Excerpts of letters written by Pocahontas County WWII Serviceman, Wyant Vanden Mecham. These letters have been graciously shared by his nephew, Jon Cook, for posting. The excerpts give good detail of the conditions and feelings of the serviceman writing the letters to his family back in Iowa.

Flight Officer, Wyant Vanden Mecham, lost his life in a downed flight over Burma on August 7, 1944.



Jefferson Barracks, Missouri
Feb. 5th, 1943

Dear Myrtle,
Well we got here about 11 a.m. Tues. morning.  All it is is mud and marching. I’m one tired little boy at night.  I think we only have to stay here for about 30 days and then we move.  One lieutenant even said that we were scheduled to move on the 20th of this month.  That won’t be so long and from the looks of this mud, it’s not any too soon. We haven’t any lights and just got water and so far we haven’t got any uniforms. We’re really roughing it. If you want you can send me a towel and washcloths or two, if you will. And some single edged razor blades.

Well, can’t think of much more and it is kind of hard writing in my bunk so I quite for the time being, but I’ll write again soon.

Love, Vanden

Jefferson Barracks
Feb. 17th, 1943

Dear Sis & Jean Marie,
I don’t want to seem cheap writing to two of you at once, but I got 5 letters tonight and I’m going to try and answer them all before lights out. First time that’s happened and one of them was yours. Sure glad to hear from you. Thought maybe you’d forgotten me. Did you say that you mailed me a package? I’ve never gotten any yet. Zelma sent me one and I got that but I never got the one with cigarettes and candy.  Darn it. It’d better be here pretty soon or I’ll sue the government.

Boy this one heck of a life here. About 5 minutes ago they carried out another guy on a stretcher.  The weather is enough to get anybody down.  Freezing one minute and roast the next. But were going to move in a few days so I won’t have to stand it much longer and don’t forget, that’s supposed to be a military secret. And you better not send any packages or anything till I send you my next address. But you can write letters.

We’ve got to get up here at 5:00, but we can go to bed anytime we want, but lights go out at 10:00.  Chows pretty good but not enough of it.  We get in about 3 or 4 hours a day drilling and don’t think they don’t make us work just because were in quarantine.  I got to go to St. Louis last night. First & probably last time.  Had a big T-bone steak and of all things we saw a burlesque show. Quite a time.

Jefferson Barracks
Feb. 22nd, 1943

Dear Myrtle, Archie, Jean, Jim, June, Jane, Jerry, Jon, Joan & Jackson,
Well, how’s everything cooking?  Got the package you folks sent.  It was really nice. While it lasted. Everything about the same around home?

It’s just the same here and it’s dammed tiresome. Get up, drill, eat and go to bed. All the time. Never change. Yesterday was Sunday and I got an all day pass into St. Louis and I didn’t get to bed till about 1 p.m., and 5 a.m. came to darned soon to suit me. Boy I could just about go to sleep standing up on the drill field. Didn’t do much in St. Louis.  Hung around the USO canteen.  They’re really nice. There’s one big one here that covers about a city block. It’s really big. And nice, too. Eats, drinks, dancing, games, almost everything.

Say did you know that I have your sugar ration book? I got to running through my civilian clothes before I sent them home and found it.  Remember when you sent me down to Segretto’s for a lb. of coffee before I left? Guess that’s when I got a hold of it. I’m sending it back in the letter tho, so you won’t miss any sugar, coffee or shoes. Boy I was pretty lucky.  Just a couple of days before they stopped selling shoes, I bought me a good pair up to the Post Exchange. Just to under the deadline, didn’t I?

