Below are the personal letters of Capt. Robert Spellmann, Aircraft Commander
Donated by the Spellmann Family & David Calkin
While I retain vivid memories of my brother Bob, I realize that the younger members of our family know him not at all. I recently came into possession of a packet of Bob's old letters and read them aloud to my wife, Venecia , and daughter, Joycelyn. Moved by the letters, Joycelyn told me she felt she knew him as a person for the first time.
Bob's letters cover a period from September 3, 1943 through August 26, 1944. The last written shortly before his death on September 2, 1944. Through Joycelyn's efforts, we have committed them all to the word processor. I hope making the collection available will allow all of Dad's descendants to know him.
The Letters of Robert Reynold Spellmann
September 3, 1943 - August 26, 1944
September 3, 1943
1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
Hq., AAFPS (4-engine)
I was supposed to fly up to Detroit today to spend a couple of days with Eugene Ryan's folks but the Colonel took my airplane at the last minute so here I am at home. It is raining hard outside and will probably cool things off considerably. The heat bothers Irene and Bobby quite a bit but I am very comfortable as long as the mercury stays over 85° F. Below that I freeze. I will probably get pneumonia and die if forced to spend the winter here in this forgotten corner of Creation called Tennessee. In my opinion the only livable states in the U.S. are Texas, N.M., Arizona, and maybe some isolated parts of inland lower California. Nashville is very smokey and dirty but fortunately our shack is several miles out and you might say in the country so we get air as clean as is possible in Tennessee.
I stay home every night now and like it much better than the old arrangement despite the fact I have to get up at 4:15 am for morning flying and don't get in until 2:00 am after night flying. Our schedule is now down to one shift per day, 30 days per month. It runs like: Monday from 05:45 to 12:00, Tuesday 18:00 to 24:00, Wednesday 12:30 to 18:00, Thursday 05:45 to 12:00, etc, etc. It is pretty nice since we have a big gap every three days from a noon to the following day at 18:00. I quit living in the BOQ because we have a good house, now I can share rides with 3 others, and they quit serving milk in the Officers' Mess. That last item precipitated the change, mostly. I was losing weight anyway but am gaining it back now under Irene's cooking.
Sure was surprised to learn that Donk joined up. She gave me so many reasons why she was going to continue teaching that I figured she meant it. That is the most outlandish address I ever saw. Guess I will have to learn a little about the Navy now so I will be able to understand what Donk is doing. But you can tell her to stop worrying about me being promoted. I won't even be eligible until Sept. 17th and probably won't get it before late next spring, if then. There simply are no vacancies for Captain at Smyrna and none in sight for the future so my main hope is for a transfer.
There is a new type bomber coming out soon which I hope to fly. It is about half again as large as the B-24 and has many amazing new features which are still military secrets. It will really be a flying fortress in the true sense of the word, with cannon instead of machine guns and so complex that almost the whole crew will be commissioned officers. Notice I just said I hope to fly it. Nothing really in sight as yet.
Am enclosing eight negatives of pictures of Bobby taken in June. Haven't had any film since then. Now he can sit up and is always pulling himself up to stand. However he can't crawl much except backwards. Maybe he will learn to walk without learning to crawl. His legs are plenty strong but we don't force him to stand. Just let him stand when he pulls up. He recognizes the sound of airplanes and looks around the sky until he sees it or has his attention distracted. Every time he hears something he gawks around till he sees it, no matter if he is eating or what. There is a goldfish in the front room that I named Bobby because it stares around with its mouth open and a stupid expression just like Bobby. Don't tell Irene I said that. Be sure to return our negatives as most of the snapshots are pretty fair. I would have prints made but it takes too long here. I went to see Langston recently and spent the night. Really enjoyed the visit. He hasn't changed a bit and has a beautiful baby and wife.
P.S. Note my correct address on envelope. Serial number not necessary.
Please give me birth date and year of all members of family. I know days but not sure about year in most cases.
Smyrna, Tennesse, October 23, 1943
``All the world is sad and dreary everywhere I roam.'' They say all good things must end, and our pleasant stay in this dream shack will be over November 1st. In other words, ``This is the Army, Mr. Jones,'' and I am being transferred again——this time to Kansas. Irene is heart-broken, in fact she cried more than she slept last night because we had so many plans made and were counting so much on enjoying our stay in this house to make up for all the unsatisfactory houses we have lived in in the past. I worked hard for several days in the yard and got it to looking pretty good. Irene and Evelyn have been doing the same in the house. We bought a bigger bed for Bobby and extra quilts and blankets for the other beds. I have four tons of coal in the bin which cost me $27.56 and my rent is paid to Nov. 15th, which will probably cost me a $40 loss. I just hope we find out so I can save that two weeks rent and sell them the coal.
Irene is going back to Lafayette, La., again because the field I am going to is about twenty miles from the nearest town, which is the size of Yancey. Also I won't have time to go back and forth to town because I will be in school again.
Maybe you read in the paper about the new ``super-bomber'' which is just now coming off the assembly line. It is the B-29. It is much larger than the Flying Fortress or Liberator but naturally the dimensions are still restricted. I will be among the first to fly the ships as it is still more or less in the experimental stage, and it will probably be a matter of weeks before we fly it and many months before we are considered qualified B-29 commanders. Several other instructors from Smyrna are going with me.
I had intended to stay at Smyrna for several months yet, until after the baby comes and after I was promoted to Captain; but while I was on leave they got a rush telegram to send several experienced B-24 instructors out to fly B-29's and they didn't have time to ask me first (as if it would have made any difference). The group C.O. knew I wanted to fly B-29's but he didn't know I just found a place to live and was expecting another baby so he sent me.
Well, that's the way the breaks go and here we go again. I was in Arizona two months, Mississippi——5½ mos., Arkansas——5½ mos., and at Smyrna——6 months. Each time it was to be a permanent assignment but we never really relaxed and settled down for a long stay until we moved to this house. That's what I get for going on leave.
If Joycelyn gets here the 30th we can still be together a couple of days. I sure hope she can come as we spent a lot of time getting the house in shape before her visit. However if she doesn't leave New York until the 29th or 30th she won't be able to get here before we leave.
If I can get enough gas I will drive Irene by Louisiana. Otherwise I will have to let someone drive my car there and leave it. We are always given enough gas to either drive to the next station or drive to our permanent home address so I may squeeze out enough to take her home and still drive on to Kansas. The girl who rooms with us offered to drive her home and ride the train back so Irene won't have to make that long hard trip on an over-crowded train.
I don't know the name of the town in Kansas nor whether I am going to stay in Kansas as a B-29 instructor. If I go to combat I couldn't ask for a better airplane, as the B-29 is the largest combat airplane in the world, uses cannon instead of machine guns, flies higher and farther than any other airplane, and is considered so important that every member of the crew is an officer, no enlisted men at all. In other words, the ideal bomber to fly over Tokyo and ``look at the scenery.''
More news later when it happens.
P.S. Also enclosed some letters to keep for Donk.
November 11, 1943
1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
676th Bomb Sqdn.
Army Air Field
Great Bend, Kansas
I am getting settled down pretty well here now. The airplane is really a beauty and I am glad to be here. The only drawback is the B.O.Q. They are something on the order of Walnut Ridge except better insulated. We have two to a room instead of a private room but I believe my room mate is O.K. He is also a 1st Lt. Incidentally, every one talks as though we may expect promotion to Captain in the near future but I won't believe it until I see it on my pay voucher.
The trip up here was uneventful. I saw Te d and we ate supper and spent the night together at the hotel. His uniform fits well and he looks good but has ``Recruit'' written all over him. That won't last long, just until he becomes accustomed to his uniform.
I can't write much now as I have to notify magazines, etc., of my new address. Be sure and get it right as the letter may not even reach me if you don't.
Name (Serial number not necessary)
676th Bomb Sqdn.
Army Air Field
Great Bend, Kansas
P.S. I won't be able to discuss my airplane at all nor affairs of the post. When we go overseas you won't know it until we are there. It can't be helped and I think you can see the necessity for secrecy. The more surprised they are, the more of us will get back.
Great Bend, Kansas, November 23, 1943
I finally got an afternoon off because the ship I was scheduled to fly is being worked on. I haven't had time to write before this, as they are really keeping me busy. I can now say that I have flown all our 4-engine bombers, but the Army has a couple of 4-engine transports I haven't even seen and don't care to. I like the B-24 much better than the B-17 . We use B-17's here for quite a bit of our training (navigation, etc.) in order to save wear and tear on our big ships, the B-29 . We call our B-29's ``Sacred Cows'' because at first nobody but Colonels and Majors could fly it.
