Editor’s Note: Sandboxx News introduces a new series by Kaitlin Oster on the power of hope, letters, and love in seeing us through the terrors and agony of war. You can read the other installments here.
Hi you Kid,
May 17, 1942
What’s cookin? Tell your boyfriend in the dirty brown uniform I was asking for him. (huh huh!)
The Mississippi heat slapped Harold clear across the face. He and the rest of the men squinted as they hopped off the bus and out into the open air. It was surprisingly refreshing to exit the bus and feel whatever excuse of a fresh breeze came in off the water. Harold quite enjoyed being near water again, even if he was all the way in Biloxi. The salt smelled different than back home, but the sounds of the bay were welcome. Harold grabbed his pack along with the rest of the group and headed for the barracks.
As he walked, Harold gazed in wonder at the planes scattered around the airfield. He saw a couple of P-51 Mustangs – with their sleek, thin bodies and almost centrally located cockpits. The guys who flew those must have had a lot of fun tearing up the skies, he thought. Mustangs had incredible firepower and speed – it was no wonder the Royal Air Force had purchased so many of them from the United States the year before.
He saw a Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk make its way down the tarmac into holding for maintenance. Despite their name, the Kittyhawks looked mean, meaner than the Mustangs. Harold had an appreciation for the artistic craft that went into painting the noses of these planes to look like angry mouths with giant, sharp teeth; he was glad he was fighting for their side.
Ahead of him, in a large open hangar, there she was – the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. She was a massive aircraft, with four engines, turret guns, a bomb bay, and a beautiful, 10-panel plexiglass nose. Other than Loretta, Harold felt love at first sight when he walked past this machine. As a member of the Air Force, he hoped the B-17 would be his assignment. Harold could think of nothing better than working on these machines. His feet kept him forward towards his barracks, while his eyes stayed fixed on the Fortress.
“Red!” Harold was pulled from his daydream by someone calling him by his old nickname. He turned his gaze ahead and was met with the sight of a familiar face coming toward him.
“Red! I knew it was you! I’ll be damned, come here!” Jack Thompson rushed at Harold across the tarmac. Harold’s face lit up – he couldn’t believe he found a familiar face so soon.
The two shook hands and gave a brotherly embrace. Harold placed his pack down at his feet for a moment while Jack took a step back, his arms extended in front of him, holding Harold’s arms.
“Boy is it just swell to see a familiar face! Couldn’t miss that mop of hair though! I didn’t think I’d find you so soon on day one. How was the ride down?” The Thompson boys – Jack and Ned – were both enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Harold figured eventually he’d cross paths with one of them and was glad that it happened sooner than later.
“Ride could’ve been better, but it wasn’t bad. Plenty of cards, plenty of windows to stare out of.” Jack laughed and clapped Harold on the shoulder.
“How’s your old lady?”
“Loretta is doing well. In fact, I have a letter to send off to her. Would you show me to the mailroom?” Harold patted his shirt pocket where the letter sat, and smiled at the thought of his love back home. Jack obliged.
May 29, 1942
My Dearest Doll,
I’m at the USO in New Orleans now wishing you were with me. I love you lots dear, and miss you very much. There’s a dance going on now, but I’m not dancing and I won’t, I’d rather write to you. I’d like to tell you “I love you” the remaining lines of this letter but maybe you’d think I was silly; so I’m going to tell you about my trip here.
I typed out mine and my buddy’s passes and got the Sarg’s signature. It felt good to use the typewriter, and it brought back memories of me typing over your house. We took a bus to Gulfport and from there got on route 90 where we waited for a lift. I could have taken a train, but I thought I’d save the 2.50 bucks. We were at the corner at 3 o’clock PM. Our first ride was gotten at 3:20 by a colored chauffeur in a 1941 Pontiac. We had the radio going and I listened to some music for 1 hour. The stations were from New York, and the songs were swell. One tune was “I want my Mommer,” and there was a song I don’t believe I’ve heard before; it was “I love you” or something. Naturally I was thinking of you.
After an hour of riding, he turned off route 90, so we got out. About 10 minutes later we were picked up by a salesman who brought us all the way into New Orleans. All toll, we covered 92 miles. We arrived home about 5:30.
I took a walk to the dock, and looked at the muddy Mississippi River. (I spit in it) ain’t I awful? Can I tell that to our children? It was swell first sitting there and watching the water run and the ferries coming and going. After that I came here to the USO and met some of my friends from camp. It is sort of a meeting place; like Nachlin’s used to be.
After that, we all went down to the block and ate. I enjoyed my supper. Now I’m back again at the USO.
The folks down here are nice to us boys in the service. There are a lot of sailors here too.
Well Doll, now can I tell you? I love you. I will. My sweetheart I love you with all my life.
As would the sky miss the stars, so I miss you. You’re the star in my blue heaven. You’re my heaven. You’re everything to me. I love you sweetheart.
Well sweets, good nite. Your loving honey. Love, Ha xxxxxx P.S. I love you
Feature Image: B-17s flying over Germany in 1945.