Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Adak Island, 28 June 1944

It seems I am always packing.

My change to APO 948 has been approved, at least by all local powers, and currently I am sweating out receipt of orders from Seattle. I am supposed to be ready to go at a moment’s notice when the orders to arrive, so today I reloaded my barracks bags. 

I will probably travel by Milair: by Army transport plane. That means my total weight allowance is 300 pounds, including myself. So I will have to ship one of the barracks bags. Most of my packing time was spent wrapping books in old socks, long underwear and wilted fatigues.

Now the bags are untidily lined up beside my bunk and there they may remain for weeks and weeks, this being the Army. On the other hand, I may be out of here at any time. You had better begin writing to the new address…

Springfield rifles in sunnier days
I have several hopes about the trip. One is that I do go by air. Another that it is a clear day, for I can imagine no more beautiful scenery—especially as I will be going in the right direction. I would also like to go before Saturday as on that sad occasion there is going to be an inspection of rifles. This is in line with the re-GI-ing of the post in general and the ACS in particular. My weapon, which hangs on the wall behind my clothes, is an old Springfield, an ’03 which I suspect hasn’t been fired since the Battle of the Marne. Getting it ready for inspection would be like getting Haj ready for a dog show.

The reactions to my impending departure were not even faintly flattering. Hoiman (“The Goiman”) West said, “Scheiss. There goes the typewriter.” Paul declared, “They can’t do that to us. Not when you just got the hotplate.” And Ray rumbled, “You can’t go until I’ve finished reading the book (Barnes’s Intellectual and Cultural History of the Western World).” Of such stuff popularity is made. 

In a way I hate to leave. Especially the hut. While it is crowded and usually too hot [Murray thought anything above about 55 was too hot, an attribute that suited him well to later life at Trout Lake], it nevertheless is what I am used to as an Aleutian home. And we have been improving it steadily. Since I have come we have built a couple of walks leading into it, shoveled dirt around the edges so that the wind no longer whips through the floor, erected a urinal  and put up the storm porch which Perry purloined. Currently the engineers in the hut are planning a running water sink and an oil pipe running to the fifty gallon drums which sit outside the hut.
But there are certainly compensations, even as to leaving the hut. We have become a poker hut, one in which a game is always in progress. This means steady noise, cigar smoke solid enough to fill chinks in the floor, and occasional bad feelings. For me it has been an especially bad development because the games are always played at our end of the hut and it is practically impossible even to keep a lien on my typing stool, much less to concentrate on writing. 

In my last letter I mentioned that I was going to replace Terry Moore, a friend of the Elliotts and Jameses. The subconscious of a former sports editor must be permanently warped. The man I meant was Johnny Moore. Terry Moore exists. In fact there are a couple of them: (A) an infielder with the Giants; (B) a welterweight who once fought 12 rounds with Barney Ross.

Good Bill Green has a letter from Moore describing his station. Moore was not particularly enthused, but his unhappiness seemed to stem from the fact that he was not doing the same sort of work that he and Gene had done in Seattle. He spoke of going on a fishing trip and seeing fox and caribou, which would indicate a more interesting assortment of wildlife than we have here. 

It is true what the strange sailor told us about worms. On the other hand, there are increasing numbers of birds—the early ones of which are bound to be disappointed. We are also getting an early spring influx of insects, including some surprisingly sturdy limbed daddy-longlegs. At one time this forlorn foxhole was commercial foxhole. A trapper bred blue fox hereabouts. I saw his shack the other day. When things were the worst in this area, he turned loose his animals and took to the hills. Later he was evacuated, and now he is back, serving the Army in a civilian capacity. It is said that his foxes are reproducing madly and that if he can round them up after the war he will be in the money. But that is rumor. I haven’t talked to anyone who has seen any of the critters. How they keep hot here I don’t know.

When you finish The Telephone Booth Indian (and by the way, I haven’t received any New Yorkers recently), you had better turn to the Mark Twain set and read “Life on the Mississippi” because that is the number one project on our postwar list—just while we are deciding where to go next. And I would also sort of like to show the Columbia who is boss. Box Canyon still bothers my conscience. And so do the last two hundred miles of the Danube.

I see the Republicans not only went back to 1920 to get a Harding candidate who represents zero squared, but made the farce complete by picking another Coolidge as the vice presidential candidate. Looks like we have to vote for that man again. (How about the straight Prohibition ticket?) Up here all tidings of the Republican doings were received with momentous unconcern. I doubt that the Demo conventions will raise any more excitement.

Dewey and Gover
From the fact that Willkie immediately congratulated Dewey, I assume that he is going to follow the oldest of political axioms: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Of course there is always the excellent chance that he was always with them

One of the more interesting things should be watching the Luce publications chew up all those nasty things they have been saying about Toothbrush Tom. (Did you notice the repetition of the joke which came out after Dewey was pictured with his Great Dane: “I’m going to vote for the big man with the little dog.”) There was an amusing editorial in a recent Life entitled “Advice to the Republicans.” In it, Life said that it was “non-partisan” but would choose between the GOP and Democratic candidates later. It advised the GOP to think twice before nominating Dewey. By implication, at least, it was for Taft or Bricker. Ugh. 
Roosevelt, Fala, and Ruthie Bie


We had a swell letter from Howard Lewis yesterday. I’ll send it along as soon as I have finished it. Somebody pulled the wrong card from a file and he was yanked right out of his beautiful Miami Beach project and deposited, unadmittedly disgusted, at the Muroc Army Air Field—right in the middle of the Mojave Desert. He is doing publicity work there and still talks as though he expects to be sent overseas before the business is over, although I suspect that his eyes will keep him home. [Howard was in fact sent to Italy, where he earned a Bronze Star.] He sold his “Why I Fight” essay to “This Week,” the New York Herald Tribune Sunday supplement, for $250. Distinctly not fodder.


There is a short story in the June Harper’s, “Look at Miss Memford,” which you should not miss. Neither should Phyllis. John-Boy’s Harper reviews are progressively poorer. He seems to me to be busy justifying himself for becoming wealthy out of his writing. He should take his money for granted and quit rationalizing. He has a lot to say of more interest.

Keep writing, my sweet. Your letters are so wonderfully like you.
M

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