I have been getting around some. Flew up to St. Paul, Minn .; to Birmingham , Ala.; Des Moines, Iowa ; Salt Lake City, Uta h; and was scheduled to fly to Walla Walla, Wash ., but the weather turned bad. Naturally these flights were on different days and I only spent the night once——in St Paul.
That sure was an unfortunate misunderstanding with Joycelyn . No doubt she went off half-cocked as usual because I never told her I was coming, just that I hoped to see her in S.A. It is barely possible that Western Union garbled my message but I doubt it. Anyway I sent her a telegram and straightened her out. I sure was sorry to miss seeing her.
About the war bonds, mail them to Irene at 115 E. Vermillion St., Lafayette. You will receive them every month for a while, until I get it changed, so I would appreciate your mailing them on to her when you receive them. She is having a little trouble it seems, as she is in bed for a few days. A little trouble from the last baby is bothering her now but I don't think it is serious. That is why she hasn't written to you but she will when she feels better. She lives with an older sister who is married and occupies one or two rooms there. Evelyn is still with her.
I haven't been off the post since I came. The Officers' Club is fairly nice but I only have time to dash over and eat ocassionally. They let us pay by the meal instead of a set monthly rate, but we have to pay cash (Br 35¢ - Din 50¢ - Sup 50¢). Dry cleaning costs 50¢ for pants with other articles in proportion. I have my room fixed up pretty well but it's plenty cold. It was 24° this morning. In St. Paul it was 11° with ice 3" thick on the streets and snow everywhere. It stays cold here all the time, gets up to 50° at noon, so I am glad to have my long-handle G.I. underwear and socks.
We make so many navigation flights that I might drop in on you unexpectedly some day. Maybe overnight, may not. Or I might have somebody use a hammer on one of the engines. Bang! Then we could stay a week.
If you don't get many letters from me you will know they are working the pants off of me. I will try to write Joycelyn and Ted but may not have time. I barely have time to write Irene every 2 or 3 days and she seems pretty blue right now.
I will settle Bobby 's insurance soon I hope but haven't been able to yet.
Great Bend, Kansas, December 11, 1943
I am getting used to the cold a little now, but the cold is always here, seeping through sweaters and coat, numbing hands and feet, crystallizing eyeballs and ears, and stealing away the warmth of the sun.
It snowed heavily the last two days, about twelve inches with drifts four feet and higher. This afternoon it started to melt and make a nasty, slushy, mess. Tonight it is frozen tight again only the half-melted snow is ice now.
I went on a bombing mission this morning but the snow had covered all range markers and the target so we wasted the morning and froze stiff for nothing. I was in a B-17 and as usual the heaters didn't work. It was 30° below zero (centigrade) at 25,000 feet. That is plenty cool. We are supposed to get electric heated suits soon but right now we have only the fleece-lined leather equipment.
It seems sort of funny to hear Meril is going to work. I thought it was against the law to employ 10 year-old kids. Child labor law, or something such.
No comment on the forthcoming marriage of Jack Mock . None necessary.
No comment on football game. Jef f wins——standard procedure.
No comment on Dad's Sunday headaches. I used to get them myself when it came time to get out of the sack and dress.
I was checking over the records of my crew today. The average age is 22½. My co-pilot is the oldest, 26. The flight engineer is youngest, 20. He will probably be 1st Lt. before he is 21. The radio operator's mother was born in Finland, his father in Russia. He is also 20 years old and the best radioman in the squadron. One of the gunners has two years in Stanford University. His mother was born in England. Another gunner is from Hico, Texas, pretty close to Johnson City. I just found it out today and haven't asked him if he knows Uncle Roy. My navigator has 3½ years in Miss. U. studying civil engineering. He is the only member of the crew besides me who is married. Several of them are specialist in the various secret equipment. The only trouble is that by time we learn about this equipment it is either revised or completely outmoded and replaced.
It's mighty nice of Mother to offer to go help Irene if necessary but I think she is being well taken care of from what she tells me and from what I know of her people. Her old family doctor is taking care of her too. She feels pretty bad sometime but I really believe she is in the best place right now. She will come visit you when she is able again and show off our boy and girl, but I guess that is a mighty long way from now as she couldn't go on the train and can't come in a car either. In other words I guess she won't come visit you after all. Ha!
I hope you have received my letter regarding Christmas gifts. Like you say, it is the spirit that counts and not the gift itself. I just hope you won't cross me up and send me something when I can't return it. The wolves here can't even find anything to send their girl friends.
The ball is rolling on Bobby's insurance and Aunt Anna wrote me a very nice letter. Her letters are very efficient——they give complete and precise information and at the same time are friendly and interesting. Wish I could see her.
There doesn't seem to be much hope for a Christmas leave but I hope to see you all and Irene before we go to war.
Great Bend, Kansas, January 1, 1944
Sorry about the ration books, but I don't know where they could have been stolen while I had the car. I was always careful to keep it locked while parked downtown and the only place it was left unlocked was in front of Mary McCurdy's house at 219 Allensworth and we were in the front room all the time, so that doesn't seem likely. I didn't move any of the stuff this time that I remember, unless it was the very first day when I used the car. Ask Meril or Laurance about that, as I seem to recall one of them being there when I backed the car out.
The last time I drove the car in I made a check to see if I was leaving anything in it, and didn't notice the rags or book on the floor at the time. Quién sabe?
I really had a swell time in San Antonio , especially since I didn't expect to be there for Christmas. Received your gifts OK and am well pleased as it is just what I wanted. Joycelyn sent me a nice gift also but don't tell her or Mother that they both gave me scarves. I can well use both of them, also the sweater.
You didn't say whether Mother sent the housecoat to Irene , but I sure hope it got off all right as Irene was very blue about being alone for Christmas and I don't want her to think I forgot her entirely. I sure get lonesome without the little gal but this is no place for her now.
Tomorrow I have an interesting trip, about 3,000 miles with nearly half of it over water. Will tell you where after I get back but don't worry as I take-off and land at Great Bend.
Hope you get straight on the ration books or find the others.
Great Bend, Kansas, January 22, 1944
No longer can I tease Joycelyn about being delinquent in her letter writing. But I believe I have a good reason this time. As you know, we are working pretty hard right now, but I have been writing to Irene every night regardless of how late I get in, because she needs to hear from us regularly at this trying time and I wanted her to have a letter every day while she is in bed. That's why I haven't been able to write to anyone else, but today I got about ten hours off in a stretch. I flew this morning and go to work on the hanger line at midnight tonight. My crew will help work on a B-29 tonight which is out of commission and we probably won't get through before dawn. (My aching back!) Then we sleep until Sunday noon and fly that afternoon.
Sorry if I caused you any embarrassment regarding my promotion, Mother. It was one of the biggest surprises I have had in a long time when the other squadrons went through as expected and only ours stood short. Fortunately our Group C.O. is a swell fellow, and he is the one who will actually lead us in combat. But my squadron C.O. controls promotions within his sqdn. and the Group C.O. could hardly interfere in such a matter. (A Group is composed of several squadrons) You will probably be safe enough with your friends though as he can't hold us back indefinitely when our work is satisfactory and only the greatest luck will permit me to come home again in the next month or so, if then. Some of the navigators have 13 months service as 2nd Lt. and he won't promote them either, so there are others worse off than I am. I only have ten months as 1st Lt.
Irene sent me a telegram with the big news yesterday, saying we now have a baby girl of 8 lbs. and 10 oz., born the morning of Jan. 20th. Looks like we got what we wanted again, and a bigger baby than last time. Bobby was 8 lbs., 6 oz. She didn't say what the little gal looks like but I do know she will name her Sharon Lee . Don't ask me where she got that fancy name but I suppose it is as good as any. I hope to go down and see her soon. Also would like to see what the wee laddie looks like now. Irene says he is changing every day.
It looks like Fath is going right on up in social affairs. He should do right well as President of the Carriers' Association since the man with the most friends is in the best position to represent his group. And with that smooth line of bull he puts out in his talks they will probably make him Postmaster next.
Mother, I am enclosing a check for $17.00 to cover cost of the robe you sent Irene, but she is sending it back for exchange. You probably have it by now. This thing sure is causing you a lot of trouble. Anyway maybe you will have a better selection to choose from this time. A good robe she can wear while handling the children would be of more value to her than a more expensive one which would ruin easily. Perhaps a good chenille robe or quilted one.
I am going to ask yet another favor of you. Of Fath I mean. I would like for you to keep a record of my War Bonds. As soon as I go across there will be a $100 and a $50 coming in every month, so I want to be sure a good record is kept. The bonds will go to Irene, but she can send you the numbers each month instead of me. The reason I intend to buy more bonds is that it will cost me little or nothing to live over there. Unfortunately I am not allowed to allot my flying pay or I would buy even more bonds. Maybe I will be able to send my surplus cash back and let you buy some extra ones, I hope so.
