a long talk last night about race prejudice. He is highly intolerant of Negrophobes but not so much of anti-Semites, although he is not anti-Semitic himself. The conversation started with Jack’s reference to a talk he had just had with the prejudiced Norwegian whose remarks had upset me the day before. I made a wry face at the mention the man and off we went onto tolerance of intolerance. Jack feels that to shun a man because he has one prejudice is to deny yourself access to a companionship which might be in all other respects enjoyable. This is a rational attitude and I almost with I could share it. But someone race prejudice seems to me the basic evil of our world and attitude toward race and color the crucial test of the democrat. And while I am profoundly pessimistic about the future of democracy, I do not care to associate with those who do not wish to practice it. 

Jack’s prime interest is in artificial languages. I have learned quite a bit about the history of Esperanto and its predecessors and successors in the field. The first synthetic language was created a couple of hundred years ago by a Briton or a Scot who divided all knowledge into seven compartments—religion, naval affairs, public affairs, animal life, etc.—and built his language on these groups. Its main trouble was that it was infinitely more complicated than any of the “natural” languages, and there was always the problem of deciding if, for instance, the story of Jonah and the Whale came under naval affairs, animal life, religion or what. 

The first widely popular synthetic language was something called Volapuk. It had more followers than any other has gained since, which is remarkable because it was more difficult than its successors, not being based on Romance verbs. Esperanto is older than I thought—about fifty years. At one time it was compulsory in Paris schools and in a couple cities in Germany. Hitler banned it as “inciting to internationalism.” It only missed by a couple votes being official language of the League of Nations. Jack says that Esperanto is now out of date and a thing called Inter-Lingua is the best. He frowns on basic English because, for one thing, it retains our outrageous spelling and also it presents the problem of semantic overtones already existing around English words. Personally he favors a tenseless language in which all nouns are also adjectives and adverbs (and vice versa). The use of one for three in this way, Jack says, is the greatest discovery yet made in artificial languages. 

As you can see, APO 948 offers some strange educational courses.

Tonight over tea Jack started to tell me a story that Roger Mastrude brought back from the Balkans. The setting was in the Transylvanian Alps and the story dealt with a man and woman who went to live in the forest , built a house, cultivated a clearing and lived a happy, loving life until, full of years, the old woman died. The husband laid her out for burial and –but you have already guessed. Bierce’s “The Boarded Window” in the Balkan setting. 

[To read the whole creepy story:]
Jack has never read Bierce, in fact had never heard of him. I recall seeing “In the Midst of Life” at the local library so when we go there tomorrow to return books we’ll take it out. It will be fun to introduce someone to “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “Chatanooga.”  Imagine someone from California and interested in Mexico not knowing of Bierce. Come to think of it, I was a year older than Jack is now when I ran across him. I feel ancient.

Yesterday morning I was feeling bluer than at any time since getting here. I don’t know why more than at other times. Up here black moods seem to come as regularly as a virgin’s menstrual periods (or is that a physiologically fouled up metaphor?). Anyway I was feeling low so I decided to climb our local mountain. I set off by myself right after breakfast and went up a valley a mile or so, climbed a steep hill, and then, all pooed out, turned right around and came back. When I go up that mountain it will have to be after a night’s sleep and not a night’s work. The only good thing about the hike was that I picked some extremely well formed lupines to replace my worn out daisies. 

When I got back to the hut I was so tired that I slept not only through dinner but through pay call. Fortunately the paymaster is one of the fellows in the hut and he come over and called me. I bought another bond with part of my ill-gotten gains and will send it down to you as soon as it is delivered to me….

The radio is on as I write this. The news is incredibly good—steady advance in Italy, a Russian breakthrough in Latvia and another in lower Poland, a British breakthrough south of Caen, the Japanese cabinet resigned, continued attacks on Guam, fourteen more Jap ships sunk. And there even look like a one in three chance of Wallace getting the VP nomination in the Chicago convention. The only thing missing is news that I am transferred back to Seattle. Lord how I hope they can wind this business up in a hurry. Next Saturday will mark my third month away from you, my Nunny, and already it seems an eternity. 

The awareness that I am only hours away from you by plane makes our separation seem more an enormity, although I find comfort in it when I try. The idea that Pete [Pedersen], who left here the other morning, is probably already rolling down First Avenue, fighting off the furious advances of the fourteen year olds, makes Seattle seem close. But I am not sure that really helps. By the way, Pete promised to look you up. I think you two will like him better than either of the two previous emissaries. … 
[Pete did:]

The other day one of the kids brought me a poem. I lost it before I could send you a copy, but tonight he made me another draft and here it is –
The censor says I can’t say much
Can’t talk of so and so and such
Can’t even say we’re having weather
Or you’d put two and two together.
Can’t say just where I am or what,
Can’t tell you why or if or but,
Can’t tell what we do, or don’t
Or if we might, or will, or won’t
But I can send my love to you
Without restriction – so I do.

It is time for me to get to work, my darling. I’ll write more tomorrow….

Friday, December 17, 2010

Umnak Island, 21 July 1944

My darling…

I finally found out who the Democrats nominated to run with Roosevelt. If feel something like Cassandra must have when the Greeks took Troy, justified but unhappy over my prediction. Remember the letter I wrote you in answer to Bill James’s idea that Roosevelt would have Wallace kept as No. 2? That was six weeks ago and my guess at that time was Truman. 

The Democrats could have done worse. They could have picked someone like Byrd or Smith or Rankin. Truman is slightly better than Bricker. But as a man he couldn’t carry Harry’s boomerang. 

Maybe I’ll vote straight Prohibitionist. But seriously, I suppose there’s nothing to it but to give it to FDR yet another time. 

Jack woke me up about five o’clock this afternoon. He had been to the main PX and there picked up the August Adventure. He was properly enthusiastic about my story [“A Job for Joe”], which means he did not rip it to rags. He found the plot weak—but at least he found a plot there. He liked the background, dialogue and pace. A man of discernment, no less.
The illustrations that Adventure whipped up for the story are indeed peculiar. The Rumanian soldiers look like a cross between Bulgars and bad comic opera. And Father Titu belongs on a Coca Cola ad. I liked the blurb for the story on the contents page: the one about Joe’s changing clothes in church. It was also nice to have the story in the middle of the book instead of at the end. 

