In the late spring of 1944 I was drafted into the Navy. Draftees always went into the Army. The Navy was all volunteer. I was drafted into the Navy because I had passed the Eddy test. This test was created by Navy Captain Eddy and passing it enabled a draftee to be inducted into the Navy rather than the Army and to be enrolled into what they called the RT, (radio technician) training program. The purpose of this training program was to train recruits to service and repair radar, sonar, radio direction finding equipment and the like.
I was working at Lockheed Aircraft and thus had a military deferment. However, I suspected that as the need for more men in the military grew I would probably be drafted. And if so, I would rather be in the Navy than the army, so I took the Eddy test. I had to cheat to pass the test, but that’s another story which is told elsewhere in this book.
One day I received a penny post card from President Harry Truman. It read “The president of the United States sends greeting.” I thought “how nice.” Then it said, “You are commanded to appear at …” and it gave the address and date and time. This address was the location of my draft board and it just happened to be located in a room at a school where I had attended grammar school.
Phyllis and I and little Margie, who then went by her middle name Linda, to differentiate her from her grandmother who was also Margie Moore, lived in a kind of raunchy little two bedroom, one bath house on two acres of wooded land at the end of a little traveled road beside a wash which sometimes had running water in it. We rented this house for $15 a month!
We visualized ourselves as ranchers and we had chickens, rabbits, ducks, a goat and a horse. When I was drafted, I left Phyllis with all of these animals to dispose of, as she would, and as soon as possible, move out of this pristine little place to follow me to the various places where I was stationed.
My first station in the Navy was “Boot Camp” at Great Lakes Naval Training Center just outside of Chicago. I went there by traveling five days in an altered box car in a freight train with fifteen other guys from my area. The best thing about this trip was that the food was good. We ate in the Harvey Houses along the way.
Normally boot Camp took 90 days, but in the war emergency this was shortened to a little over a month. Boot Camp was tough, hard training and more so during the war because of the attempt to cram this training into a shorter time. There was no liberty during Boot Camp (the recruits could not leave the base) and no visitors were allowed. Customarily there would be a leave at the end of Boot Camp. As I recall the leave would be 11 days.When I reached Boot Camp and got an address, Phyllis and I began daily written correspondence; although, the mail sometimes got lost or misdirected and came days late.
Our letters told much of our daily experiences: such as Phyllis’ ordeal in closing down our “ranch” and how she had to change a tire by herself and got all greasy; and the letters told about how I, along with all the other recruits, transitioned from civilian life to military life, and about various aspects of my training,
But they also told of how much we loved each other and about how much we missed each other. They told this much and often. Phyllis and I lived for the end of Boot camp and the leave that would allow us about a week together.
We each saved the others letters, but it was difficult for me to store them due to my very limited storage space which was a “sea bag” (a canvas bag less than one-foot in diameter and less than three-feet-high) which had to hold all of my clothes and possessions.
I kept Phyllis’ letters in my flat top sailor hat turned upside down at the very top of my sea bag to protect them from getting crushed. Even so the letters were getting pretty tattered. They had to be moved every time I had to get something out of the bag. Finally I decided that I just couldn’t keep them and I kissed them and disposed of them.
I have always regretted doing this. I didn’t think of it at the time but I might have wrapped them and sent them to Phyllis to keep for me. This would have been difficult, but it probably could have been done.
Phyllis kept my letters through all of our moves, which at one time included 13 moves in 11 years and she evidently knew where there were. I didn’t know that she still had them. A few months before Phyllis died, Margie came across the letters in a drawer in the den and told Phyllis about it. Margie said that Phyllis asked with a wry smile, “did you read them?” Margie said, “no,” and Phyllis said, “good.” Margie brought them to me and I put them in what I thought was a safe place and then I forgot where that safe place was!
Margie and I had searched for them to no avail. Yesterday, 8/1/09 I stumbled across them as I was putting something in a drawer.
I have been reading these letters, my letters to Phyllis, written in the summer of 1944, and on into the spring of 1945, 65 years ago! I find that the sentiment that I expressed and my feelings of loving her and missing her so much are exactly the same as the feelings that I have now. The terrible difference being that then, we knew that the separation would finally end and that we would be together again. The separation did end and we were together for a wonderful 65 years!
The separation is not going to end this time. It is forever, but I am so grateful for the wonderful life that I had with her.An excerpt from one of my poems about her tells it.
The excerpt is:
“And I realize when I think of what we had,
If it hadn’t been so good, it wouldn’t hurt so bad.”