February 21, 1944
Air Cadet P. T. Spellman
80th College Training Detachment
Iowa State Teachers College
Cedar Falls , Iowa
I guess you have been wondering where I got this stationery, I got it from the orderly room when I was on C.Q. last night. Pretty isn't it.
I have been reading about the fourth war loan in San Antonio, and I think you might be interested in how our bond drive came out. They called us into the auditorium and told us that the War Department wanted us to do our part in the 4th war loan. They set as a quota twelve thousand dollars (actual cost not maturity value) which is three thousand dollars for each squadron of one hundred-twenty men each. Within two hours after we left the auditorium we had exceeded the twelve thousand dollars. This $12,000 does not include the deductions that they were already taking out of our pay. Frankly I was amazed at the response. Incidentally the Detachment payroll is not much over twice as much as this amount. For myself I bought an $18.75 bond which I will send home next month. How much does this make me (maturity value). You can forget about the clothes I spoke about as I bought the bond with the money.
How is Irene by now? The last I heard she was about to be operated on, and I have been pretty worried about how she might be doing.
I guess Meril got more valentines than anyone else in the room or did Mary Jane beat her?
February 27, 1944
1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
676th Bomb Sqdn. (Very Heavy)
Great Bend AAF, Kansas
It's just a little past midnight but I guess this is as good a time as any to write a letter. I am Control Officer and things are pretty slack.
No doubt you were pretty surprised to get my telegram that I was in Louisiana with Irene, but when I heard how much trouble she was having I asked the Colonel to have someone fly me down to Lafayette and much to my surprise he agreed. Not only that but he had someone pick me up three days later, so I was able to spend two nights and about 2½ days with Irene.
She has lost quite a bit of weight and appears to feel pretty bad at times but from what I could tell she is in no further danger and with reasonable luck will begin to get out of bed for short periods in a week or so. She is supposed to go home from the hospital today or tomorrow, but will have to continue the same treatment she is receiving now at home. It consists of a tent-like affair with light bulbs inside which throw continuous heat on her bad leg. This ``milk leg '' condition is caused by an infection along the outside of the veins in her leg, and she has another stubborn sore spot on the inside of her knee caused by a sort of a blood clot. The doctor evidently is suspicious of that spot or he wouldn't have her in the hospital so long and he also is going to visit her at least once a day after she goes home. The incision in her breast is healing satisfactorily but won't be well for some time yet. Even after she starts getting out of bed she will be far from well as that is only part of the doctor's treatment for milk leg and to help her regain her strength and appetite.
I was sort of hoping that Mother would still be there when I came but she had been gone three days. You really made a good impression on them Mother, and they all complimented you highly for personality and beauty. I am glad you were finally able to meet a few more of her clan as most of them are pretty swell people, especially the old man and Irene's sisters.
Sharon Lee is being well cared for by Irene's Aunt Kim, and Evelyn is having the time of her life spoiling Bobby just as she pleases. She really loves that kid and her only fault is in not being able to deny him anything. Her Aunt Rita (Ta-Ta) is with Irene constantly and will continue to care for her when she is released from the hospital. It is very fortunate that all this difficulty came up in Lafayette instead of up in Nashville or here in Kansas.
By the way Sharon Lee looks a lot more like a human being than she did last time I was there. I believe she might turn out to be a pretty baby after all instead of a wrinkled up little tomato. As you know, Bobby is walking all over the house now under his own steam, and followed me around when possible, probably in the hopes I would leave the ice box doors open or something.
That is about all the news from this end of the line, except that Fath is doing a mighty good job in his new role of Jekyll and Hyde (common carrier and brass hat). That was a good article he wrote in the ``Outlook,'' or articles I should say.
If you folks don't hear from me for a week straight in the near future you can pretty well figure on a longer delay as I won't be able to write immediately preceding departure, during the trip, or for a while after arrival. And also you may as well stop writing if there is a week's silence from this end as they couldn't forward the letters for quite a spell. I will let you know my new address as soon as possible after arrival, but in the meantime before I leave it is mighty good to get those letters from home and I am sorry I can't reply more often. You have no idea how many thousand and one things there are to do when getting ready for foreign service.
Great Bend, Kansas, March 9, 1944
It is already 21:30 and I have just returned from a five day flight but I figured I better write to you all and Irene before you draw erroneous conclusions.
There is precious little I can say at this hectic time but everything is fine with me and Irene is improving some. But Irene has developed new trouble now. I don't know whether it is serious or not. Urine tests indicate puss in the kidneys. It sounds ominous but may not be, (I hope).
Fath, I am making you a present of my membership in the Literary Guild . It will be a little trouble but won't cost you anything. I have already paid them $8.00 for four books in advance but have only chosen one so far. Each month they will send you a little pamphlet called ``Wings'' which describes the current selection. You must notify them in writing before the fourteenth of each month if you do not want the current selection, because they will automatically send the book unless you write them ``no.'' You have until next January (including Jan.) to chose your three books but remember a new one comes out each month and will be sent to you unless you write them not to. The thing is still in my name but with your address, so use my name in dealing with them. Enclosed is a book of instructions explaining everything.
Also enclosed is a picture of my crew. We couldn't take a picture of a B-29 so got something less secret and less ``super.'' All these boys fly with me on every flight and we will go to war together. They are a swell bunch and well qualified. We have naturally been training together ever since I got here. Russell lives in Hico, not far from Aunt Ethel Stubbs. Graham is second in command and Thiel is third.
Will write more before I leave if possible.
P.S. Use address I gave you in my last letter now.
March 13, 1944
1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
444th Bomb Gp., (VH)
676th Bomb Sqdn.
c/o Postmaster, New York, NY
Sorry I didn't get to write before I left Great Bend but we didn't get much warning and I had a lot to do. I was out five days in a B-29 and when I got back the orders for my transfer had already been there one day.
I don't know what my new address will be yet but this letter will be mailed for me and probably have the new address filled in. As soon as you receive my new address put me back on the mailing list please, but don't use any V-mail unless I do. Use regular air mail.
I sent my superfluous clothes and equipment to Irene already. Also two large pictures of my crew of which she will send you one. If she forgets, remind her of it. One is the same as the small one you have (the best one), the other is in front of a B-17. Lt. Paul was taken off our crew before the second picture.
You folks probably wonder about all this talk of crew this and crew that but the reason is that the crew is the basic unit in the bomber command. We always fly together, attend school together, play ball together, and of course we will be entirely dependent on each other in combat. So that is why I wanted you to have those pictures and see who I am flying with. Notice Lt. Barnes, our half-pint navigator whom we call ``Muscles.'' He is 5'6" and weighs 115 lbs. And Sgt. Tallant, the senior gunner. He is responsible for defending our ship, along with Cook, Russell, and London. The others have important jobs too. Masters can't drop a bomb in a barrel from 30,000 feet, but he could sure scrape the paint off the outside.
You should have seen me washing clothes last night. I got tired and quit after a suit of under wear, a tee shirt, and a handkerchief. From now on I go dirty. I am just not the washer-woman type.
Love to all, Bob
March 16, 1944
I am writing this from a post on the Atlantic Coast but unfortunately it is not New York City so I have not seen Joycelyn (and won't see her). I wrote you one letter on the way here.
They are really treating us swell here and we get pretty good chow because we eat in the G.I. mess hall instead of the Officers' Club. All my crew is with me except Lt. Thiel and Sgt. Cook, who will be along later. We are having a good time tramping around the post, going to the show, post exchange, etc. There is no work for us to do here.
As I told you before, we have to do our own washing and to date I have washed three suits of underwear, three handkerchiefs, two pair of socks, a tee shirt, and a big bath towel. Yesterday I got wise and bought some Rinso washing powder which makes it a snap. Of course it may not be so easy using cold water and a steel helmet instead of a wash basin with hot running water but it is good while it lasts. Also a suit of Khaki's may be a little more difficult than underwear.
The last I heard from Irene she was developing kidney trouble but I didn't get to find out how serious it is. Even if she is able to write me the letter will probably take a long time to get here by way of New York.
This APO number will be my address from now on, no matter where we go from here. Be sure to get the address right to avoid delay in delivery, and put my serial number after my name.
444th Bomb Gp., (VH)
676th Bomb Sqdn.
c/o Postmaster, New York, NY
Disregard any previous information you have received concerning my address and use only the above.
You know what kind of airplane I fly so you can probably follow our activity pretty close by the newspapers.
I suggest that you don't use V-mail in writing to me until I write to you on it. In the mean time use regular air mail.
There isn't much more I can say even if I knew so will sign off hoping to hear from you one of these days.
March 21, 1944
I am no longer on the east coast of ye olde Newnited States. Things have changed considerably, but am still doing my own laundry and little else. By the way my laundering ability increases day by day and since the arrival of the Wonder Soap, Rinso, on the scene my work would do credit to any first class laundry.