I finished another short story today. It is the one I have mentioned in the last couple of letters, about the anti-Semitism I ran into the other day. Jack has read the first draft (the second draft I completed just before starting this letter). The story has to clear some sort of special censorship. I am sending you a carbon under separate cover sot that the letter won’t be slowed up along with the story.

So far I have done little on the novel, but it was so much fun to be writing again that I may get back to serious work on it now. By the way, we have never seen a copy of the article I sold to the Rotarian. It seems to me that Jean said something about her mother or brother or someone taking Rotarian. Will you ask her about it and if she does take it see if you can get hold of a copy. I would like to show that one to a couple of our local Carnegie disciples, especially Johnny Hazen.

I enjoy John. He is the peak plodder of all time. I don’t think he could fall fast. A former employee of Weyerhaeusers, he is as robust a Republican as Russell Mack, and about forty years younger, too. He has no close friends and no enemies. He does his work well, listens to symphonies with silence if not deep appreciation, and except in comments on Roosevelt and unions speaks with measured restraint. The boys call him “The Great Stone Face.”
John knows a lot about the Aleutians. He listens well and never forgets. There was a forest ranger here for awhile and Hazen talked with him about the local flora and fauna. From John I keep getting fragments of frustrated woodsman’s lore. The yellow flowers which grow in the swamp and keep so well when put on the desk in a glass of water are not tiger lilies. They are, instead, some form of snapdragon. The local sparrows are called Aleutian Song Sparrows and they have a double set of feathers, only one of which gets ruffled in the worst williwaw. The eagles on this island are a browbeaten lot, suffering from an inferiority complex because them the time they are big enough to fly they have to defend themselves against the flocks of crows which steal their food. One story is that a flock of ravens chased an eagle into a guard house where the MPs protected him.

You may see John before too long. He has been picked as an OCS candidate and will head south soon. So if a big, blond sergeant with a Prussian bob and twisted moustache shows up, don’t shoot. He’s in our army. Even more, he’s from Tacoma. So join with him in tippling some tequila and drink a toast to those who only sit and wait. 

Market day
Ted Godfrey joined our tea party tonight. I have finally figured out who he looks like—a society edition of Norm Corwin. Or, perhaps, Robert Montgomery in a smirkie. He is not a bad kid, although he seems exceptionally young for 25, probably because his folks are quite wealthy and he has always worked for his father. He just passed his first wedding anniversary the other day and has been away from his wife for four months now. He is desperately lonely.

He was duly delirious about your Mexican photos, which I have taped on the wall over my desk and by the cot, and we had a long bullsession about ideal honeymoons. He and his Dorothy intend to take off to somewhere or other as soon as he takes off his OD’s. 

Lake Patzcuaro

Lyle Deckard, a sergeant who has the bunk directly opposite mine, got interested in the talk of canoeing and told me that he has been along most of the Salmon in Idaho. That’s the one the Indians call “The River of No Return.” He says it would make a marvelous canoe trip and that it has about 200 miles of fast water without major rapids. He also knows the grand canyon of the Snake, including the Hells Canyon section, but I didn’t have a chance to talk to him about it.

Lake Patzcuaro
However my number one postwar paddledream is still the trip down the Mississippi. …

Well, my little one, it’s time for me to get to work. No letter from you today, so I’m even lonelier than usual. I wish I could think of some way to say how much I love you.

All photos by Rosa Morgan

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Umnak Island, 22 and 23 July 1944:The Guys in the Hut

My Darling…

I have been here almost three weeks now, so it is time that I tell you a bit about my roommates. As I have mentioned before I see much less of them than I did the men in Hut 18 at the old station. The reasons are that the weather is better here so we are all outside much more, beer is allowed only in the rec hall here so many of the men of day shift spend most of their evenings there, and a couple of the fellows work swing which means they are at the operations hut during the only hours I am not sleeping or working myself. 

There are eight of us. Our beds all run parallel to the wall. The bunks to the rear of the hut are considered the most desirable because they are farther from the door. During the williwaws the door sometimes blows open and the beds nearest it get soaked in the horizontal rains. So the old timers gravitate to the far end of the hut and they take the best and biggest furniture with them. Coming in to the hut one feels that the feels that the floor slopes down from the door, like Chaplin’s in “The Gold Rush.”

I have the cot nearest the door on the left . My desk is under the window, an improvised cabinet in the space between desk and wall. I have fastened up nearly every picture you have sent me, including the shots of the Pennsylvania barns.

The cot next to mine is occupied by our new cook, John MacDougal, who arrived here about three days after I did. He is a short, wiry, clerky man with graying brownish hair, a long sloping chin which he aims at you as he talks, and a small mouth that folds into an otherwise sharp face and makes him look an ad for cheap dental plates. 

This is Mac’s first trip outside the U.S. He spent the last two years at Fort Douglas, Utah (where my papers once were lost). There he was a baker, a corporal and almost a civilian. His wife lived in the town and he was home nearly every night. Because he is in his mid-thirties he had rather expected to sit out the struggle near Salt Lake. His is just recovering from the shock of finding himself on the shores of the Bering. 

Mac flaps about the hut in outsize blue fatigue. They make him look a little pathetic, like a convict who has been in too long. One tends to feel sorry for him rather than to really like him, although there is nothing about him not to like. He speaks softly with a second generation scotch burr; he is neat and does his share of the housework; he is generous.
And as a cook, he is anxious to please. The fellows all say “none of them are bad at first.” But I think that a man who is in there working extra hours after a couple of years in the army must be interested in his work, or at least in keeping everyone content.
He was not a cook as a civilian. Before the war he worked in Butte as a day laborer and as a salesman. He is married and childless. When the war came he was drafted—his wife was working—and sent to Douglas. While there he met a friend who was a baker. The friend said he needed an assistant and that the job had to be filled that day. So Mac became a baker. He did little cooking but kept his eyes open while in the kitchen. He learned the tricks. Now he is not so sure it was a good idea. When the ACS sent in an order for a cook, bingo. The Aleutians.

