April 9, 1944
End of No. 15

Dear Folksies,  

            Last night we had a big party in celebration — or really in mourning — for our beginning our third year as a unit. The committee that arranged the party did an excellent job, but the credit has to go mostly to Wally Greene. It was his cleverness that put it over.

            Schmitty, Stratte and Joseph had arranged for the meal and they, too, did a fine job. Menu: vegetable soup; lobster (with white wine); risotto (rice al la Italiano; baby lamb; small potatoes; peas (with red wine); artichoke; vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce (from the Navy); a Napoleon cake; champagne; coffee. There is only one difficulty with a meal like that — and that is that we don’t have the same thing every day. The party was at one of the local hotels downtown and they did a nice job of serving us, of cooking, etc.

           Wally started off saying, “Two years ago did you use such phrases as ‘Sweat it out’ or ‘Blow it out’? Did you know the meaning of ‘Nervous in the Service’? ‘Did you know what it meant to “hurry up and wait’? Well, neither did 40 upright, young, and not too bright suckers, who after being had by chain-store haberdashers and sold a lot of uniforms and equipment, finally arrived in various stages of military dress and undress at Fort Lewis, Washington.”

           He continued, “There were many things to be learned, not the least of which were which hand to use for saluting or buttoning one’s trousers, which side to dress on, how to have a bowel movement by the numbers, while at the same time polishing brass with one hand and shaving with the other, or where to hide a blonde during Saturday morning inspections.”

          “746 salutes and 1050 miles later found the Fighting 59th at Fort Ord, California. There after an intensive training period of hot dogs, beer and bathing beauties at the Del Monte Hotel, we became identified as an amphibious force – probably because we were all wet to start with.”

          At one intermission Wally ribbed Frank Gerbode and Bob Escamilla by allowing them to unveil their portraits that they had had made for posterity – to be hung in U.C. and Stanford halls. The portraits, of course, strangely enough, resembled Hirohito and Hitler with faint resemblance to Frank and Bob. You see, these two felt that they should have something of the sort for posterity to remember their great selves, and as a consequence they had actually had portraits made of themselves for $30 each.

            There was a presentation of three medals. To Bret Smart for his constant bitching, “The Royal Order of the Bitch” – a fancy ribbon with the large head of a female bull-dog hanging from the ribbon. To Gus Stola, the “Order of the Purple Fart”. To Jack Dunlap, for his outstanding inactivity, the “Order of the Dragging Ass”— ribbon with appropriate donkey hanging from it.

            Wally spoke a little about the last celebration, thanked the meal committee for the excellent meal at this celebration, and anticipated having our celebration in ’45 in Vienna, in ’46 in Burma, in ’47 in Tokyo and in ’48 anticipating going back through the Golden Gate to take the United States back from the Democrats.

            Escamilla banged away on the base-fiddle some of the time. Yes, we had a 4-piece orchestra playing on and off throughout the evening – a drummer, a clarinet, an accordion and a base fiddler. Bob, of course, played in his usual inimitable style.

            Wally reviewed the history of the 59th from the time it began in Ft. Lewis up to the present date, and at various points in the history he asked different men to make short dissertations on the particular subject to which he referred. Those that did not dissertate adequately to the satisfaction of all, had to suffer the consequences and draw a slip of paper out of a hat and then do just what that slip of paper told them to do.

            In memory of Ft. Lewis, Bill Reilly was asked to drill Klein & Cressman in the manual of arms and in some close-order drill. He was booed down and had to dance 2 minutes of the Conga by himself. His Conga turned out to be more of a jig – but he was anyway awarded the reward for his efforts – one slug of Cherry Brandy.

            Wally then spoke of the trek across the U.S. and of the difficulty we had in trying to allot at least one percent of our time to activity at camp, for 99% was taken up in the more important activities in New York City.