I spend most of my time playing different games. Fortunately I have my dominoes , anagrams, chess men, cards, etc, with me so we have a variety. So far there is not much competition at anagrams but my co-pilot ranks 21st in the United States chess tournaments so the chess is slightly one sided.
I am also learning contract bridge but am still so amateurish that it costs us money every game. (1/10¢ per point).
This letter probably won't be mailed for a while yet so don't be surprised if it is old when you get it. You can write to me anytime you wish but no telling when I will get it either. Things are a little uncertain right now, to say the least.
There isn't anything of interest I can write about at the present but I am getting very good chow, have a roof over my head for a while at least, and am certainly not being overworked.
Naturally I haven't heard from Irene so don't know how her kidney trouble and milk leg are getting along.
I didn't get to see Joycelyn before I left for the reason I mentioned in previous letter.
North Africa, April 1, 1944
Maybe my letters have been getting home and maybe not. No mail has caught up with me yet. I wrote a rather detailed letter to Irene relating everything of interest up to date and asked her to send it on to you all. No use going through all that twice.
Nothing new has happened here, except we now have American cooks instead of Italian and the food is much better. Am still washing clothes in the steel shell part of my helmet, eating from a mess kit, and sleeping in a well ventilated tent. We have movies every night but so far it has been the same movies we saw on the boat mostly. All Grade ``A'' films.
I was pretty lucky to be able to visit Casablanca in French Morocco recently and spend a whole day wandering around town. It was a little difficult getting around as very few people speak English but it really made me realize I was overseas and was very enjoyable. I visited the Sultan's palace where Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin had their famous meeting and was properly impressed by the luxury, beauty, and abundance of art work. Delicate wood carving was everywhere and the baby Sultan's nursery was richly enlaid with silver art work. It was worthy of any Arabian Night's tale but the old man and his 25 wives were away.
I bought a nice hand-tooled leather hand bag for Irene for our anniversary. Hope she likes it as it cost 1250 francs. There is nothing in the U.S. to compare with the leather craft here and it was a real pleasure to listen to the man describe the laborious process. Absolutely no machines used, and only delicate ivory tools touch the leather. Only vegetable dyes are used, no chemicals. No two articles are alike, and seldom even similar.
I went to a Red Cross dance and danced with a girl refugee from France. A poor dancer, rather dull to talk to, and not too pretty. I left the dance early as my party was leaving.
Please keep me on the distribution list for your multiple letters. They will catch up some day and I will really celebrate. Hope everybody is well and happy.
P.S. Please forward to Ted and Donk .
One franc is equivalent to two U.S. pennies.
April 16, 1944
To: Mr. Paul R. Spellmann From: 1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
218 E Malone St. 444th Bomb Gp., (VH)
San Antonio 4, Texas 676th Bomb Sqdn.
God's Country APO 493, C/O Postmaster, New York, NY
Please don't discuss anything I write.
Advise Ted my address please.
This is my address now as I believe we have stopped moving for a while. Haven't received any mail since leaving Kansas but it will no doubt catch up now. Am stationed in India and it is hot like Arizona but we have a much better camp than I expected. I have a native orderly but don't allow him to brush my teeth as yet. He does everything else though. Will write more later. Use either airmail or use V-mail with airmail stamp writing to me.
April 27, 1944
To: Mr. Paul R. Spellmann From: 1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
218 E Malone St. 444th Bomb Gp., (VH)
San Antonio 4, Texas 676th Bomb Sqdn.
God's Country APO 493, C/O Postmaster, New York, NY
Am pretty well settled here now. Am seeing a lot of strange sights that have always been something to read about before. But I saw Jerusalem and other little villages in Palestine, and the other things I wrote about before. Palestine looks like it is completely dead, and the land appears worn out from centuries of use. The country side is a maze of stone wall fences and ancient fortresses are on most of the higher hills. It is impossible to describe the sensation of deadness and age which the country gives but it was certainly unlike anything I ever saw before. And I can see how the Dead Sea got its name. The whole thing was very depressing. I also stopped in a little town in Iran but it was dark and I couldn't see anything. However there were many Polish refugees there and some of the waitresses (Polish) were quite pretty. And white. Here in India the only white women I have seen are Army nurses. The native women here work like men, carrying large loads on their heads, and are as dark as Negroes.
No mail received yet.
Love to all,
India, May 2, 1944
I really had a big day yesterday, with two letters from Irene and one from Te d. Te d's was written April 4th and Irene's were March 19th and 28th. Some of the boys have received mail written only eight days before so you can see how haphazard the mails are. Those are the only letters I have received since leaving the States so they were like manna from heaven. No letter from you all or Donk yet but they will probably come drifting in within the next month or so.
Irene said she is well now and can walk around. That was welcome news as she was sick in bed and had just developed kidney trouble before I left and I was rather worried all this time. She also said Donk was going home on furlough, so she has probably been and gone by now, lucky girl. She must be good looking in her uniform and I would like to have seen her. She had been away from home about eight months if I remember right, and that is a long time as she used to get home every two or three months at least while teaching school.
Wish I could write all the interesting news from here but they are even more strict with us than regular squadrons. But the Japs are out to get us naturally so we have to be as careful as possible. They are bragging about shooting some of us down already, over the radio, but you know how their propaganda is so don't believe everything you read or hear.
May is the hottest month of the year here and we expect temperatures between 110 and 130. After that the wet monsoons start, with several hundred inches of rain in about 100 days or less. I'll bet that will be miserable, and I intend to mount pontoons on my airplane, also my bed. I can see me now, rowing half a mile to the latrine.
These natives are getting on my nerves a little. They all look like Gunga Din and talk their local gibberish continually. They are not half as bad about begging as the Arabs were and are more honest and cleaner, but they are foreign to me and I suppose that will pass in time. They work hard all day then stay up all night beating drums, singing, and dancing.
We have native barbers and a haircut is six annas (twelve cents). However things in town are cheaply made and high priced. If I ever get to Calcutta , Karachi , or Delhi maybe I can find some decent things to send home. Prices always go up when the Americans come, no matter if it is Africa, India, Italy, England, Australia, or where.
Many of the boys are becoming very British lately, with sun helmets, shorts which reach the knees, long stockings, boots, and bush jackets. I wear my G.I. uniform with a helmet liner and am probably twice as comfortable and much better protected from sun and insects. Of course we all wear shorts only and sandals around the barracks though. I sleep on a G.I. canvas cot with nothing on me or the cot, except the mosquito netting of course. Outside at night we must apply insect repellant lotion to all exposed skin.
All our water is chlorinated of course and we have no ice fit for use in drinking water. We use ice of local manufacture for preserving meat if we have meat but mostly to chill the weekly beer ration. For those who do not drink beer there is fruit juice. We have hot tea for nearly every meal, it is very good tea but makes us sweat profusely. We cool our drinking water very nicely by evaporative processes, either soaking our canvas canteen covers while outside, or using slightly porous clay jars in the barracks. Much better than ice water in this heat, and you can hardly taste the chlorine in cool water.
Well I will sign off hoping all of you are in good shape and happy. Those carbon copies of your letters will be very welcome these days, be sure to use airmail though. V-mail is OK too.
Tell mother I haven't forgotten Mother's day but the only gift I have is my remembrance and love right now.
May 2, 1944
To: Mr. Paul T. Spellmann From: 1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
18232940 444th Bomb Gp., (VH)
80th C.T.D. 43-C-16 676th Bomb Sqdn.
State Teachers College APO 493, C/O Postmaster, New York, NY
Cedar Falls, Iowa
Mighty glad to hear from you as today is first mail I have received since March 8th. Got one from you (dated April 4th) and two from Irene. No doubt you have gone somewhere by now, and I sure hope it is pilot school. Wherever they sent you I hope it is for combat crew training in the Air Force, whether pilot, gunner, or what.
Answering your questions, I have been in the Army five years, been an officer (and pilot) for two years and have 2000 flying hours. About 500 hours in the B-24's, two or three hundred hours in B-17's, and 100 in the ship I am now flying. I have been 1st Lt. for 14 months and it is a long story why I am not Captain. I am qualified for promotion but no airplane commanders have been promoted since January so I am S.O.L.
I like India pretty well but it is as hot as Arizona and not too good for flying. The place gets on our nerves pretty bad as not much recreation available, little to do.
May 16, 1944
To: Miss Meril Spellmann From: 1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
218 E Malone 444th Bomb Gp.,
San Antonio 4, Texas 676th Bomb Sqdn.
God's Country APO 493, C/O Postmaster, New York, NY
Dear Meril ,
I was surprised to get a letter from the family's youngest but thanks for all the news. You sure are growing up fast, going to formal dances and everything. I keep thinking you are about 12, but it won't be long before you can vote at this rate.