Mac’s wall is bare of beauties. He does not even have a picture of his wife up.
Deanna Durbin at 18
Not so corporal Greenleaf Thornton. He has over his bed, the one beyond Mac’s, two hunting scenes taken from calendars, a picture of six Chilean beauties taken from Time, and a shot of Deanna Durbin with her breasts hanging out taken from life—and I do mean from Life. Incidentally the article accompanying this decisively décolleté daguerreotype said that Miss Durbin was going to rely on her dramatic talents instead of her voice in future pictures.

Greenleaf is the boy who looks like Alan Ladd. He is five feet ten, solid but not stocky, with light brown hair and hazel eyes and a set of teeth that couldn’t look whiter if his face were black and he had lived all his life on tortillas and beans. He carries himself like a soldier and thinks like a civilian. When he gets out of the army he will probably make a moderate fortune selling something.

He could probably sell anything to women. He was peddling vacuum cleaners before the war and is the type who gives foundation to certain salesmanship jokes. He also worked in hotels and, it is presumed, made the most of his opportunities there.
But Greenleaf is not a professional ladykiller. He seems to be one more or less by accident of his good looks. His ambitions are in business and he aims to make his fortune, to self make it. He is even willing to stay in Alaska to get it which indicates the desperateness of his desire. 

He is an ambiguous boy. Personally ambitious and a potential businessman, he is nevertheless an admirer of Henry Wallace, FDR, and Harold Ickes. In debates with Hazen and Godfrey he defends labor unions, the Democratic Party and publications like PM and the New Republic—which he does not read.

Greenleaf is 27. He comes from Chicago, and thereby hangs a tale. About four years ago he read an article on opportunities in Alaska. That night he and two cronies got drunk. Greenleaf talked them into quitting their jobs and going to Alaska. The next morning he called for them in his car—and one was still willing. They started north and west. Three times they crossed into Canada and three times thoughtful gas station operators explained that there was no road to Alaska. The first two times Greenleaf and his pal were unconvinced. They suspected the Canadians of trying to hoard all the Alaskan opportunities for themselves. “How the hell would you get to Alaska if there’s no road?” The third time they were convinced. They drove to the Pacific Northwest.

Reaching Seattle early one morning they took one look around, decided nothing could be more desolate, studied the map and drove to Tacoma. In Tacoma they took one look around and drove back to Seattle. They both found jobs and worked until boards of their newfound neighbors sent them greetings. 

In the army Greenleaf drew an artillery outfit and distinguished himself mainly by kidnapping command cars everytime he had a rating. In this was he kept getting promoted to Corporal on alternate Fridays. He was stationed at Fort Lewis and, for a brief time, just after Pearl Harbor, did duty in Grays Harbor, mainly at the ship. He recognizes our boy Bill by description: short, fat and despicable, with a snotty-nose mustache. 

He finally drew a transfer into the ACS and did duty on Kodiak. He came here about eleven months ago and is now sweating out the home stretch before drawing his furlough he hopes he hopes.

Greenleaf is the best conversationalist in the hut and on a good night will argue anything ably. He swears little, even avoiding the local catchall “Oh my fucking back.” His favorite expression is “blow my/your cork” which can mean anything from getting slightly angry to becoming positively Peter Oboed. He reads Time (with a cocked eyebrow), Terry and the Pirates, good mysteries and bad novels for the stenographer trade. As an operator he is probably the most efficient man at the station.

At the end of the left side, beyond the hut magazine table which sits between him and Greenleaf, is Corporal Richardson, a slight, sallow boy from the East Coast who hates Alaska with a holy hatred. He had 15 months in a line outfit and ardently defends the merits of the type of discipline he learned there. The Aleutian attitude toward officers—Hiya Bill—he deplores. He has a long face with too small features and fine Italian looking eyes. As he works swing I almost never see him.

Our problem child sleeps across from Richardson. His name is Reger. He comes from Johnstown, PA., where once won a competition by having the cleanest women’s lavatory of any service station in town. It is his sole claim to fame, his neatness.

He has inherited a fine, large desk built by one of the men who has left for warmer climes at OCS. On this desk he keeps a line of pocketbooks which he never reads. He has half dozen souvenir shells nearly arranged on it. Also a can of shrimps and can of peanut butter, neither of which has been so much as moved during the three weeks I have been here. He never sits at the desk. 

Reger is a hero worshipper. His former hero was a non-com whom everyone else in camp detested I never met the man but from what I hear of him from one and all he must have been impossible. The closest thing to a kind word anyone has had for him was Thornton’s comment, “He had it in him to be a fine man if he weren’t such a complete bastard.” Anyway, Reger is now minus this hero and is currently emulating a simple lad who talks hepcat. Consequently we are all treated to Reger’s parroting of phrases like “Taper off, tots,” and “Get on the beam, dream.”

When using his own vocabulary, Reger is consistently below the belt. His attitude is enough to curdle a normal man’s sex impulses. He is a verbal degenerate, although I suppose he is repulsive enough so that it is impossible that he has achieved the conquests he enumerates. Fortunately he is due for a furlough soon and we are all rooting for him with an enthusiasm which in an intelligent man would arouse suspicions. 

I have to work now Nunny so I’ll leave the other three … to another letter. We also have some interesting characters in the operating room including a likeable Southerner, a Spanish-Greek-Turkish Jew and the Brooklyn defendant of the word of Betty Smith. Of them, more later.

The war news remains incredibly good. I really can’t see how Germany can sweat it out more than a couple of months at most. And the fact that we can keep up a big offensive in the Pacific while fighting the showdown fight in Europe means that at least we are keeping the Japs off balance and at best that we may be able to finish them off in less than a year after the Germans fold. Knock wood my darling. 

I miss you terribly. No mail again today, which makes it bad. No one from Seattle got any today so I know it isn’t your fault.
All my love little one, 


23 July 1944
Hello little sweet…

Yesterday I was telling you about the guys in the hut. I had six down and three to go.
Let’s start with Al Hesse. He is your Lincoln classmate, a solid, balding boy of twenty five, earnest and unimaginative. He has been in the ACS for two years, has stomach ulcers and a profound longing for the end of the war. 

