World War Two Veterans: Letters From Home
My mother served in the Women's Army Corp during World War II. Daddy was also a WWII vet. They met in the Army, fell in love and were married. Not long before Mama died, and after I’d moved from our hometown she gave me a packet of letters. They included letters from home during her time when she served in the Woman’s Army Corp during World War II. The letters are not only a memento of Mama but also a window into the life of a typical Southern family during that time of war. My grandfather, Thomas Crowell Burgess, wrote the following letter to Mama. He seems a bit taken aback by the thought of his daughter being assigned to the motor pool rather than the more appropriate woman’s job of working in the PX store. We also get a peek at how the war changed the daily life of the family and community.
A Letter From Her Daddy
Sunday evening May 22nd '43
Or should I address it Grease Monkey. I want you to hurry back home on a furlough for my car and also my truck needs working on mighty bad and when you are out of the army I will let you drive my wood truck for me.
Mother is writing to all of you this evening. I think she is writing Thomas at this time, you know that we have to stay at home most of the time now as the government has tightened up on the gas again. We were planning on going to Norfolk some time soon but they put a band on all pleasure driving so we will stay at home. You should appreciate this letter for you know that I leave all the writing up to Mother, which I think she does very nice.
I am glad that you are getting on so good but can't say that I like you being in the M.T.C. [motor transportation Corp] for I think it will be a right big job but after all you will not be on your feet as much as if you were in the PX stores and that may be better for you.
We received a package of clothes from you the other day but there is another package in the express office that you sent and marked It C.O.D. $20.00. If you can't get to the express office there and have them release the C.O.D. on it you can write the express office, Plymouth, NC. And tell them to release it. I would do it right away before they send it back to the office there.
Claudia spent the night with Jeanette last night and has not come home yet and it is now five thirty.
Everyone asks about you and say that they miss you a great deal. Jack [Peel who owned the dry cleaners] says that he would like to have you back for you were the best help that he ever had and Mrs. White said that she had learned to love you while you were there. Mrs. White told me to special remember her to you when I wrote to you.
The Merchant Assoc. put on a bond drive last Friday and sold fifty thousand dollars worth of bonds, right good for a small town.
Well, there is no news that I can tell you that Mother has not already told you, will have to stop and try to write Mr. Brewer and Thomas while I am in a writing mood. So, be a good girl and a good soldier and don't have a wreck, with lots of love from all of us,
In close find $5.00 I hope.
When writing the express office tell them to release the C.O.D. charges on the package addressed to T.C. Burgess
From My Grandmother after Mama and Daddy Eloped
This next letter was from my grandmother, written after getting the news that Mama and Daddy had eloped and gotten married at “The Little Church Around the Corner” in New York City. Her message is one of regret, then resignation that her daughter had married this man, Don, whom she’d never even met. Four of her five children were serving in the armed services. The heartache of a mother separated from her children is evident in this letter.
Mama often said that the only reason her mother forgave her for eloping was that she got married at The Church of the Transfiguration, also known as The Little Church Around the Corner. It was known for the movie stars and celebrities like Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison, and Joan Fountaine, who said their vows at the same alter as Mama and Daddy.
Jan. 16th 1944
I have wanted to write you all day, but there is so much in my heart, so much I want to say and don't know how to say it, here it is bedtime and I've just got down to it. So our little girl is married, I cannot realize it. Your letters came last night and I can't say it was not a shock, though I have been expecting it: I did think you all would send us a telegram. Honey you have our sincere blessings, we wish you both all the happiness possible. Daddy went down to send you a telegram this morning. But they would not let us send that kind of message. I wish we could have been with you, Dear. If you had let us know for sure you were going to be married I could have sent you a few "dainty things” such as nighty, robe and slippers, for your “honey moon.” I wish you and Don could have come home for a few days. We want to meet him very much, you must remember that we do not know him. I would like to know the man that has taken my little girl. I want to feel that we have gained a son, not lost a daughter. Well, your happiness is what we want. Now listen Honey, we sent for samples of announcements today, don't know if we can get them, or if we can, how long it will take, but any way send me a list of who you want them sent to, also get the names from Don, who he wants to send to. Be sure to get names and addresses right, write them plain and let me have them as soon as possible. Also, if you have a small picture let me have it to send to the News & Observer.
Honey, I can't bear the thought of you not coming home for good. When this war is over you and Don must come home. ("I'm not trying to go Olivia on you") but you know this is a mighty good place to live, and as Daddy said this morning this is a mighty big house or if you rather you can start that bunch of "little houses we planned to build on the front lawn.” I can't give up my baby girl. Well, don't forget Mother and Dad, we love you mighty much.
Wee Wee [My Aunt Claudia Burgess] is coming Tuesday night, gets to Rocky Mount twelve thirty, we will meet her there, if nothing happens. We had a telegram from her this morning. She was sent to St. Louis, but said she was changing with one of the other girls, would tell us where, when she got home. I am so anxious to know where it is. I hope it is not to far away; some how I believe it is some place In Florida. She likes the "summertime, the year around.”
I have a "nice fat turkey and a big ham” in the ice box waiting for her, do wish you and Don could come.
I had a letter from Thomas yesterday - the first since Christmas - though he said he had written, no he did not send anything home, we had a card. I am sure he sent you one too or thinks he did. He could have sent a little something to the family, you know how I mean that, but you know he never thinks of things until the last minute. He wrote us to cash a bond for him, that was just before Christmas; we thought that was what he wanted it for.
Daddy will get your bond fixed for you right away. If you need anything let us know.
You say you think you will be moved, I do hope they will send you South. We have worried about you all winter up there in the cold. I'm sorry you had any trouble though, you know one of the men called the Spar's an ugly name when Wee Wee first went to Florida, and the head officers took It up and they had no more trouble from him.
I have not heard from Walter since last week. Guess we will get more letters soon. I worry about him so much. This war is awful.
I have been to the Little Church Around the Corner. You know, of course, It Is quite a famous place.
Darling, we are sending you and Don a little wedding present. It will be so long before you can use the usual gifts so thought a check would be the best. As you say, you can start a bank account, have something to start house keeping on.
It's late, I did not get much sleep last night so will stop for this time.
May God bless you both, Dear, and keep you from harm. With a heart full of love, from all the family, to our dear little girl and our new son.
Please tell me if I'm to keep on addressing your letters to Pvt. Camille Burgess (that is what you had on the envelope)
My grandmother died of complications from gall bladder surgery in August 1946 before I was born in October of that year. I do not know whether she ever met my daddy.