You asked about our movies here. Well, in North Africa we had the latest movies just like you do, but here in India they are pretty old. Our ``theaters'' are just a sheet hung on a tree or building and we all sit on the ground or maybe on benches out in the open. This camp is getting very modern lately. They installed electric lights in our barracks but did not furnish bulbs or electricity. They will be D.C. instead of A.C., sort of like car headlight bulbs.
You asked if I will get in the fighting but all I can say is they didn't send me here to make mud pies.
I would like for you to send pictures as you mentioned in your letter. Sorry I did not bring a Kodak myself. How do you like the Rainbow Scouts?
India, May 22, 1944
Received your letter written May 1st and see that you finally know my latest location, ``(the end of the world).'' I am seeing a great many strange lands, and of course I can't tell you all of what I do see but after this is over with I will have a great many tall stories for my children and the rest of our tribe. We used to count the number of states we had visited but now I can barely keep track of the countries and continents, which undoubtedly makes me a traveled and learned man. I am very glad that you have the judgement not to mention things I have written about previously. What I mean is talking of several places in the same letter. One place at a time is perfectly all right.
Don't worry about me seeing too many unpleasant things. Air warfare is undoubtedly as clean as is possible in war and we are more comfortable usually than other branches. But so far there is none of the fascination of strange lands that the poets write of. Only poverty, filth, and primitive ignorance. We don't see what the tourists see, we see the real inside of a country and it isn't picturesque at all. Interesting to see but pleasant only to talk of when safely away. Also you will find no priceless rugs in cow dung huts . They paint their houses with cow dung but the floors are dirt or straw. Only in India could you find such extreme contrasts of riches and poverty and such sharp division of classes . And no chance of ever moving up, only down. I haven't seen the Taj Mahal yet but have hopes. Glad to hear Donk is doing well but I think she will like a commission. If Te d is going to be a bombardier he will almost surely go through navigator's school afterwards. Both Lt. Masters and Barnes on my crew are combination Bomb-Nav. Those boys are highly trained and very valuable. Next to pilot he couldn't do better.
Irene told me she hoped to move to San Antonio and the change will probably be good for her. However she is the type of girl who likes to run her own home and I am glad that you all realize the necessity of that. She wouldn't be happy any other way. But she would love to be near you all where she could visit frequently. There will be three in her family and three in yours with Laurance gone so a duplex should work very nicely. Speaking of family training, I can't hope for more than to be as good to her and raise the children as well as Fath did, and I can't ask more of Irene than to be as good as Mother. So far she has lived up to every expectation and more and I have a fine family to come home to. But it will be a long war, no getting around that. I have practically no hope of getting home for at least a year from now unless I get a lucky break.
I still think the world of the airplane and combat crew I fly with. They are a swell bunch of fellows and know their jobs. But it is no use hiding the fact I am disappointed in my squadron. Nearly all the men in it are swell but as a whole I am disappointed. Our C.O. said yesterday he does not intend to make any more promotions for a while yet, although they are no longer frozen. I am fairly certain it is not because I lack qualifications because there are dozens of others in this squadron in the same fix, and he has never voiced any criticism of me except in some small things that have come up which happen to everybody. In other words I am a victim of circumstances but it doesn't take the bitterness out because as long as I remain 1st Lt. I don't get even breaks with higher ranking pilots, even though I might have more experience. If something doesn't happen soon I intend to see the group commander (in charge of all squadrons) for an explanation of this inequality between squadrons. Why one squadron should lag so far behind others in promotions. It makes all effort seem futile but I won't let down as it wouldn't be fair to the crew or old Uncle Sam either. This Army is much bigger than our one squadron so I wouldn't be much of a soldier to let one C.O. get me down, but I don't like to beat my head on a stone wall for 15 months. It is very serious for an officer to go over the head of his C.O. but I will be forced to if this goes much longer.
Well, hope I haven't griped too much. On the whole we are treated pretty well and it is as pleasant as is possible here. Your letters are very welcome and brace me up considerably. I don't hear from Irene very often but she is plenty busy these days and does well to write every week or ten days.
May 26, 1944
To: AV/S Paul T. Spellmann From: 1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
SQ 102, SAAAB 444th Bomb Gp., (VH)
Santa Ana, California 676th Bomb Sqdn.
(Hell's Half Acre) APO 493, C/O Postmaster, New York, NY
Dear Te d,
Just received your letter written April 18th. The folks say you are now a potential bombardier. Bombardiers are undoubtedly the laziest and orneriest breed of men in the airforce, considering it beneath their dignity to work. Therefore you are pretty well qualified I reckon since you are nearly as lazy as I am. By the way I thought you understood I was the driver in my airplane. Get mother to send you that picture of my crew which shows all our positions in the plane.
You will probably go to navigator's school after bombardier school. Both of my boys did. That makes it a pretty good deal for you and believe me everybody on the crew loves our navigator, especially after a recent close call we had. And when our bombardier makes a good score everybody is as proud as though they had dropped the bombs themselves. Foolish, isn't it? By the by, Aunt Olga wrote me a letter, also Mozelle. Hubba Hubba.
India, May 27, 1944
Am receiving letters from you every couple of days now and really welcome all the home news. Wish I could have been at the reunion and seen all the folks. I never will forget the good times we had when the tribe gathered from far and wide. By the way don't worry about your mail being censored because so far you have used very good judgement and nothing has been cut out. Aunt Olga and Mozelle wrote to me too, and it was good to hear from them. I censor my own mail (as do all officers) but it is subject to censorship by higher authority at all times if they wish. Normally however my letters will not be opened.
You may tell Mr. and Mrs. Kothmann they have nothing to worry about regarding their son. He is in my camp and I see him nearly every day. He is looking healthier than ever, has about as little work as I do, and is in good shape in all respects. He is as safe as I am so I hope they don't do any misguided worrying. Our camp is comparatively isolated so I have no opportunity to inquire regarding Mrs. Nowlin's husband, especially since we have none of his branch on the field.
From Ted's last letter I gather he has not seen our crew picture. Will you please send him one of the small ones (the one with Lt. Paul on the crew) so he can see what we look like. Lt. Paul was off our crew for a while but now he is back on again. My co-pilot made 1st Lt. last month by the way. (Lt. Graham)
I would like to know more about this deal of Laurance getting in the Marines. Whether he is getting any special opportunity to induce him to join or whether he just decided to be a leatherneck. So far the news has been very vague about him but I finally deduced that he will finish high school before joining. I would like to know if he will enter a special school or something like Louis Spellmann did or enter as cadet like Ted did or what.
We have opened an Officers' Mess for our squadron now, and it is pretty nice. We have table cloths, napkins, waiters, ice tea, fruit juices, and very good chow. The place is also well cooled and in such an atmosphere it is hard to realize there is a war going on. After returning from a sweltering hot and long flight, that club is like another world. The headwaiter was imported from a large city and looks regal in his militaristic costume with a scarlet sash on his waist and a diagonal scarlet band on his turban. He is of the highest caste, the Brahmins. He is a strict disciplinarian and the waiters really hop when he says frog.
We also have movies every other night now, pictures usually one or two years old so far. They put a sheet up on the side of some building and we all sit on the ground or bring stools to sit on. A portable generator furnishes electricity. So far we have no electricity in the barracks.
Day before yesterday my crew had a day off with a 2½ ton truck at our disposal. We went to a fair-sized town not too far away and made the most of it. They had an inferior quality ice cream and fountain drinks. We bought the place out. We were able to do other shopping too and I bought Irene a purse, bracelet and powder box; bought Meril a purse and bracelet, and Mother a pin for her dress. These pins and bracelets are very fine handwork but the clasps are very poor and cheap. However they are all pure soft silver and will probably be good for a what-not shelf. I sent everything to Irene who will forward your things to you. If I ever get to a large city with about 1000 rupees in my pocket I can do some real shopping. These are just curios I sent this time.
We also went swimming at a British country club in this town and it was like back home. Water squirting out from the sides of a blue pool, diving boards and a slide. There were also tennis courts and golf course but we didn't have the equipment to play.
Did you receive that heavy envelope of coins I sent home? It contained about twenty coins and quite a few bills. You should have it by now. It is to go on to Irene after you see them.
Right now one of my room mates is cleaning his pistol and the other is eating a coconut and drinking beer. What a combination! Our furniture consists of one table, three canvas G.I. cots, part of a wardrobe in which we hang our clothes, and an earthenware vessel about two feet diameter which we use to cool cans of fruit juice and beer. It isn't so bad except for the scorching winds and stifling nights. The mosquito nets make it even hotter at night so it is very difficult to sleep on a mattress drenched with sweat. I usually sleep nude on the bare canvas cot, which is really getting down to essentials! We must eat from 6 to 8 salt tablets a day to avoid heat exhaustion. My radio operator is in the hospital now because he did not eat enough salt. The difficulty was that the tablets made him vomit so naturally he stopped taking them. He is a Yankee and evidently not suited to hot weather. I like this heat better than the bitter cold in Kansas but the Yankees are suffering.