A few months ago he chanced on a book about short story writing. He had read little up to that time but, getting interested, he has since waded through nearly every anthology of short fiction available in Alaska. He prefers the New Yorker type of short story. His seemed strange to me as he does not seem particularly subtle. (The boys razz him unmercifully and he seldom realizes his limb is being lengthened.) But he explained to me the other day that in the New Yorker stories there is no need to think up a plot. 

He showed me a short story he wrote recently. It was far from a meritless performance, its prime fault being blatant obviousness of its point, which was that an Alaska soldier meeting two girls got interested in the wrong one. But Al is very worried that the point will be missed.

Hesse is also interested in painting. Oils are his field. His style might be called Coca-Cola primitive, characterless faces and unintentional perspective. But his work gets better as he goes along and may achieve fourth class. I realize the unfairness of this criticism—his painting is without question superior to what I could do if I tried. And he realizes its limitations.

I don’t know Al very well. We do the same work and consequently work different shifts. He spends most of his free time in bed, coddling his stomach which really needs care. As he has been up here only a month more than I, he is one of the three who will sweat out most of the rest of the year with me. He wears well, is quiet, soft-spoken and tiptoes when men are sleeping. To ask for more in a room-mate in the army is indeed captious. 

Tim Egon is our character, the wildman of “The Empty Arms.” He is Irish, black-haired, clear-skinned, an incipient alcoholic with a welling hatred of the Aleutians. Some days he lies in his bunk and stares at the curve of the brown wall and does not answer when spoken to. Some days he sweeps the hut and picks flowers for the mess hall and writes long letter to his wife in Minneapolis.

He is a radio operator and a good one. But this is his second hitch in the Aleutians and his fourth year in the army. His incentive has atrophied.

On his last furlough at home he found “it’s damn hard to be a real human being again.” He felt that he and his wife were strangers. So when he hit Seattle he went on a tear and wound up asleep in the aisle of the YMCA. Someone let him in his room and then someone woke him up and told him he was under arrest. That was Luckman, the sweating sergeant. He chased Luckman out, and then chased Luckman and me out a little later. His remarks to the lieutenant who finally arrested him were enough to cost him his sergeant’s stripes, which he has yet to regain. Shipped north he went to a mainland station where he fouled up or had bad luck. Anyway he was sent back out here, where he had first served isolated duty. His is not happy.

Tim has a true toper’s nose. He can smell out alcohol at inconceivable distances and if the opportunity exists he uses it. But recently the OIC pretty well grounded him by banning him from the beer bar in the rec hall. Now, he says, “I gotta do my dreaming on my own.”
He has a Celtic knack with words and a Daniellian flair for profanity. Waking with a hangover one morning he groaned and announced, “I couldn’t knock a sick whore off a pisspot.” After one interview with an officer he said, “I was so mad I could have shit a running dog.” 

Somewhere I had picked up the idea that Tim had a roughneck’s hostility to reading, that he considered my bookishness with contempt. But in the past week I have gone to the mat with him over Wolfe, a favorite of his; agreed with him that Melville could outwrite a quartet of Nordhoff and Halls; disagreed on Hemingway vs Steinbeck but conceded that “Great Two-Hearted River” is better than “Johnny Bear”; agreed that Maugham tells a good story but hasn’t written a major novel since “Of Human Bondage”; agreed that D.H. Lawrence is good only in small doses and that the seduction scene in “To a God Unknown” is unique. He wanted to talk about “War and Peace,” which he had read during his first Aleutian year, but I haven’t read it yet. For his sake I hope he gets out of here soon, but for mine I would just as soon he stayed.

As a civilian, Tim was a radio operator for a railroad. He worked in Minneapolis and Spokane. He was in one of the Railroad Brotherhoods (“Damn best union you ever saw. When you want a raise you take a strike vote. Everybody votes strike or he’s a sonofabitch and treated as such. Then the steward shows the strike vote to the company and you got the raise. Sometimes the government sends someone to look into it but he always says the raise isn’t big enough anyway.”) He is a pre New Deal Democrat who liked Roosevelt better than Wallace, Wallace better than Dewey.

Tim thinks a Mississippi trip would be “wonderful till you get in the South.”
Lyle Deckard, who has the bunk right across from mine, is a large, StBernardish individual, broad and slow. He comes from Idaho, where he worked in the mines in the Salmon River (“River of No Return”) area. He dug, and his shoulders still show it. He likes being outdoors and while he hated the pits he liked the trips to the distant mines. They went in by horse, along trails bordering the rivers. He says the Salmon would be “bad shooting” because the rapids are very rocky. He does not have the usual doubts about kayaks in rough water because he has seen the Eskimos doing their tricks. 

In mental attitude Lyle is a lot like By [By Haines, All-American UW Husky football player] (He played football somewhere), and in speech he has a likeable Gadke-ish quality.
He is a bookkeeper now, and studied it somewhere along the line. His is a conservative politically, hates Wallace and Ickes but sees good in Roosevelt as a war leader. Borahish in Idahoan inconsistencies he hates Henry Ford and public utilities. 

Lyle will be the first of the fellows to leave the hut if everyone goes in the order now expected. After that we will lose Thornton, Richardson, Reger, and Tim. But Tim hopes to get a transfer soon so within four months Mac and Hesse may be the only oldtimers sharing the joint with me.

According to schedule, Jack should go in a couple of months or sooner. He arrived with Deckard. But he doubts that he will be out on time. I am almost tempted to hope he does not get out right away for he is the closest companion I have found since entering the Army. My liking for him is probably an evidence of a narcissus-complex. He is a hell of a lot like me, more so than I care to think of another person’s being.

Jack takes no pains to conceal attitudes towards people. He will probably grow out of that because there is an unnecessary brutality in some of his criticisms. But most of them are valid. On those he likes just a little more than an active dislike, he practices a bold baiting. His favorite victim is Mac the Missionary.

