Letter or Postcard – Letter
Sender – Ralph Peterson
Recipient – Phyllis Peterson
Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida
Postmark Date – 23 March 1943
Letter Date – 22 March 1943
My dearest wife and baby,
I’m going to start this letter now but will be only able to write very little. I will finish it up tonight. You see, in a little while we are going out to the gas and rifle range. I just started it and I have to quit already as I have to go. I will tell you all about it when I get back. Now I have time to finish this letter to you. I didn’t get one from you, yet. What the devil is wrong with you? If you were mad at me I wish you would say what for. I keep on writing to you once and sometimes twice a day. When I don’t get one from you I can’t go away every time and say the mail was all mixed up. There must be something else that isn’t quite right. If there is I wish you would tell me. If I don’t get a letter by Wednesday or Thursday I’m going to call up, even if it takes all the morning I have got, and find out what really ain’t quite right. I thought maybe the baby would bring us closer together but it seems that it is breaking us apart. Gee, honey, I don’t mean a damn word I said, but not getting a letter for so long has got me so worried that I am really sick. I don’t know whether I should telegram, telephone, where to write, or a damn thing. I just seem so lost without you around. You used to help when I was worried or didn’t feel good. Write me a nice letter with a lot of sympathy in it. I may be in the Army but I am still that same little guy that I was when I left you. I needed a lot of sympathy then. You know that, don’t you. And you know how much a guy gets in the Army. I only wish I could be with you now and always. Gosh, honey, I miss you more each day. All I have got is your picture. I think that’s the only thing that keeps me from going AWOL. I suppose you have heard enough of this sob story of my worries. I will try to tell you what we did today. We had dinner about ten then went out to the gas and rifle range. The first thing they did was to take about 25 of us out to a little shack and they made us put on our gas masks and go inside. We didn’t know what was going to happen in there, when all of a sudden the guy told us to take our masks off. Just as we did they let loose a bunch of tear gas among us and we had to run through it without our masks. Everybody was crying like babies when they came out. It burned and smarted for a half an hour. After that they took us over to the machine guns and we all shot them. That was a lot of fun. Then we had twenty shots with the rifle at a target 200 yards away. I hit the bulls eye only five times but still got a score of 75 out of a possible 100. After that we came back and had chow, and here I am telling you all about it. I can’t think of nothing else now, Honey. I will write more tomorrow. Until then, loads of love and kisses to my dearest, sweetest wife and our little baby from Ralph.
PS – Write me a nice long letter soon, won’t you my darling?
Notes: Holy crap. This sounds downright manic, from the depths of despair and anger, back up to “I don’t mean a damn word I said,” to a casual plea for sympathy, and finally to a mundane “so here’s what we did today.” It’s almost impossible to contemplate my Dad being this way, and yet here is the proof on paper. The gassing story was one of the few war stories my Dad freely related and was one all of us kids knew by heart. Coincidentally, in our house when I grew up was what I believe to be an Army Air Corps bomber crew oxygen mask, such as the one pictured here (not my Dad). Whether it was my Dad’s actual oxygen mask, and I believe it was, or one picked up after the war from an army surplus store, I don’t know. I always erroneously conflated that rubber mask with my Dad’s gassing story.
Maybe someone can tell me how decent his shooting really was.