Well, Sis, this makes about the 4th letter I’ve wrote tonight, Mom & Dad, Zelma & you and Joyce—so I’ll guess I sign off and get some sleep.
Love Vanden
P.S. Say I forgot to ask Zelma in her letter if she would go over to the tire department at the Royal and see if that inner tube that I had fixed is still there. Dad wants it for the Ford. It’s a 4:50-21 size, has a lot of patches around where the valve stem was and a different sleeve put in on a different spot. Maybe she can get Bob Ault to help her.  Vanden

AAF/College Training Detachment
Mount Pleasant, Iowa
Feb. 27th, 1943

Dear Myrtle,
Well how’s everything? Got some pretty good news to tell you.  I’ve been shipped out of Jefferson Barracks, and guess where I’m at and without looking at my return address on the envelope. I’m at good old Iowa Wesleyan Teachers College.  We live in dormitories and it’s really nice.  You can’t see through the walls and you don’t have to build your own fire. Showers and toilets and dining room all in the same building. At least we don’t have to walk nine miles to meals everyday like we had to at J.B. at first.  It’s pretty darn soft.

Well, is everything pretty much the same at home? Everybody still alive and kicking huh? Well I’ll guess I’ll close and you write soon.
Love, Vanden

Mount Pleasant, Iowa
March 22, 1943

Dear Sis & Jean,
Gosh I’ve been kind of dropping behind here in my letters so I’ll try and write to both you and Jean at the same time. Lazy aren’t I?

Well things here are really pretty rugged. They don’t give a fellow much time to do anything.

The weather here is really getting nice now. Buds are getting out on the trees and grass is getting green and there’s just a few patches of snow left.

Gosh a fellow can hardly write in here.  All the rest of the fellows are making so dam much noise.

Zelma sent me a package yesterday and Joyce sent me one and I got them both on the same day.  Boy did we eat.

And Jean, how are you and your boyfriends coming along? How many have you got now? You want to remember that the man power is getting scarce and you should leave a few for the other girls.  Well, this is about all for this time, so I’ll close.
With lots of love, Vanden

Mount Pleasant, IA
April 12, 1943

Dear Myrtle & family,
Well Sis, I’ve finally found time to answer your letter.  Times getting scarce & scarcer. Keeps one pretty busy here.

And listen, Sis, what would you sai if I said I was going to get married?  Write and tell me. A little advice won’t hurt anybody. Not now of course, but when & if I get my wings land $300 a month. What would you say?

Well, if I’m going to be a pilot, I’m gonna have to buckle down.  I got a demerit today fro my bed.  Not made right. If I don’t ever make it, it won’t be my fault.

I got my picture taken at last and you’ll probably get one some time next week. Guess that’s about all for this time so I’ll close.  Love, Vanden

Mount Pleasant
May 9th, 1943

Dear Myrtle & Archie,
Well, looks as if I’d better write you another letter before you answer my last one.

Did I tell you that we were flying? I suppose Zelma did, if I didn’t. Frankly, I’m not so hot. Could be much better. A lot better in fact. But I’ll learn, if I live long enough.

Since I started this letter, I’ve finished flying.  Had my check flight this morning. Didn’t do so bad, but there’s room for improvement.  It really was a lot of fun though.  Wish I could take ten hours more of instruction. But I guess I have to wait until I get to primary.

The next letter I write you will probably have a different address on it.  We’re moving out in a couple of days. Where we don’t know, but we’ll soon find out.  Going to classification. There they see whether you’ll make a pilot or not. And I hear if you flunk out, you get a ten day furlough so I’ll probably be seeing you.

So your with me whether I get married or not? It’s nice to have somebody on our side.

Joyce was down last weekend and we sure had a swell time.  I was going to try and get a 3-day pass this weekend to come home, but no soap. Guess we won’t be here to get it.  It’d sure be nice to come home once more.  I’m afraid if I can keep going and don’t flunk out of this training, I won’t get to come home till we’re all done, which probably won’t be until next winter. Not so good.

Lots of love, Vanden

Santa Anna Army Air Force Base
Santa Anna, CA.  May 11th, 1943

Dear Myrtle & family,
Well Sis, here I is.  Santa Ana, CA. Its swell weather, just a little hot, but the camp is awful dry and dusty. No grass or trees. But I guess there’s worse camps in the world.

We’re in quarantine here for 42 days, so that means that I’m not going to get to see much of anything for about six weeks.  We are classified here, which takes about two weeks and then we start pre flights. Hope there’s nothing wrong with me.

