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at least my hands weren't blown off
Written by: Robert Sandell
Commentary by: Alex Sandell

Letter # 17

Wednesday July 28 '43

Dear Mother -

Am feeling fairly good down here in this hot place, although it has cooled off a little in the last couple of days. It's been raining quite a bit. It just quit one rain a few minutes ago. Right now I'm out in the woods again sitting on the edge of the hole I just dug. You can see little rivers of rain seeping in. It's almost like a shower, only a bit more muddy.

If Elmer has to soon be inducted he should try the Navy and if he don't pass that he should get into the Merchant Marine. Anything is better than the Army.

It begins to look like in the first part of August we come out into the woods for about three weeks then in September we go on regular maneuvers for maybe about until November. Then there's a chance that we might get another furlough after. Remember, I said might get one. Things might not work out that way at all. Nothing is really mapped out down here. Just sort of scattered rumors of salvation to keep us all smiling deep down in our Fox Holes.

There's all kinds of rumors going around. One rumor is that we're going to a camp in Illinois. I sure wish that one would be true, but I doubt it. Another rumor is that we'll move to Arizona for desert maneuvers. I hope that one will never be true.

I'm sure glad July is almost over, although August is supposed to be just as hot, if not even hotter than July. But anyway part of the hot weather has gone by.

This place isn't so bad when it cools off. Now if it would only stay cool for a while! Last Friday afternoon (July 23rd) was the hottest so far. It was 128 degrees. I was talking with some people that live around here and they said they've never seen it so hot in their life! Back up there in Minnesota it was 109 above one day in 1936. That was the record. I was in the CCC's at that time. But it didn't feel near as hot as last Friday because it isn't near as moist in Minnesota as it is here. It was actually kind of like steaming all over here last Friday.

I'm just trying to think what to write about. It sure is strange that whenever I start to write a letter I can't think of a thing to write about. One thing is that we do so much of the same thing day after day that it doesn't leave much to write about. So all I write about is the same thing day after day. I feel like I'm boring everyone I write to.

This morning we got up at 3:30 AM. Seems like they want us to get used to getting up at any time because that's the way it'll be in maneuvers. In maneuvers (which is a pretended battle), we're liable to be woke up in the middle of the night and have to be ready to go inside of 10 minutes. Some of the fellows that have been on maneuvers say that they've had to move sometimes 3 or 4 times in one night. Each time they had to tear their tent down, pack all their equipment, fill up their fox holes, and then when they reached the new spot they'd have to dig another fox hole, unpack their equipment, set up their tent and maybe sleep for another half hour when they'd again be wakened to go through the same thing all over again. Remember that during the night we can't use any lights at all. Another thing is the small amount of water allowed each man. We'll get one or maybe 2 canteens of water (there's 1 quart in a canteen), which we have to use for drinking washing and shaving. That has to last at least 24 hours. They do have what's known as a mobile shower unit that travels around the different parts of the woods where the soldiers are. But they might not have time to come around for weeks. Then there's some creeks and small rivers around here where a person could bathe but I don't like the looks of the water. It isn't clean & fast running like the creeks are in Minnesota. Down here they're slow and very dirty and muddy. Those are the reasons I hate to even think of maneuvers that look like they'll soon be coming.

Last Sunday the mother & father of the fellow who sleeps next to me came over to visit him. So this fellow told me to come along with them on a ride. It was a swell rid. We went to a town named Natchez which is on the banks of the Mississippi river, and it's in the state of Mississippi right across the river from Louisiana. It's about 110 miles from camp. The Mississippi river looks quite a bit like it does up there. But it's quite a bit wider here. Natchez is built on the bluffs overlooking the river. It's a real old town with lots of old Southern mansions in it. You see, a lot of the rich cotton land owners live there, while they have Negro sharecroppers working the land. Seems not much has changed here since the end of slavery!

We went by a lot of these sharecroppers shacks. That's all they are is shacks! That's all they are given! It seems each family has about 8 or 10 small kids. The cotton isn't ripe yet, so it hasn't opened up. They start picking it anywhere from September to December. The sharecroppers like to sit around their front porches, where they can catch any small breeze that might be blowing and still be out of the sun.

It felt good to ride again in a civilian car.

Well mother, by the looks of the news, it may not be such a long time before the war is over. It looks like Italy is all through now that Mussolini was kicked out.

Here it's Thursday morning now & we're back at camp. But we go out into the woods again today.

Well, I guess I'll close now and get this letter mailed before we get called out to start on the days work! Tell Elmer to drop me a line. Got a letter from Martha yesterday. She said Elmer already quit his job. Well, write soon and I'll try to write a little oftener too.

Regards,

Bob

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