At one time Mac and Jack were hutmates. One of the other men shared Jack’s virulent views about would-be mystics and raw reformers. So they made up rhymes and shouted them to each other from opposite sides of Mac’s bunk. One night Jack literally dreamed up this one and woke the hut by repeating it with dripping water regularity:
Ecclisstocracy—Tis ought but fraught
                       With thought distraught

He entered the best of these Nash nip-ups in his notebook under the title of “Bits of Glass.” My favorite of those I have seen is
                                Life in this Quonset
                                For them that want it
                                  Is all very good, I say

                                But I’ll live my life
                                Where evil is rife
                                  For I’m of a common clay.

That reminds me of a story I found in “Lord of Alaska.” It is the tale of a Russian missionary who went to one of the Aleutian villages on the mainland because he wanted to preach to Indians unspoiled by the white man. He was accepted in one town but the natives considered him “unnatural” because he would not sleep with any of the native women and said that all men should give up three of their four wives. The author quotes this story as told by an Indian boy:
“One morning the village howled with laughter. The night before one of the girls of the village had crept into Father Juvenal’s cell and got into his bed with him. The three of us boys were sleeping in the other room and we heard him say something—then there was a silence for a long time—after which he screamed like a madman that she had made him fall and he drove her out of the house with a stick.
Father Juvenal
“The next morning he did not come out of his cell for a long time, and when he did he seemed like a man who had lost his sense. His eyes were wild and staring, his hair was disheveled…he was afraid to go into the village though I told him everyone would consider it only a joke. My father rocked with laughter when he heard that one of the girls had persuaded him to be a man…when the women saw him they laughed. It made him angry and he turned on them with harsh words. They could not understand his words but his tone was insulting. A circle formed around him. Someone hit him and he fought back. I was sick to my stomach when they pushed him down…someone drew a knife, walked toward him as he lay there and buried the knife to the hilt in his back, then stepped back. The crowd watched, silently. Juvenal lay several minutes the blood streaming from the hole in his back, then to everyone’s horror he seemed to want to rise. The crowd fell back, stricken with awe. He put his hands to the ground and lifted himself, slowly, to his feet, then stood there, swaying. Blood trickled down his beard, smeared his face, and streamed down his black cassock. I saw his lips move and he clasped his hands: ‘Oh God come to my assistance. Oh Lord, make haste to help me. Let them be confounded and ashamed that seek my soul.’
“Suddenly the crowd yelled with fury and were on him again, this time with knives. And when they had torn Father Juvenal apart their threw the pieces into the lake…”
That little Aleutian Decameronet is the wildest story in the book but the whole thing is a really good job. It is the best biography I can recall and the foreword is a superb description of the Aleutians. It was written by a disciple of Prof. [Edmund] Meany. If you can find it at the library take it out. “Lord of Alaska” by Hector Chevigny.
[It turns out that this story of Father Juvenal's death is a forgery, and Chevigny left it out of later versions of his work. A equally colorful if less racy version comes from a blog by the Very Reverend Father Peter-Michael Preble, a motorcycle riding priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church in America:

In 1795, Father Juvenal baptized over 700 Chugatchi at Nushek, then he crossed Kenai Bay and baptized the local people there. In 1796, according to native oral tradition, St Juvenal came to the mouth of the Kuskokwim near the present village of Quinahgak, where he was killed by a hunting party (There is a forged diary attributed to Ivan Petroff which gives a slanderous version of Fr Juvenal's death, and alleges that he was martyred at Lake Iliamna).

The precise reason for St Juvenal's murder by the natives is not known. However, they later told St Innocent something about his death. They said that St Juvenal did not try to defend himself when attacked, nor did he make any attempt to escape. After being struck from behind, he turned to face his attackers and begged them to spare the natives he had baptized.

The natives told St Innocent that after they had killed St Juvenal, he got up and followed them, urging them to repent. The fell upon him again and gave him a savage beating. Once more, he got to his feet and called them to repentance. This happened several times, then finally the natives hacked him to pieces. Thus, the zealous Hieromonk Juvenal became the first Orthodox Christian in America to receive the crown of martyrdom. His unnamed guide, possibly a Tanaina Indian convert, was also martyred at the same time.

It is said that a local shaman removed St Juvenal's brass pectoral cross from his body and attempted to cast a spell. Unexpectedly, the shaman was lifted up off the ground. He made three more tries with the same result, then concluded that there was a greater power than his own at work here. Years later, a man showed up at the Nushagak Trading Post wearing a brass pectoral cross exactly like the one worn by St Juvenal.

A column of light arose from his holy relics and reached up to Heaven. It is not known how long this phenomenon continued.]
You are love with a massive muchness, Nunny.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Umnak, Monday, 24 July 1944