Good Luck to everybody at home. You have it harder than I do so keep up your morale. I write side letters to Te d and Donk but assume you also send these along to them in case they are interested.
India, June 4, 1944
About all I can put in this letter is ``nothing to report.'' I haven't heard from you all or Irene in over a week, or anybody else for that matter except a nice letter from Donk which took only two weeks to get here. Most letters take 3-5 weeks. She certainly is doing well in her work there and seems to be enjoying herself and seeing all of New England. She offered to send me a book entitled ``Texas a World in Itself'' and a book of Texas short stories. I sent her the necessary request for a package and will circulate those books around the squadron in an attempt to educate our misinformed Yankees in the squadron.
It looks like the monsoons will be on us right away. We have already had several good rains and I read in the local paper that they have already hit the area where our ground forces are fighting the Japs. The dust has been pretty bad so a little rain would be welcome, but several hundred inches in a few months is too much.
Donk says I don't write enough about myself but there just isn't anything to say. I haven't been sick the least bit, have plenty to eat, and plenty of spare time. Many of our boys have come down with heat exhaustion due to their own fault in not respecting the danger here, others have had dysentery due to not eating properly or eating food from native shops, others have contracted dobe itch bad enough so they can't walk or wear shoes and some will probably get malaria soon because they are not careful; but this place is fairly safe if only a person will follow the doctors' orders and use common sense and not get careless.
One of our boys got a volley ball from somewhere and we built a net from ropes and have had some hot games lately. It is really good exercise and no danger of broken bones or sprains (except fingers). Also some hot ball games, softball. I still play dominoes a lot and still win consistently. Right now I am winner of about $75.00 total.
You probably wonder who is fighting the war if we play ball and dominoes all the time, but don't worry, certain other people know that we don't spend all our time at games.
Aunt Anna wrote me a letter and said as long as I was in North Africa I might as well look up some boys she knew, and gave me their names. I told her I was sorry I left before finding out they were there. Reminds me of the people who used to ask Fath if he knew ``My son Billy, who is a soldier at Ft. Sam Houston,'' without knowing his regiment or anything. She was mighty nice to offer to send me anything I might need which she was able to get. I wish I could know Aunt Anna better but I don't remember seeing her but twice.
Joycelyn seems to enjoy reading the letters I write to you all since they are generally longer than the side letters I write her and Te d so you might send them on to her whenever you feel she would be interested. I feel like I am repeating myself sometime and forget what I have written to the various members of the family, so if I write of the same incident in two different letters it doesn't necessarily mean I am stir crazy.
This is a couple of hours later. We have been arguing over the relative merits of the Springfield Army rifle and the Garand rifle.
Most of these Air Force boys have never fired either so I quoted my experience with them back in the National Guard and was nearly mobbed for my pains. Since it is impossible to write with this bull session going on I will sign off. Hope to hear from you tomorrow.
India, June 6, 1944
I didn't have time to write a full letter when I wrote that V-mail a couple of days ago but I wanted to get that request for a package to you. Of course the folks and Irene have already offered to send me whatever I need but I believe you are in the best position to get things there in New York and especially since you can buy through your ship's stores, which I presume to be a P.X. I have written to Irene asking her to send you $15.00 to pay for the shorts and stationery and leave a little surplus in case I write for anything else. In case you did not get the V-mail I will repeat what I asked for. Two pair of khaki shorts, waist size 30,`` and some writing paper like this. I wear shorts all the time here just about, and we play volley ball and soft ball a lot, too, so either athletic shorts or regular shorts with pockets will be O.K. Just be sure they are good strong khaki material. Send as much paper as you want to but I don't necessarily need envelopes unless you have to get them with the paper. I suggest you either get it in tablet form or buy a ream of onion skin from a paper store. These airmail kits are too expensive and not enough in them. Several hundred sheets would be nice.
Our post is completely isolated from everything. We have movies several times a week but they are usually old ones we have seen before. The theater consists of a sheet hung on the side of a building, period. We bring our own chairs or sit on the ground. During the daytime we play card games, write letters, or read if we have anything to read. I play dominoes mostly and since these guys like to play for money instead of for fun I have a steady income of spending money. I wasn't raised up in a domino playing family for nothing. In fact I was able to send home two $100 bonds this month and still have plenty for myself.
In the early morning or late afternoon the temperature is usually below 100° so it is safe to play ball. Me and a couple of buddies built a net from some old rope we found and a ball was brought with us from the States so we have some hot volley ball, (not quite like you used to play at Harris). Softball is popular too but the cool part of the day is too short for nine innings and cloudy days are very infrequent.
Your books will be very welcome here. Everybody brought magazines and books with them because we knew how it would be, but those have long since been read and exchanged and re-exchanged.
We have no electricity and therefore no radios, but we still get daily war news from the whole world via the official Army Radio Net. We also get news from the U.S., and our news is probably as quick as you get it or quicker. We also get war news which is not relayed to the general public.
We get a supply of items rationed to us from time to time. Plenty of cigarettes, cigars, and toilet articles, but only a few bars of candy a month, a little chewing gum and some fruit juice, generally four or five cans a month. Last month we got a case of beer a piece also, but ice is pretty expensive. We can buy it in 100 pound cakes for 15 rupees. In other words ice costs us just five cents a pound. We used to pay ten cents a pound here.
Your typewritten V-mail was a good idea. It took only 14 days to get here which is the quickest letter I have received in India. It was all very legible, especially the darker type. The slowest letter I received was one from Irene which took six weeks. Most of them take four or five weeks.
I am glad to hear you are doing so well there in the office, and I know how interesting it is to keep learning new work and advancing in the office from one position to another. Reminds me of Kelly Field only I moved up due to the expansion of the Air Force and they kept taking men out to organize new bases; but you are moving up to release men for more active duty. Quite a while ago you said you were the only Wave in the office but now it sounds like other Wave s, new ones, are moving in behind you as you advance. Is that correct? You girls are doing a mighty fine job. Every job I ever held in the offices is now being done by women, mostly civil service girls as there are not many Wacs at Kelly. You sure made a good score on the promotion test. I have heard they are really difficult.
Your visit to Boston, during which you did not get to see the sights, reminds me of when I used to land at an airport like St. Louis, refuel and take-off without even having been to town. You feel sort of gypped. It sounds like you have just about covered New England now. You are lucky to be stationed right in the middle of so much social activity with all those men to choose a date from. You should hear some of the wild parties these guys are planning for their return to the States. One says he will date ten beautiful girls and buy a case of champagne and go on a week long spree (with additional champagne as necessary). Another is going to drink chocolate malts until he passes out. Another is going to see every burlesque show in New York. One boy from Oregon is going to get his gun and dog and spend a month in the mountains. Some of our newly married boys are definitely not interested in mountains, shows, or drinking. They just want a six month honeymoon.
The bull sessions we have are too fantastic to describe. Everything from a debate on politics to a discussion of the possibility of life on Mars as compared to India. Yesterday I could hardly play dominoes because the dull tools in the next room were in a heated discussion of the economic and social structure of India.
Well I have sort of rattled along here without realizing it. Drop me a line when you have time and you can send this on to Ted if you think he would be interested, although he is pretty busy these days.
P.S. Enclosed is another request for a package which you can save to use when you need it.
India, June 10, 1944
Dear Folks Four,
Received your letter of May 28 and am glad that Irene will be with you soon. Every letter she writes she is just waiting to see you all and show off the kids. Of course they are not much but are probably as good as any. Slightly stupid looking and slow to learn but they have their good points. Ha! Irene would shoot me for saying that even though she knows I don't mean it. Come to think of it she is probably there with you by now as she said she intended to go to San Antonio after June 1. I am sending her $100 tomorrow in case moving expenses take all her money. I don't want her to have to borrow money or buy anything on credit. She is very thrifty and saves her money but moving costs a lot as I know from previous experience.
I hope you folks appreciate that ice cream which Laurance buys on Sunday evenings. Some of the large bases in India have ice cream, such as Karachi, Calcutta, etc., but we are not that fortunate. But since our Officers' Mess opened up we have iced tea, cold lemonade, pastries, pudding, and other delicacies which I hadn't tasted since leaving the States.
