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Soldier’s Letter Home in 1943

August 3, 2016

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Mom and Dad Bonde, Kalispell, Mont. 1943

Private Carl Bonde, Jr.

Third Infantry Training Company

Platoon 3213

Army Training Depot

Camp Crowder, Missouri

March 19, 1943

Dear Mother,

Boot camp is relatively easy, but exhausting because the days are long.  What I mean is, they wake you up early, make you clean everything up, make you line up on the “street” outside our quonset hut in platoon formation.  This means there are four squads or lines of men, formed into a huge rectangle about 15 men long by 4 men wide.  At the head of each platoon is the platoon guide, who carries a banner with our platoon number.  It is 3213 for us.  The stick with our banner is called a guidon.  I suppose this is a term from knight heraldry.  Tell dad about this, will you?

Anyway the drill instructor marches us to breakfast with a singsong “left right left right.”  It sounds like this:  Pla-toon Ten HUT!  Ryeeet FACE!  For-weird HUT!  Yo lelft, righto lelft, . . . .righto lelft righto left right left right left right left.  Pla-toon HALT!  Left fACE!  Then the instructor talks to us again.  Tells us what we will be doing next.

At first, before we learned to march, we simply put our right hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us.  Then we walked together as a sort of haphazard group.  The instructor then said, “hippity hop mob stop.”  That seems like a long time ago.  Now we are pretty sharp when we march.  We march everywhere.

I told you about our eating already.  The instructor tells us when to start and when to stop eating.  Man!  Mess hall dining was what we lived for after a few days.  The food is generally pretty good, but I am not used to eating hominy grits or ochra or black-eyed peas.  Stuff they eat in the south.

Lots of the other guys are from the South:  Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, California, Arizona, Arkansas.  Just a few of us from the North.  Montana, Idaho, North Dakota.  Three of us from Montana; two from Great Falls.  Tough boys.  When people ask me where I’m from I always tell them about the Mission Valley.

We go to drill practice on the parade ground, then get physical fitness training, then lunch, then classes in the afternoon:  how to take apart the M-16 rifle.  It is a new rifle, not much like the guns me and Dad go hunting with.  They have no scopes, just open sights.  Eventually we will shoot them at a rifle range.

After supper we are expected to clean our rifles and polish our belt buckles and boots.  Then the platoon commander comes to our hut, we fix him up with a place to sit, and he talks to us.  Then we get our mail.  Whoever gets cookies or anything like that has to do 40 push-ups before the cookies are taken away from him.  So PLEASE DON’T SEND ANY TREATS.

We have to stay up until ten.  We go to bed on command, and go to sleep on command.  (Not really, but we have to pretend to sleep.) One of us always has to be on watch, but don’t worry, mother, we take turns and watch is only four hours long, except the third night watch is only three hours because we all get up at five.  That’s to prepare for reveille at six each morning, even on Sunday.  We get the day off on Sunday, but we have to stay close to our quonset hut.  We can go to church or read the newspaper.  Each squad can buy a newspaper.  We get the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  We take it apart and share it.

And so it goes.  Long days of routine drill, hour-long classes in weapons and tactics, physical fitness training, and meals.  How we enjoy the meals!  Give my best to my sisters, especially, well, all three.

Your Son,

Buddy

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