Hello My Sweet…
This has been an exceptionally nice day – nice except no letter from you. No one got any mail.
After dinner Jack and I went for a long walk, over to the spot where our favorite spring rushes cold and clear from a rocky hillside. We took along a can of Kraft cheese and a box of soda crackers and lay in the long gras and ate and read TimeTimes. The only things missing were beer or wine and watermelons to make it a picnic; beer or wine and watermelons and you to make it perfect. and the drama section of the Sunday.
The cloud effects here are superb. I really believe they are more impressive than at Patzcuaro. The warm winds from the Jap-currented Pacific and the cold winds from the Bering meet over the Aleutians, and on how they mix depends the weather you folks get down below later. 
Because of this continual clash of air currents, we get strange clouds. One clear day the local mountain was perfectly outlined in clouds, its every irregularity matched in shimmering white. At first glance I thought I was seeing the mountain itself, and that I had never realized just how large it was. Later the cloud moved on, still a clear echo of the peak, and hung over the grey water of the Pacific.
Today, as often, the clouds had a curious solidity, as though modeled in clay. They brooded over the hills and gave the bare promontories in the distance an eerie aura, as though the mists might shroud Druids. One view, of radio towers against a breastlike black mound, had all the civilization-nature contrast of Chirico’s “Rose” painting in Jaqueline’s [Jaqueline Onslow-Ford] bedroom. 
As we lay in the grass, Jack and I talked over some of the fellows in camp, among them “Reb,” our lone Southerner. He is a kindly kid, prejudiced but quiet about his attitudes, not unintelligent, very much in love with his young wife, and very worried because she is losing weight and worried about him. Jack, who doesn’t like Southerners, abides him simply because of one superb remark he made in a bull session. The boys were talking about religion and the Reb remained very quiet. Finally Jack asked, “What’s your religion?” “Texan.”
We walked along the stream for a mile or so. I was picking flowers for the hut – mostly hydrangeas [probably they weren’t hydrangeas], because they smell so much like gardenias which remind me of so many wonderful things including a Christmas night in New York – and Jack was hunting for sweetpeas so that he could send some to his father and prove they do grow here. He found the plants but they are no longer in bloom.
Walking back we saw some men come along a road in a jeep. They stopped the car quickly, got out, and started to throw rocks. Then we saw the fox running up the hill. We yelled at them to stop but the wind was coming from the wrong direction. When we got closer we saw they were officers. It was the first time since I have been in the army that I really wished I had rank.
Johnny Hazen came over for tea. Of all the men in the ACS here, he has probably the most intelligent interest in the war and in postwar problems. His approach is that of an embryonic tycoon, and at time his emotional reaction to Roosevelt seems to color his international opinions. But he does keep up with the news. 
We dialed around on the radio trying to pick up the news. Ten p.m. has always been such a full period for news broadcasts that I am amazed whenever a station doesn’t carry a show at that time. Our local station doesn’t, so we had to fish the ether. We brought in Australia – and more of the incredibly good reports of the last few days: the Russians in Lublin and within forty miles of Warsaw, a new offensive in the Caen area, Pisa in our hands, advances on Guam. How is Seattle reacting to this saturation bombing of glad tidings? 
Johnny and I also talked over Stadium and the graduating class of 1933. It was strange to pull names out of my memory that had entirely forgotten and then to be able to remember stories about them. Willie Jack, Alyce Wilson, Bob Hamilton [later a PGA golf champion], Al Brown, Jane Ramsby (who chased Hugh Thompson [Thompson went on to Julliard and then the Metropolitan Opera for a long career as a lyric baritone] like Monty chases Rommel), Roger Scudder. Hazen has received his orders to report to Seattle for the pre-OCS school. He will be down before long and has promised to look you up. Has Pete Pedersen put in an appearance yet?
A beautiful quote from CBS on the revolt in Germany: “This is the twilight of the men who tried to be gods.” God how I wish I were with CBS now.
I am now reading Equinox by Allan Seagar. If you get a chance take a look at the first chapter. In one character, Loudoun, he has a wonderful parody of the Wolfe style of writing. It is too savage to miss.
Your letters yesterday were wonderful, my pet. I especially enjoyed the comments on “love” by the three of you. Carmen’s [Carmen Fett, married at the time to modernist painter Bill Fett] “It’s a habit” is so wonderfully Mexican, but yours was so right about ours. …
I forgot to tell you. At the library the other day Jack was looking at some books on psychology. He asked if they had basic writings of Freud. The librarian looked at him doubtfully and Jack said it again, this time making the word “Frood” instead of “Froyd.” But our hero still looked doubtful. Finally he said, “Better stay away from dat stuff, chum, dat’s bad business up here, psychology. Gets yuh talking to yerself. I have to stay away from thinking about how much I miss you and long the time is.
You are adored, Nunny,
Ever, M

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Umnak Island, 26 July 1944

Hello Little Darling…

The only things missing were you dashing to investigate the crashing in the darkroom and Manuel stomping around in sheet and serape.

I woke early this afternoon ready to curse the reviled Reger for making even more noise than usual on his way to the toilet. But Reger wasn’t there. Next I thought the oil stove was shaking, for the one in our hut has the same habits as the one in the houseboat. The stove was shaking, but so was everything else. By the time it was over I realized: earthquake.

The temblor was short and far from snappy. It did no damage to anything except my sleep. Were it not that it reminded me of my only other shaker it would not have been exciting. But as it is, I have spent the day thinking of our February flip in Patzcuaro and the subsequent birth of Paracutin. I will have to remember to look around tomorrow and see if we have any new mountains sprouting in our back yard.

Besides bothering my sleep for a good five minutes, the quake had one other effect. It reminded me again how new this country up here is. Because the meadow is soft and green and the hills smooth and green, I seldom think of the Aleutians’ birth in fire and tidal wave. Usually this spot seems older than the Puget Sound country, mainly because there are few obvious manmade scars on the landscape. But the quake reminded me that in a geologic sense the Aleutians haven’t quite got it made.  

I have another story to tell you about our library. This one is relayed by Jack, who went over tonight to return a couple of books. Looking over the racks he picked up “Look Homeward, Angel,” the same Modern Library edition that we have. Not convinced by my tirades against Thomas, evidently, he decided to take it out. The librarian said, “That isn’t no library book. It’s mine, but I’ll loan it to you all right.” Jack said thanks and asked if he liked Wolfe. “Sure thing, I like the whole series.” Jack said, “Oh, you’ve read all Wolfe’s books?” “Ah, no, fella. I like all them giants.”

The local radio station also came up with a magnificent snafu today. I believe I have told you how we get our news. The station relays the shortwave broadcast from San Francisco. At seven o’clock tonight the local announcer made his usual bridge, “We take you now to San Francisco where we join the United Network for the news.” There was a decent pause and then a metallic voice started talking about “the enemy naval attack on Sumatra.” Radio Tokyo talking. After about two minutes of Jap propaganda, our local announcer must have decided something was a bit off beam. He mumbled something about “technical conditions beyond our control” and for the rest of the news period we heard Spike Jones and his city slickers breaking down “Begin the Beguine” and “That Old Black Magic.”

We had better music later, the Philadelphia Symphony with Ormandie conducting everything from a Bach fugue (bloody) to Tales from the Wienerwald. In between was a violin concerto concerning Spain with Milstein playing. I didn’t get the composer’s name.
Bill Fett watercolor, 1940s
As I listened I went through the drama sections of the New York Times that came last week. (I have received no papers or packages since then, but the phonograph needles came all right.) On the art page I found a brief mention of awards in the Chicago Art Institute show. Bill [Fett] didn’t get any of them. But the same article mentioned that a one-man show of watercolors by William Fett was being held. Now I await eagerly the next edition of the Sunday Times in expectation of a review of Bill’s latest work. Has he sent Carmen any news about it? 