Had quite a train ride out here. It took three days. Quite a lot of scenery. Lots of mountains, sand and sagebrush.  When this war is over, I’m going to take a trip out here. It’s just about my turn.

Well, I can’t think of much else to write at the present time, but I’ll write again soon.  Tell everybody hello and the Jean Marie to be sure and share all her boyfriends with some of the other homily gals. Tsk. Tsk.

Well, I’ll be seeing you.  Love, Vanden

Santa Anna Air Base
May 21st, 1943

Dear Somebody or other:
I’ll write this to both you and Jean Marie, since I owe you one and Jean two. I got your announcement card today and it was a really nice one.  But the only trouble is I’m afraid that it’s going to cost me. But don’t worry; your dear old rich uncle will come through.  When I don’t know. I’ve got exactly $1.50 to my name and I don’t know if I’ll get paid this month or not since we’ve moved to a new post. But as soon as I get paid, I’ll run down to the dime store and get you something.  Good luck to you anyway.

All done with my physical examination and a million other little things and I think that I’ve passed everything so far.  All there is left is to take a pressure test and if I don’t pass out or something I’ll be O.K. and believe me it don’t take much to wash a fellow out here.  Some of the fellows said that they’d fainted before and whoosh. Their dead chickens.  One fellow couldn’t cross his eyes and he’s washed out.  It don’t take much and I wonder how I ever got by.  Here’s hoping I get classified as something.

Really nice weather out here. Not too hot and there’s always a breeze blowing. Been here almost two weeks now and it hasn’t rained once even. Poifect?

Got a letter from the folks the other day.  Only one I’d gotten until today and then I got five of them.  When it rains, it pours.

Well, I’m afraid that this is just about does me in for this time, so I’m afraid that I’ll have to stop.
Puddles of love, Vanden
Graduating huh? Getting to be a big girl.

Oxnard, CA
August 1, 1943

Dear Myrtle & family,
Well Sis it’s about time I dropped you a line or two, eh? I’ve really been getting behind lately on my letter writing. Been busy like a bee. But here goes nothing, so prepare yourself.

Well, I’m in primary at last. Were at the Mira Loma Flight Academy here at Oxnard, CA.  And it’s really a swell place.  We live in little cabins, 4 to a room and it’s definitely not like the army. We’ve got curtains on the windows, Venetian blinds, inner spring mattresses, desks, chairs and closets.  Just like old home sweet home. We’ve got a regular dining hall that we eat in.  Eight men to a table and girls to wait on us.  And we don’t have to get up here until 6:30 because of the flying weather. So all together it’s just about all a fellow could ask for.  We fly half a day and go to school the other half. And the studies don’t seem to be very hard, so far.  I’ll send you a picture of our cabins. Really pretty.

I hear Jean Marie is getting hard up for dates.  Dam this old war anyway.
Well, honey, I’m afraid that this is about all for this time.  They just ain’t no mo. So be good and write soon.
Lotsa Love, Vanden

Oxnard, California
August 15th, 1943

Dear Sis,
Well, ol kid here goes nothing and nothing it really is as you will probably fine out. Say you ain’t made at me are you? How’s about a letter now and then, huh, pretty please.  Appreciated no end.  But I suppose that you’ve got enough to do as is.  All the kids out of school and everything. I probably shouldn’t say anything because I’m not so hot on answering them myself.  Or have you found that out?

I hear that Jean Marie and Joyce have both got a job at the egg processing plant. Doing all right if they stick with it. But such pay. Too bad you don’t live out here where they could get a job in an aircraft factory.  Make the somoleas hand over fist. But it’s no place to come unless you’ve got a decent place to live.

Well it’s pretty much the same old thing here. Same thing every day, same time and same place. But so far I haven’t found much to gripe about.  Although we haven’t been getting in much flying time because of poor weather. We fly in the mornings (or have been, we start afternoons tomorrow) and there’s always a big fog bank in from the ocean.  But poor weather can’t last forever.

I got a letter from Zelma yesterday. Didn’t have much to say. Says she’s out in the yards working now and says you have to be a regular monkey to get in all the positions necessary to weld all the odd corners. Says she can climb a ladder better than any monkey she ever knew of.