            Next, Sewell Brown had to drill Mattie in calisthenics. This was a farce – ‘twas reminiscent of Pickett when Mattie would get us up at 6 A.M. – when it was still so black out that we couldn’t even see Mattie when he was out in front of us trying to drill us. All remembered one particular morning when Sewell, who had been giving Mattie a bad time for many a morning, with side-wise-cracks and ridiculing, was told by Mattie to get out and give the calisthenics himself, which he did – and did a great job of imitating Mattie in every little detail. At the party, Sewell again, therefore, had a chance to drill Mattie, but of course, Mattie clowned throughout the whole thing.

            Then came the crowded trip from Pickett back to Kilmer and Russell was to dissertate on the difficulties of using the latrines on those trains.

            Then, on the trip by boat – Armanini was razzed for the name that he acquired on that trip: “Torpedo” Armanini. He was somewhat more fearful than the rest of us of seeing one of those “flying fish,” and, of course, took a big ribbing on the trip.

            Carlson who was quite a bargainer with the Arabs before he left us to become a “truck driver”, was asked to show or tell how he managed always to pay the most for the least whenever he bought things from the natives.

            Schmitty was asked then to tell about an incident that I had never heard of before – an incident that occurred on the motor convoy through Africa when the whole gang was moving. It seems that at one of the stops, Schmitty induced Armanini to visit the latrine with him as ‘twas rather dark and the latrine was some little distance from where the boys had their sleeping bags, the trucks, etc. So, while sitting there, having no library to fall back on, Schmitty was talking about revolvers and pulled out a ’38 and began to tell George what a really safe revolver that gun was, for, he said, when you load it you leave one chamber empty and then you have to pull the trigger twice before it will shoot. And as he said it, he proceeded to pull the trigger once – discharging a bullet and causing poor Armanini to almost leave his perch sans pants. It surprised Schmitty just as much as it did George – luckily he did have it pointed in the air. So that was the “safe ‘38”.

            Last, but far from least, was the skit put on by Bill Drew and Phil Westdahl – as doctor and patient respectively – showing the trials and tribulations of getting a history on a V.D. patient. ‘Tis really a job – you can imagine most of the things that might be said. In the skit, they ribbed Carlson for some of the patients he had sent in, and then, at the end, when the patient was showing his “discharge”, Phil had a rubber ear syringe filled with cream that he squired in Drew’s face – finale!!!

            All during the evening our end of the table was continually singing — going from one tune to the other – the band usually kept up with us rather than vice-versa. With Brown, Cressman, Blasdel, Drew, Westdahl and Stola, we all managed to be rather hoarse at the end of the festivities.

            In the end, we all sang along to “Where do we Go From Here!”

Where do we go from here, Boys,
Where do we go from here?
No matter where the fighting is
The 59th is near.
We’re reconciled to circs and piles [circumcisions and hermorrhoids]

and working on the rear,
O Boy, O Joy, where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here, Boys,
Where do we go from here?
All around the universe, old Ration C is near.
For Spam and beans and powdered eggs we’ll
Give a lusty cheer (Bronx cheer).
O Boy, O Joy, where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here, Boys,
Where do we go from here?
To Southern France, or Bucharest?
Consult your local seer–
Or would you rather step out on the San Francisco pier?
O Boy, O Joy, where do we go from here?

                                                                                         Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter
April 14, 1944

Wally Greene was the host of the party as René put it, “in celebration – or really in mourning – for our beginning our third year as a unit.”

For a full transcript of the festivities, click HERE.

Paul Stratte was one of the organizers of the celebration

Pete Joseph was one of the organizers of the celebration

Frank Gerbode was the butt of some of the jokes at the party

Bob Escamilla was the butt of some of the jokes at the party

Bill Reilly danced the conga

Sewell Brown drilled Mattie (Carleton Mathewson) in calisthenics

Mattie (Carleton Mathewson) clowned around while being drilled in calisthenics

George Armanini was teased about being afraid of torpedoes on the trip across the Atlantic to Casablanca

Phil Westdahl did a skit with Bill Drew about working on the V.D. wards

Bill Drew did a skit with Phil Westdahl about working on the V.D. wards