Friday, November 12, 2010

Umnak, 6 September 1944


My darling…

It must have been a pretty good party in the houseboat on Labor Day because the telegram you sent from it is completely incomprehensible. As it came here it said, “Seagulls arrived in good shape   Phyllis and Otto approve  love.”

I’ve spent a day trying to sweat out the meaning but none of the theories I have developed sound entirely plausible. They are: 
  1.  Haj had pups. This is possible, although you would not have bathed her last week if she were noticeably pregnant. Besides, you will never convince me a seagull was responsible.
  2.  You bought a sailboat named the Seagull. This seems remotely possible but except for Jean’s onetime mention of getting a boat there has been no reference to such an idea in any of your letters
  3. Somebody sent you something resembling a seagull and you credited me with it. I didn’t and I can’t imagine who would
  4. You made a Labor Day weekend trip to Shelton and back and arrived in good condition. Still the “seagull” reference seems far fetched. 
  5. Phyllis and Otto came up for Labor Day and you all tipped the tequila until you achieved a state in which you could not be understood on the telephone.
This last seems the most reasonable. It was Labor Day and I imagine that Otto and Phyllis had the day off and came up from Shelton. The fact that you sent it black instead of deadhead means that you telephoned it in and did not take advantage of the chance to send a free msg to an ACS man. The filing time of 1159 means that the party was well under way. But even so I’m puzzled. Please write or wire an explanation if you haven’t already before receiving this.

I didn’t write yesterday because I was working on the article on the library. I’m sending you’re a carbon under separate cover but it probably won’t reach your for a month or so, until it has cleared half a dozen different censorships. Having rewritten the thing about five times now I am thoroughly disgusted with it. That one out of the way, I’m going back to work on the novel for awhile. Incidentally, I reread “A Job for Joe” yesterday in light of recent events in Rumania and it sounded much better. Try it yourself. 

We had one bit of excitement locally. Some of the boys were out in one of our truck Sunday to return empty beer bottles wherever they return them. They hit a soft spot on the road and turned over two and a half times. Greenleaf and Willie Friend were in the cab. They were thrown through the canvas roof. Willie came down on his shoulder and broke the blade. The Greenleaf lit on the side of his face and skidded along over gravel for about ten yards. He looks as if he had encountered the whole Third Army, tank by tank, but he is still on the job as TC. Yesterday he was even trying to punch a teletype although he had split his thumb and everytime he hit the space bar his thumb oozed blood. There were three kids in the back of the truck. The top was crushed down even with the top of the seats but none of them were hurt, not even scratched. 

There is considerable speculation as to what will happen to the five of them. We have a new commanding officer here now and he is properly peter oboed about the whole affair. The crack-up puts him on the spot and the ACS has messed up a couple of trucks before and ordinance is very unhappy about such things. 

According to army regulations the top ranking non-com in the car is responsible for it. But in this case the top ranking non-com, a staff sergeant , was riding in the rear end and probably didn’t know what was going on until he was standing on his head in a ditch. He is in charge of his particular branch of work here and if they break him he probably couldn’t remain in charge of it and yet there is no one really suited to take his place. I’m glad it’s not my problem.
The strangest thing about the whole affair, and the most unpleasant, is that jealousy it has revealed. Tim, who was broken for going on a drunk, feels that every man in the car should lose his stripes. His reasoning is, “I got screwed. I hope everyone else does.”
The Fort Monmouth contingent is gleeful because all the guys involved are regular ACS men. The them this proves something and they are rooting rabidly for stern disciplinary action. This attitude annoys me. But no more than the remark I heard one man make. “Too bad the Chief Operator wasn’t along.” I don’t like Godlewski myself, but I don’t see this wishing trouble onto anyone.

Even Jack, I believe, is rooting for the trouble to tie up Greenleaf for awhile. This attitude grows out of the rivalry between them. They are racing to see who gets out here first. Jack sent in his application for a furlough first but Greenleaf is under orders and Jack isn’t. So Jack is burned to a turn. He wanted to get out of here last year but couldn’t because he was told that first furloughs went to men with the most time in isolation, that time on the Mainland didn’t count. Now Greenleaf who has less Aleutian time than Jack stands a good chance of leaving here first. And Jack wishes him ill. Again the “If I get reamed I hope everyone else does” attitude.

This is his one major fault, his bitter selfishness. Yet it undoubtedly stems from what to me is his main virtue, his ability to spend four years in the army and not have it take. His few of the army habits: he does his work as well as possible as fast as possible, he is alert and curious, he has other interests then sex and a vocabulary which extends beyond the rudimentary Anglo-Saxon epithets. His interest in literary and world in general has given him a feeling of superiority to the average of the men he is associated with. He is undoubtedly the intellectual superior of almost everyone in camp. But what he does not realized, it seems to me, is that superior abilities do not mean superior rights but, instead, superior obligations.

[remainder of letter is missing]

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