Other items I ran across in the art and drama sections included a review of some Chirico painting and a reprint of one (a girl and railway station in strange perspective), a note that Sir Thomas Beecham is to conduct a Mozart festival in Mexico City this summer, and Jerome Robbins won a prize for the best ballet of the year.

Wedding picture: by Rosa Morgan for Dolph Zubick
By the time you get this you will probably have quit Zubick’s, unless he talks you into talking a vacation instead. Since you complain little in your letters I don’t know what brought things to a head. But whatever you have decided is quite all right with me. I am not particularly enthused about society pictures. In fact my only real objection to your leaving is that I knew what your darkroom was like there and could always imagine you in it. Now, until I get more letters, I cannot even picture your routine. I hope you get another photographic  job. While it would be nice for you to be working with Carmen at Boeings, I think you would enjoy yourself more messing with chemicals, developers, and sensitized paper. 

I think that something should be done to bring the matter of Jean’s [Elliott] presence to an end. There is not point of your living under nervous pressure both at work and at home. Obviously it is not working well to have her with you. So can’t I write a gentle letter hinting that she would be much more comfortable in San Francisco, Salem or Savannah?
Tonight, John Hazen joined Jack and me in our evening tea and, probably because of a bit of high school reminiscing, the conversation got onto the general subject of education.
Hazen is pontifical as a Pius in his approach to any discussion and his rumbling voice and slow “Well…now…I…don’t…know…that…that…is…right” after each statement by someone else infuriates Jack. Jack started out to bait him by saying that education in Germany is probably superior to that in the U.S. Hazen snapped it up with the slow positiveness of an old bass taking a moth and from there the subject went for afield. I kept trying to bring them back long enough to get definitions, but it was never settled whether Hazen was referring to education as assimilation of facts or creation of an attitude, and whether Jack thought that an individual indoctrinated with both a love of the classics and a hatred of other races could be considered better education than a man with far fewer facts and a little more tolerance. Somewhere along the line Jack began to take the intellectual game we were playing seriously. He became quite intent in defending his position that political and racial bigotry in education does not necessarily hamper the capacity of the students for scientific studies. At last he jumped up and stomped out, apparently angry with John. It will be a good thing when Jack gets his furlough. He has been up here two years now. But boy how I will miss him.

Your letter today asked what I think about the nomination of Truman as VP to run with Roosevelt. Well I’ve already told you about my lack of enthusiasm but intention to vote for Roosevelt anyway. I intend to cast a write in ballot for Wallace.

To me it looks like another of Roosevelt’s smart political tricks. He wrote a letter backing Wallace so that he could not be accused of running out on him after forcing him down the throats of the convention four years ago. But he would not follow through with any pressure other than the letter. And he put the tab on Truman as number two, which was practically an invitation for the convention to go that way after the first ballot.

Paul Robeson and Henry Wallace: 1948 Democratic Convention
As a political candidate Wallace is dead as a dinosaur, but there is a strong possibility that FDR will appoint him to some rather good post in the government after the election. Roosevelt has so far taken pretty good care of former New Dealers. But the whole thing rather sticks in my craw. Politics, like Spam, is an easy thing to get too much of. 

Sometime when you have nothing else to send for the week, please ship up my Bulgarian fur hat. The fellows say you need something over your ears here in winter and that cap should not only be warm but sensational.. Also if Bill is still around ask him to check up in the mailing room and see that my APO number has been changed in Seattle because I still have not received any magazines direct. All of them have been forwarded from APO 980. Also in some package please enclose my copy of “The Prince and the Discourses.”

About the job again, Nunny. I am awfully glad that you are going to be able to take a vacation. The most important thing of all is your health. I want you to be in shape to paddle me down the Mississippi.

You are much loved, little one, and so are your letters.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Umnak Island, 27 July 1944

Dearest Nunny...

A good day, this. The mail brought a letter from you, one from Sergeant Lewis of Muroc Air Base [Howard Lewis], and two copies of the New York Times and a Fortune.

Howard had wrangled himself a two-day pass and gone in to Los Angeles. There he visited Nancy Winter, Tom Bridges, and the Wirsigs. [Wintner and Bridges worked on the 1943 Busby Berkeley movie The Gang’s All Here]. Of Nancy, he says, “She is working for very little per in the city news service, an organization that is bracing its feet for a long slide into bankruptcy… She says she is getting very valuable experience and I could hardly disagree. However, as I found out on the Bethlehem Globe-Times, there is experience and there is experience. She didn’t look too well, frankly…
“Of Me:  I’m having pretty tough going here. Your cherished compliments always backfire when I try to answer because I feel that I have some sort of a standard to live up to. And the harder I try, the longer I sit and stare at the typewriter, searching for the right cliché. I don’t understand, either, your thrashing about in search of a style. The last judgment I passed on our writing was made to another Columbian, something to the effect that I knew no one else who could make facts so interesting in themselves. So many of the current run of news articles apologize for the facts in them by putting icing over them, as if they were trying to hide the jumps in the cake. It’s a hell of a lot easier, god knows, but it takes more than icing to make a good cake. Now that you’re assured of a steady income, why not ease up on writing for a market and write for yourself at least a couple months? Maybe you are trying to find a style to suit your present existence—if you are I hope to hell you can’t. It always seemed to me that the major attribute of your prose was its vitality, growing out of the extremely active life you led—I mean active in your wholehearted enjoyment of life. If you try to change your style because you don’t feel the vitality any more—because living has slumped down the day-to-day existing—I think I would personally knock the living bejesus out of you.”
Howard’s comments on my writing style came, I guess because I praised his and expressed dissatisfaction with my own progress in the craft of getting stuff down on paper. I probably was singing a very low bass because my last letter to him was from the old station. But though I may have begged for a bone of praise, I didn’t expect the whole damn cow and feel exceptionally flattered at all those nice things. Bake a cake for Howard, or knit him a pair of gloves. 