Well this is all. They ain’t no mo!
So sweet dreams and write soon.
Lots of love, Vanden XXXXXX

Chico Army Flying School
Chico, CA., Oct. 8th, 1943

Dear Sis & family,
Well, here I am again. But with nothing to write about. And I think I kill several birds with one stone. So I’ll write this to you and Jean & June and everybody that’s sent me a letter that I haven’t answered and all the rest.  Adds up doesn’t it?

It’s getting cooled off here gradually. The 15th of this month we start wearing our woolen uniforms.  I guess it really gets cold here at night in the winter months. I suppose back home everything is starting to die off and getting ready for winter again.  I guess it’s really pretty about right now. I’d give my right arm for a furlough right now. But no such luck.

We’ve settled pretty much into the same old routine here every day. School, P.T. and drill one-half day and fly the rest. And boy these uniforms! Flying in primary was pretty simple compared to flying here. You’ve got more dials & gadgets and levers and buttons and cranks & levers in one of these airplanes to keep you busy for six months—just learning what there for. Maybe I will and maybe I won’t.

What do you know? Nothing more to write about. So I tank I quit. Short & Sweet ???????  So write soon.   Love & kisses, Vanden

Chico Army Flying School
Chico, CA., Nov. 7th, 1943

Dear Sis & family,

I want to thank you all for birthday presents. They were really nice.

I have to hand it to you kid.  You can really write some nice long letters. Even longer than my lovey dovey.  It’s nice to have two gal friends. Boy when I go to write a letter, I just can’t think of anything to write. Sorta tongue-tied.

Well, Joyce is out here and was in Chico last weekend. And so what happens? We don’t get any weekend passes! First time since I’ve been in the Army that I haven’t had one day off.  Tough eh? And now she’s got a job with the government in Sacramento, with good pay.  Only she has to go to school for a month and doesn’t get any days off until it’s over. Things are tough all over I guess.  She’s got a swell place to stay with one of my old schoolmates & her folks. With board & room, washing & everything for $35 a month.  Pretty nice, huh? Now I know who I can borrow money off of when I’m broke.  And you don’t have to worry about my foot slipping as you put it.  I’m a good boy and we won’t get married. Not now. But if I ever get my wings and $325 a month, I’m afraid I will.  Keep it under your hat please. You’re my confidential sis. Maybe will and maybe won’t. But what the heck, you only live once. Right?

Did I tell you that I found one of my great uncles living in Chico? Roy Mecham and a great aunt.  It’s a pretty small world after all. I got a letter from Hugh Mecham today. Don’t know him from Adam, but their relation I guess.

Well old gal, I tank I quit for this time.  So be good and write again soon, if you can find the time. Thanks again for the presents and again for the two pictures you sent me.  Tell Archie he needs his hair shortened a little on top with clippers around the edges.

Lots of love, Vanden

[Below letter written to Myrtle & the family by Joyce, the sweetheart of Vanden]

November 15th, 1943 

Dear Myrtle, Archie & J’s,
I know you’re beginning to think I got lost coming out or else forgot you but nothing like that. I’ve been terribly busy and on the run that I haven’t had time to sit down and write you. I’ve thought of all of you often tho.

I had a grand trip out. Got here the following Fri. at 4:30 P.M.  Since then I have been staying here at Kiernums. I room and board with Phyllis O’Donnell, one of Vanden and my old classmates. They are both nice and treat me like a daughter.

Sacramento is a very pretty town.  I’ve gotten to see quite a bit of it and I like it fine. Dime out regulations went off Nov. 1st, so now it’s all lite up. I think they’re just sticking their necks out by doing it.  The Japs will get a sock at us yet. However the air raids and blackouts are still used with a few other precautions.  I’ve certainly seen some beautiful jobs of camouflaging too.

I’ve finally gotten to see that fine brother, uncle and brother-in-law of yours.  He’s certainly grown up and darn good looking in his uniform.  He has flown over Sacramento several times.  When I go see him on the weekends, I take a bus and the country between here and Chico is really pretty.  It’s sort of down in the valley and the mountains surround it on three sides.  I don’t mind the trip at all.  I believe he was pretty tickled to see me, at least he appeared so.

