WWII Letters from the Men & Women In Service


Bellows, Claire "Babe", letter dated December 1941

Local Youth Tells of Life as Air Cadet

Life in the air corps as it looks through a beginner’s eyes is illustrated in two letters received her by the parents of Claire “Babe” Bellows, who enlisted as an aviation cadet earlier this month.

Bellows, who is now in training at Sequoia field, Visalia, Cal., writes, “To begin with, we get up at 5 a.m., wash, shave, and make our beds. By the way, Mother, when I get home I will give you a few pointers on how to make a bed.

“Then we go to mess at 6:15 a. m. We form in companies and march to the mess hall in a brace. A brace means keeping your arms still at your sides with your thumbs and fingers still and the thumbs on the seams. Your chin is back until there are more wrinkles in your neck than there are on a prune; also you can hardly breathe.

“Your shoulders are back until a hand could be laid between your shoulder blades. You have to hold that brace until you are given orders to sit down. You sit on one-third of your chair and keep your eyes on your plate.

“If you take something without first offering it to an upper classman, you will probably have to stand on your chair and yell, about 10 times, as loud as you can, ‘I’m a bad, bad dodo.’

“We have been drilling about five hours a day and all I can say is ‘take me back to the wagon, boys, my feet are killing me.’ The upper classmen are all swell fellows but they really crack down on us. Everywhere we go we go on the double except when coming back from mess.

“I forgot to mention that while you are in a brace you keep your eyes on a point and it had better be a point you can put your nose on because you may have to do it.

“Here’s what we were issued: Two pairs of coveralls (which we use all the time); one pair of flying coveralls; one leather jacket; one pair of flying gloves; one flying helmet; one pair of goggles; and one pair of fur-lined flying boots. We were also measured for uniforms but I don’t know when we will get them.”

Source: The Globe Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, Saturday, December 27, 1941 [Cerro Gordo County]


Betsworth, Lowell, letter dated August 1943


Had To Play Hide and Seek With German Machine Gunners

Leo B. Betsworth of Wichita, Kansas, where he is a tool designer in an aircraft factory, has received an interesting letter from his brother, Lowell Betsworth, a member of the old LeMars “Fightin K” Co. Included in the letter was a German 5-mark note which Lowell had found on one of the battle fields, in addition to a good little German automatic. But Lowell kept the automatic, for possible use against the former owners. The letter says:

Tunisia: A few lines this afternoon to let you know I’m still well. I’m still in the same place, sort of taking it easy.

We are allowed a few more privileges in writing, so I am going to relate to you some of my personal experiences and mention a few of the towns that may bring back memories from your reading them in the papers. First starting off I may mention some of the escapes I had.

Once, I remember as plain as if it had happened minutes ago, was when I was pinned to the ground by a machine gun barrage. To my left, maybe 10 feet, was a hump of earth, maybe 14 inches high and five feet long. Well, I crawled to this spot and tried to seek cover from the bullets. No sooner had I got behind the bank when a burst started, whistling over my head. Then it stopped, so I figured I would try and spot the gun’s position. No sooner had I raised my head above the level of the bank when here there came another burst, this one cutting about 6 inches off the bank about a foot and a half from my head!

Another time I will never forget was the time the Germans were firing at us from the front, flank and rear all at the same time.

Another time I was caught unaware in an artillery barrage and was knocked unconscious for a couple of hours. Another time 10 of us were behind a little hill when a group of shells hit among us, wound 7, and again I came out.

One good thing is that the Germans had a lot of dud shells that didn’t explode.

Lee you may hear lots of stories about how you can dig a hole while under enemy fire. They’re most likely all true. I’ve seen them dug from every position by the use of mess kit lids and bayonets.

One thing, THEY NEVER GET DEEP ENOUGH. If things are quiet for a while the digging stops, but as soon as shells light close everyone commences throwing dirt.

A few of the towns and places you probably read about were Sibibia, Sibeitia, Hej El Aliecen, Fiad Pass, Hill 609, Mateur and El Djebel. If you recall these you will know something of the fighting that I have been in.

There isn’t any of it I care to remember for long, so that’s why I’m writing a little while it’s fresh in my mind, because, AS FAST, AS POSSIBLE, I’M GOING TO CAST THOSE MEMORIES ASIDE.

Have picked up a few good souvenirs. One is a little automatic German pistol, and some German money. Will send you some of the “Jerry” money.

Source: LeMars Globe-Post, LeMars, Iowa, August 16, 1943 [Plymouth County]



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