We have trouble with the native waiters though. They work a week or so and quit. By time they learn what spoons, plates, and glasses are they quit and we start with new ones. The reason they quit is mostly because our Medical Officers are so strict with them. They make them live on the base and keep clean. Most of them have some disease or another, dormant of course, so they must have frequent physical exams to be sure they have not become contagious. We also have music in the mess hall (the only place) furnished by a twelve-record phonograph powered by a gasoline generator. It helps make things pleasant.
You probably know by now that the Kothmann boy is on the same base I am and is in good shape. The other, Corp Nowlin, could just as well be in Iceland for all the chance I have of seeing him. Sorry.
I don't know if you keep a record of the letters you get from me or not, or maybe you keep the letters. Just as a check-up here are the letters I have written so far: March 4, 16, 18. April 8, 16, 17, 27. May 2, 8, 12, 22, 27, and today. Hope you got them all. I received letters from you mailed April 4, 10, 17, 24. May 1, 10, 18, 22, and 29. To the question you were debating about regarding me the answer is yes, if you remember what it was. Nuff said.
I hope you get to go to Kerrville this summer. That sure is a nice place, you lucky people. Tell Uncle Uhland and Aunt Laura hello if you see them.
It is interesting to note the difference in time between the places we are all stationed. I am about twelve or thirteen hours ahead of Texas and fifteen ahead of California. In other words the other side of the world, which is quite a ways from home. It would take me nearly two days to fly home as I would have to re-fuel in a couple of places.
There is not much going on that I can write about so I hope these letters are not too dull. But I sure enjoy hearing from you and don't quit writing when Irene gets there figuring she will tell me the news. Otherwise I will have to transfer her back to Louisiana.
She is going to send me some snapshots of her and the kids, which I am really looking forward to. How about you all doing the same. Especially since Meril is getting so pretty I would like to show off her picture here.
June l2, l944
To: AV/C Paul T. Spellman From: 1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0480009
Sq 9C, SAAAB 676 Bomb Sq, 444 Bomb Gp.
Santa Ana, California APO 493, C/O Postmaster New York, NY
Dear Te d,
Our mail really gets Snafu here. Yesterday I received l8 letters, most of them mailed in March 26, and the other written from Santa Ana (no date on it). I see you are now a high fallutin' aviation cadet, which no doubt brings a welcome raise in pay. Glad to hear you are doing so well in your classes. See if you can keep it up in bombardier school. I wish you could be on my crew as my bombardier is very uneager. He can really drop the bombs on a pin point but is the laziest white man in India. It tires him out just to work the bomb sight.
Today I gave my 1st Lt. bars to my co-pilot. He is a lst Lt. too and I am so pissed off at not making Captain that I quit wearing bars altogether. Nobody pays any attention to uniform regulations anyway over here. If we want to be formal we wear a T-shirt and shorts instead of just shorts.
For further information see your daily newspaper.
India, June 12, 1944
I just wrote three days ago but will be unable to write for a few days so I thought I would do it now, especially since I got four letters from you yesterday. Somebody sure messed up our mail back in March because your letters received yesterday were March 13 and 17, and May 22. I got an old letter from Irene and other people too, 18 letters altogether. Same with the whole squadron. One boy got 50.
I have been wondering if you received all the dope on the Literary Guild but always forget to ask. This old letter says you got it all, but if there is anything you don't understand about it let me know. I wrote in pretty much of a hurry so maybe it didn't make sense.
I enjoyed all the ``tips'' on bombing you gave me and showed it to the guys around here making out like you were really ignorant. In case you forgot, you were telling me to aim well and lead the target a little, etc., just like we didn't have bomb sights and bombardiers.
What is all this talk of ``Charles Guiteau,'' which you and Te d were talking about? How about sending me the words, or is it a song?
Thanks for the article on the Taj Mahal. I hope to get down to Agra one of these days but am tied up at the present. I understand we get a 15 day leave for every 18 months we are over here so maybe I can see it then.
I hope Irene is there with you now. I sent her a money order this morning in a letter in care of Dad at the Post Office. She sure was anxious to get to San Antonio and let you see the children and also she was more than ready for a change after being cooped up so long. I don't imagine she and Tweet had a real split-up. More likely Toot just didn't want to leave her friends in Lafayette. I don't know what Irene would have done without her all those months in Arkansas and Tennessee. She sure was a help.
Let's hope Irene can find an apartment or house soon. She loves to have her own place and run it like she wants to, and she sure deserves a break after the rough time she had. Regardless of how much she wants to be with you all she will probably be happier in her own shack where she can run things her own way and still visit you often. This old letter I received from her contained a couple of snapshots of Bobby. The little dickens sure looks healthy. Wish I had a snapshot of Sharon Lee as I don't know what she looks like hardly. Irene is going to send me some as soon as possible.
I sure am glad to hear from you so often, and Mother writes many extra on the side. With the long hours you are working I can realize how difficult it must be to sit down and write, but still your letters are always full of news and cheerful.
I enjoy writing to you all and Irene because it is the closest we can come to talking I guess.
I also maintain an erratic correspondence with friends and former students. Quite a few have been killed, mostly over Germany. That sure is a hot box these days for the Air Force. And since the second front started it is even worse. This place is a picnic compared to Europe in some ways. It is an entirely different type of warfare.
If Irene is there tell her Bill and Betty Duke are expecting in November. I didn't know until after I mailed her letter.
Love to all, Bob
P.S. Enclosed are some more Indian coins.
India, June 12, 1944
Mrs. Irene B. Spellmann
San Antonio, Texas
Please send a package of miscellaneous articles. Photograph, shoes, and paper.
Robert R. Spellmann
1st Lt., ac 0480009
India, June 22, 1944
I suppose you already know of our raid on Japan . Anyway there were enough reporters along to write a library on it. I say ``our raid'' but actually I did not drop any bombs. Some of us were detailed to load our ships up to the gills with gasoline and carry it to the China bases to refuel the ships which were to actually make the raid. Of course someone had to fly the gasoline, but I sure was disappointed. The Colonel promised us that those who flew the gas this time would surely get in on the next raid. One poor guy got stuck in the mud while taxiing out to take off and so missed out. He was so mad he could have carried the bombs over by hand I think.
The boys who made the raid said the place looked like a Fourth of July celebration or the opening night of a movie. It looked like every searchlight in Japan was turned on and our ships were dodging in and out of the beams. Of course ack-ack was going off everywhere and tracer bullets were all over. With the bombs exploding it must have been quite a sight. One of our crews was missing for three days but turned up safe and sound. They had had trouble and landed in China. They were wined and dined by the Governor of the province in which they landed so much that some of them were sick from overeating (or over drinking).
No doubt you have read of the ``Hump ,'' which is the route the Air Transport Command uses with planes going from India to China. Our B-29's use a more direct route and cross some hills that are considerable higher. I have made several flights since being here and you might be interested in knowing what the Himalayas look like to me. I have flown over the Rockies and thought I was seeing some hills, but that is all the Rockies are; just hills. The Himalayas are highest in Tibet , with a great many peaks over 23,000 feet and Mt. Everest about 29,000 if I remember right. Several are over 25,000 feet. They taper off to 23,000 in northern Burma and on down to the sea in southern Burma.
The worst flying weather in the world is found in the Himalayas and believe me it is bad. Once I had to climb to 27,000 feet to get out of some clouds that were forming ice on my wings. At this height I was still in bad weather and the old B-29 bouncing around like a Piper Cub. The mountains themselves are an ugly black, but sometimes a surrounding haze gives them a beautiful purple color. Only on one flight was it clear enough for me to really see the mountains below the high peaks, and I will never forget the sight. It would take a poet to describe the feeling of awe inspired by the black, rugged crags, capped with snow the year round and decorated by evergreens and glaciers, and far, far down below the beautiful valleys and the silver ribbons which are the mountain streams. A precipice 15,000 feet straight down is not unusual.
Near the western border of China , we were very startled to see cultivated land on a little plateau, high up on a mountain side about 16,000 feet above sea level. This is really amazing when you consider the fact that we use oxygen above 10,000 feet. Other farms were as high as 13,000 feet and we could not be mistaken for on one farm we plainly saw the huts and the people in the fields. At another place, about 12,000 feet up, in the midst of a particularly bleak and rugged stretch of mountains we saw a beautiful green valley with signs of cultivation. Perhaps Shangri-la is no myth after all! Ha!
I don't get to see much of Burma because it is always covered with clouds up where we fly, but naturally we know a great deal about it from our official information which is given us in case we ever crash there——and live. In the upper Assam Valley are head-hunters of the worst type; very primitive and totally lacking in mercy but men have gotten out of there alive. Further on down where it is civilized the Japs have occupied it completely and really ruined the country. The Japs kill any Burmese found with U.S. coins dated later than 1941 and have really been cruel to the natives——especially the women.