[About Rosa planning to quit her job] I don’t blame you at all for getting fed up, nor for pulling out, but I envy you your vacation. When you go back to work I hope practically prayerfully that it is in some form of photographic work. I am counting on you supporting us postwar while I spend a couple more years getting the next three chapters done on Day of the Dead.

Your comments on my comments about Dewey make me wish I had a copy of that letter. I remember writing it at a moment of great dissatisfaction with politics in general but surely I wasn’t as enthusiastic about Tiny Tom as you indicate. I remember something about thinking even as I wrote that letter, that most of the arguments I gave could have applied just as well to Hoover in 1928 although the comparison probably is unjust. After all, Dewey has come of age politically during a period when the climate was liberal and it must have had some effect.

Frankly, I’m pretty sick of the whole business. I know that my attitude is probably based more on disgust for my current way of life than it is on the fundamental issues of politics at home. But that is only natural. It is impossible to keep from being affected by the intellectual climate of the Army. And being at once bored and tense I find it easier to get tense than bored by election year politics. 

It seems to me we are all voting hunches, nothing more. We liberals have a hunch that Roosevelt is still a liberal although his actions no longer show it. We vote for him on the hunch that, re-elected, he will quit playing commander-in-chief and thinking like an army man and get back to looking after the forgotten man. The chief reason for thinking he will do that is that after the 1932 and 1936 elections he was much more liberal than he had indicated he would be during the campaign.

But he has been making compromises for five years now. And his biggest single compromise was his failing to back Wallace to the limit. Wallace, after all, was the last of the New Dealers. With the exception of Ickes and Larry Fly of the Federal Communications Commission there is not a New Dealer left in an important position—except on the Supreme Court where even FDR found he could not get rid of men easily. Wallace is gone, Corchoran is gone, Cohen is gone, Maverick is gone, Norris is gone, in fact try to find anyone of that frame of mind around any more. Name a New Dealer, quick. 

The habit of compromise is hard to break. It is easier to get along, as any study of the life of a Time editor will show. From the age of 57 to the age of 62 Roosevelt has been making concessions to promote harmony. All his current advisers and close associates are either the men he has made the concessions to (Jesse Jones, etc.) or those who have advised making the compromises (Hopkins, Ickes, etc.). It is going to take a lot of guts to go back and pick up where he left off in 1938.

You mention my use of the phrase “Tired Old Men.” I don’t know how tired FDR is, but it’s probably pretty. However, I wasn’t thinking of him. After all he makes up in experience and past efficient performance for at least some of the effects of age. But what about Hull? Good gray Cordell Hull, the greatest Secretary of State in a hundred years, sitting on his reciprocal trade treaties while the rest of the world hatches cartel agreements. The gallant old eagle hatched out policy of compromise with Italian Fascism and our policy of compromise with Spanish Fascism. What will he cluck up in regards to a defeated Germany? The fact that Russia also cuddles up to the House of Savoy is no justification for our doing so too. After all we don’t take our cues from the Comintern and Stalin’s doing something is not an argument for or against its being democratic.

The Secretary of Commerce is still Jesse Jones. Roosevelt gave him the friendly nod in his fight with Wallace last year. Wallace is now hat in hand at the White House door, hoping for a post-election appointment to something, anything, where he may be of some use. Jones is one of the most influential members of the government, in spite of the fact that he snafued our Latin American policy, our strategic stockpile policy and is all for turning the war plants over to the prewar monopolists. Even the British probably would have kicked him upstairs before this.

The Secretary of the Treasury is no has-been, he is a never-was. The Secretary of Labor is a national joke, too inefficient even to be important. The Attorney General is a Biddle. The Secretary of War is Stimson. Wickard is no Wallace, although he does appear to be passable. Ickes, still one of the best, nevertheless has not only gone along with all the compromises of the chief but has suggested a few of his own., the old curmudgeon. Probably the best man in the Cabinet is Forrestal, but he is an accident. Not even an insurance company would bet that the mortality rate among the rest of the oldtimers will be high enough in the next couple of years to help. And Roosevelt is not one to scuttle this secretaries, not matter how bad they become.

Nevertheless, there is no one else to vote for. Because if Roosevelt is the hunch bet of the liberals, Dewey is the hunch bet of the conservatives. They can’t be sure he will play their game. His record as governor of New York is not much more conservative than FDR’s was while he held the same job. But they are betting on his self-made smugness and the influence of the men who have been advising him—mainly Hoover. They may have something there. 

My disgust is not so much with the growing illiberalism of the administration but with the fact that although it is getting more and more complacent it can afford to. We have no one else to vote for. However I’ll fool them to a degree. I’m going to write in my own vice presidential vote and our Hank will be on the ballot.
Probably my general disgust with politics comes from the discussion we have been having recently. They are the same old sophomoric talks about ends and means, duty to society and duty to individuals, that I had ten years ago. And after ten years of little but talking I still haven’t made up my own mind. Still unresolved for me is the contradiction of my personal belief that end do not justify means and my growing realization that only coercion, based on government power, will eradicate social evils such as race prejudice.

This inability to decide wither I’m a liberal Dr. Jeckyl or a Machiavellian Mr. Hyde puts me more and more in the frame of mind that Koestler must have had when he wrote, “I felt like telling the world to go muddle through without me.” In other words, I’m ready to settle for a postwar world which will let me drift down the Mississippi.

Before leaving the subject of political attitudes, one other comment. For a while I was very pleased with the groundswell of internationalism. But more and more it seems to me that we have as many different kinds of internationalists as we have small-d democrats. And most of them are those who believe that we can be international on strictly our own terms. An internationalist who won’t make concessions at the peace table will be about as helpful as Bertie McCormick. The public has been “sold” the phrase—but not the meaning.
The hell with it.
I am looking forward to the picture of you in the sail boat, impatiently…also to the results of Haj’s romancing. If she has pups in the houseboat she had better make them water spaniels…remind Carmen she owes me a letter. My last one didn’t offend her for any reason, did it? …Do you like the song “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” I do, for it reminds me of the Village Vanguard and “Knock Me Some Chops.”
Only nine more months and I have it made, Nunny. It’s a long, long time.  …