It won’t be long now until he has his wings.  A second lieutenant in the family!  Did Swanee ever get home, Jean, and if so, I’ll bet you did the town up in fashion. According to his plans, you were planning on it.

How is little Judy? I would have liked to have seen her once more before I left. You, too, Jean.

I hear you’re suffering from the cold weather back there.  You ought to pick up and bring the family out his way for the winter, Archie.  We spent Sunday afternoon in a park on a picnic without coats! To top it off, watched a ballgame in the sizzling sun.

Well I guess I’ll have to close.  I’ve already written 2 letters and still have to get one off to the old man. He still demands one every night.

You promised to answer if I wrote, Myrtle.  So see that you do & Jean Marie try scribbling a few lines while sitting on your fanny down at the Royal sometime.  I’d appreciate it. 

Lots of love, Joyce

Stockton Field, CA
Dec. 7th, 1943

Dear Myrtle and family,
Well I tank it’s about time I answered your letter. I’m one up on you so I’d better write now & stay that way cause I may not have as much time later on as I would like to. So here goes nothing.

Here I am at my new base, Stockton Field, Calif. Its one of the nicest and prettiest bases I’ve been on yet. It looks just like a little town.  The best thing I like about it I think is that it’s the last lap on getting my wings. In just two months I’ll have em and be an officer.  I hope! I’ve come a long ways and I’d sure hate to have anything happen now. So far all we’ve done is have lectures and drawn equipment.  But it won’t be long until we buckle down to the old grind of studies and flying.  We’re flying twin engine ships here with the chance to on to 4 engine planes later.  I’m pretty small for the big stuff but we can try.

Wanna hear some good news??? news. Joyce and I are going to get hitched up. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. You ought to have known I wasn’t spending my money for shows and stuff for nothing.  Anyhow I’ve wrote Pop and Mom for their permission and if we can we are going to be married Christmas Eve. You can put in a good word for us, if you see the folks. I’d know by Christmas if I’ll make the grade here and I’ll be getting $300 and more a month then.  It’s good enough for me.

Look, Sis, I’ve sent everybody a Christmas present by you and the family and I don’t know just what I could get.  And it would run up in the money if I sent everybody a present so I’ll just send you all a five spot and you can all have a beer on me and a bottle of condensed milk for Jackie.  It isn’t much but it’s got the ol Christmas spirit behind it. O.K.?

Well, guess this is about all for this time. More next time. And don’t forget I’m still one up on you.   Lots of love, Vanden

Army Air Forces
Stockton Field, CA
Dec. 25th, 1943

Dear Mom & Dad,
Well here it is , almost the end of Christmas Day and I’m back on the post ready to start back on the old grind today.  All we got was an all day pass til 10 P. M. tonight.  I went up to Sacramento and spent the day with Joyce. Had a very good time. When I got back tonight I had a letter from you with five dollars in it.  Thanks a lot. A little extra money comes in handy especially toward the end of the month.  So far I haven’t heard you say that you’ve gotten the presents Joyce and I sent you. I hope you got them before Christmas and so far I haven’t gotten your cake. Be here sooner or later I guess.

I hear there’s a big flu epidemic going around back home and in your letter you said you and Mom both had it. Now I want you to take care of yourselves because flu can get a fellow down and out too darn easy.  So take it easy until you feel better.

I got a telegram from Myrtle tonight.  I guess she thinks Joyce and I are married by now but a letter giving your consent isn’t legal enough and so far I haven’t got the legal consent from you.  I guess we’ll have to put it off until I graduate now.  But I still want you to send me your permission certified by a clerk or recorder.  So please do.

Well I guess this is about all for this time. I’ll write again soon.
Lots of love, Vanden
A.T.E. stands for Advanced Twin Engines
I’m flying two engine ships now.
I’m sending back a receipt you sent me by mistake, I think.

Army Air Forces Flying School
Yuma, Arizona
Jan. 19th, 1944

Dear Mom & Dad,
Well it’s about time I dropped you another line to let you know that I’m still ticking.  I’ve have a few minutes before we fall out for the flight line. We’ve changed shift now and we fly from 12 noon until midnight.  It’s about 6:15 now and we’re going on a night cross-country hop.  And blacker nights, I’ve never seen like they have out here on the desert.  You can’t see anything and that makes it a little tough trying to find where you’re going.  But it’s a lot of fun flying at night. We flew almost over Phoenix, Ariz., last night.

So far since I’ve been down here, I’ve never completely gotten the sand out of my clothes and bed.  I’m glad that we’ve only got about 10 days or so left. It’ll sure be great to get back somewhere where we can have green things growing.  Nothing out here but sand, sagebrush and mountains.

I want you to do something for me, folks.  Let Joyce and I get married out here and have a military wedding before we go home.  If we don’t, I don’t know if Joyce and I can get home together.  The Army has a special train to take us home and for their wives.  So if we can go together we’ll have more time.  I only get 10 days and you have to take travel time out of that.  So we’ll only get about 3 days at home.  If you haven’t any objections to us getting married, we want to do it here.  We graduate the 8th of February, so let us know in plenty of time.

Well, I’ve got to go now so I’ll finish this letter a little later.  I’m back again and it’s almost eleven o’clock in the morning and I’m ready to start a new day.  But I’m afraid that I’m going to have to quit so I can prepare for my next cross-country trip. So write soon and let me know your answer.  Lots of love, Vanden

Army Air Forces Advanced Flying School
Yuma, Arizona
Jan. 25th, 1944

Dear Sis & family,
Well folks, I guess I’d better sit down and write you a line or two while I’ve got the time.

There’s a sandstorm outside so we don’t have to fly.  Get good old sack time instead.  We’ve got dust an inch thick all over in our tent here and when I brushed my teeth this morning all I had to do was lean out over the bed and wet them with my fingers.  Wonderful place.

Say, I don’t believe that I’ve had a letter from you since I’ve been in this dust bowl.  Your going to have to buckle down and that Zelma! She never writes.  I’m going to have to start writing myself so I’ll have something to read.

Hey look Sis, I want you to do me a favor. Joyce and I won’t be able to make it home together unless were married.  She can’t get reservations to go home.  But the Army will give her a priority rating for a person’s wife and even pay her way home. I wrote to the folks asking them to send their consent and it will have to be quick cause we graduate the 8th and want to be married then.  So get on their tail and get them to send it. How about it? It’s got to be out here or not at all.

Well, we won’t  have to be in this Arizona desert much longer. I’m just about done with my flying and I am glad.  One of the boys in my hut here was sleeping with his gas mask on a little while ago.  It’s almost that bad. In a few days we get to go back to Stockton.  Oh Happy day, and then we graduate and get a 10-day furlough and get married on top of that. Yippee! God help the Mechams, if I don’t get married.  Remember that!

Well I tank I quit for this time.  Too much dust for comfort.
Lots of love and I’ll be seeing you,  Vanden

[This letter was not in envelope and written on ordinary stationary, so no idea of address]

Feb. 27th, 1944

Dear Sis & family,
Well folks I think its about time that I’ve sent you a letter and let you know the bad news that I got here and am starting the grind all over again. Ground school all day long and so far we haven’t done any flying but we will pretty soon.  It doesn’t matter what it is they manage to keep you pretty busy.  It’s a very nice place here.  We live in individual rooms and have a really swell place to eat.  And you don’t have to stand in line for an hour to get it.  You just go anytime you feel like it and when you have the time, of course.  And we don’t have to go around in formation anywhere either.  Some of lazy fellows even drive their cars to class.  And we can leave the post every night, too.  Until 10:30. Or we are supposed to be back by that time.

So far, Joyce is still living in a room. We haven’t found an apartment. They are dam hard to find. Get one sooner or later, I hope.

It was kinda nice to get back to a warmer climate, but I wish I could do it all over again.  The guy that said there’s no place like home sure hit the nail on the head.

Lots of love, Vanden.


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