China is just like a Pearl Buck novel. There is no comparison between the Chinese and the natives of other countries I have been through, even though they are poor. They have pride despite their poverty. Most of their cities and villages are walled in from ancient times. The streets are narrow and one is apt to be run down by extremely heavy loaded carts pulled along at a trot by five or six men. Everybody works hard and I have never seen such industrious people. They built our air field there in an amazing short time and were not paid for their work. The Chinese government taxed them in the form of some kind of a labor tax. But they do more work in one day than the Indians here do in a month and the Indians are paid.
I had a good time shopping around town. Their curio shops are full of the kind of things they used to export to the U.S.A. In one shop I saw American soap for sale. Lux cost the equivalent of $3.50 of our money and Lifebouy was $2.50. Other luxuries were just as high. A box of matches cost me ten Chinese dollars. I saw several shocking examples of lack of medical care. One boy had his whole head encrusted with scabs. A man with leprosy had a foot almost rotted off; and another had an eye-ball so inflamed that it protruded from his head and was twice the natural size. Lovely sights!
Another interesting sight was a cloth-making shop . The looms were operated by teen age boys using both hands and both feet continually. One hand pulls a lever which raises alternate strands of the warp, while the other hand throws a shuttle through crosswise thread in the woof. Then one foot actuates a bar which packs the woof up closely and the other foot moves the bar back. This goes on hour after hour and they never seem to get tired.
While there, three of my crew and I were invited to supper by an English missionary and his wife. It was very good and he assisted us a great deal with our shopping as he speaks their lingo fairly well. In other countries it is a practice to charge exorbitant prices for their goods when American soldiers are doing the buying, especially in Africa and India. But in China the local police do not permit a raising of prices and often stand by to see that our soldiers are not gypped.
That is about all. I am sorry I was so slow about writing but they kept us pretty busy for a while.
India, June 29, 1944
Seems like I am writing a lot of letters to the same household nowadays, what with Irene, Meril, Mother, and Dad all in care of #126. By the same token I should be receiving mail from there in proportion, but I haven't heard from anybody in ten days, the last letter being from Irene. The whole camp is in the same boat and believe me the lack of mail is keenly felt by all. Only five or six letters come in each day, which isn't much for an outfit this size. No telling where it all is. I did receive a V-mail from Te d yesterday, by the way. He seems happy about the whole thing.
Te d and Meril both asked about Little Joe Bomber , the native kid who was bought by some of our enlisted men for a few rupees. Well I haven't seen him since we returned from our China bases after the raid on Yawata, Japan.
The natives here have mostly gone to work in the rice paddies so we now only have one bearer per barracks, mostly kids. The service is not as good of course but he makes our beds, cleans the rooms, carries off the empty beer bottles, brings buckets of water from the well for us to wash with, and does our laundry, for which we pay extra. Our bearer is a kid about 14 years old. He studies English grammar in his spare time and is hopeful of earning enough money to go to college in Calcutta and become a doctor. We help him with his pronunciation and such and he is making good progress so far. His father is bearer to a British doctor and that's where our boy got so ambitious I guess.
It rains regularly every day now. Not hard but just steady. So far it only rains during the afternoon and night but later in the season it will probably rain much harder and longer. There is very little or no wind, just a down pour. As I told you before, our latrine is several hundred yards away across the rice paddies so will power is very important these days, if you know what I mean.
Our supplies are fairly good at present. We get a case of beer each a month, several quarts of fruit juice, some candy, gum, and toilet articles, but no stationery as yet. Joycelyn is sending me some. We had ice cream the other day but it wasn't very good due to lack of milk.
The nights are cool enough to be a little uncomfortable on a bare canvas cot without any clothes. So I generally have a G.I. wool blanket handy. It scratches my bare skin a little but I am used to it now. For lights at night I have a can rigged up with a wick to burn paraffin, of which we have plenty. Some boys have lanterns but coal oil is scarce. Maybe we will have electricity soon, we hope.
Am looking forward to a letter.
June 30, l944
To: AV/C Paul T. Spellman From: 1st Lt. R. R. Spellmann 0480009
Sq 9C, SAAAB 676 Bomb Sq, 444 Bomb Gp.
Santa Ana, California APO 493, C/O Postmaster, New York, NY
Dear Te d,
I suppose this will have to be forwarded to you wherever you are getting gunnery training. The bombardiers in our outfit have organized a P.S.L. (permanent second Lt.) club and really have a merry old time singing their own version of the Air Corps song and others. Also consuming beer and liquor by the case. We get a case of beer apiece every month.
I don't know what happened to Little Joe Bomber . It was the enlisted men who owned him and he was gone when I got back from China after our last raid on Japan. Maybe he went native. Ha! Big joke.
I sent the folks a long letter with all the news and you have probably already read it, so I won't repeat it. There is a rumor floating round that some of us will be home shortly to organize new outfits but don't tell the folks as Irene would be too disappointed if I don't come. Good luck and keep up the good work in school.
India, Undated, 1944
Enclosed is a money order for $75.00 for Irene. I am sending it to you so you can get it cashed and take the money to her, thus saving her a trip to town.
If you do not need this 75 beans, let Fath buy a $100 bond immediately. Be sure and have the bond made out exactly like the ones you receive from the War Department if you buy one. This is all the cash I could get now, but will send more after the first when I am paid.
India, July 4, 1944
Dear Donk ,
What has happened to you, Little Sis? Haven't heard from you since your V-mail #5 date 29 May. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. No doubt the folks have been passing on my letters home with all the news from this side of the ocean, but I am a little worried about you as they say they haven't heard from you either. I haven't heard from Te d in a long time either.
We have moved to a new base recently and it is a big improvement over the old one. We have electricity, running water in the bath house, and are near a fairly large city so we can buy a few things in town like stationery, ice cream, etc. I bought this paper on my last trip to China but it was made for a brush instead of a metal pen.
We had some mighty good ice cream in town a few days ago. Vanilla. The British women in town operate a soldiers canteen and that is where we bought it. I enjoy my flights to China very much, although the weather over the Himalaya Mountains is plenty bad sometime. They are in Burma and we have to fly over them to get to China. But the mts. are beautiful when the weather is good. I like the Chinese people too. They are very friendly to us, and if you ever read one of Pearl S. Buck's novels you know what China is like. They are poor, but are clean and self-respecting and can be treated as equals. I also met and had supper with an English missionary there. They had a beautiful young baby and were nice people. They must spend 5 years in China before going home, and he has only been here 2½ yrs. I sure would hate to spend 5 years in India, or anywhere overseas for that matter. It gets lonesome as the dickens and sometimes we go several days without mail. The monsoons are in full swing and with it raining all the time we get very little outside sports.
Donk the playing card situation is pretty bad over here so I am going to impose on you once more and ask you to get me one or two decks of plastic playing cards. They are pretty expensive but others don't hold up well in this wet weather so plastics are worth it. If you can't get plastic cards get me six decks of Bicycle ordinary cards, regular bridge decks with a joker. Send one or the other right away please and if you find plastics later send them then. Hope I am not being too much trouble.
My new APO is #215.
India, July 6, 1944
How time flies by! I have already been overseas nearly four months and it seems like one month if it were not for being away from Irene and you all. It seems like Bobby is really stepping along too. It is hard for me to imagine him walking around with Fath and all over the house, even though I taught him to walk myself last time I was in Lafayette. The little dickens sure learned to whistle quick. Wonder if he can whistle more than one note?
I sure would like to have seen Clyde when he was there. It's several years since I last saw him and Alva. His kids must be pretty big by now.
Irene sure seems to like the new place and you all too so it must be a humdinger. Ask Irene if it is like our last shack in Nashville. She sure hated to leave that and so did I. I was just telling Irene yesterday that Bobby will think Fath is his daddy and Mother is another mother. She says he took to both of you right off but was a little slower with Mother. I am glad they are there so you can know them, but I guess little Sharlee doesn't know anybody yet, but it won't be long.
It is raining a lot these days both here and in China. All the rice paddies are flooded so the entire country side is like a big lake. Rivers blend right in and are usually impossible to distinguish from the air. Flying weather is really stinko and it is getting to be unusual to make a flight where we see the ground enroute. Usually solid clouds underneath all the way. There are some really vicious thunderstorms over the Himalayas these days but of course we fly around or over them if possible. On my last ``Hump'' flight the radio message reporting my arrival was garbled and I was reported missing . So when I got back to India my crew and I were greeted with startled looks and regarded as zombies or something. The trip was strictly routine so we didn't feel like men returning from the dead at all but had a lot of fun out of the incident anyway. Everybody clapping us on the back and carrying our equipment for us——I'll have to try it again sometime.
I never will become accustomed to the scenic beauty of the Himalayas no matter how often I see them. It is only once in a while that the clouds clear away for us to see a portion of the mts. It is still a mystery to me how people exist three miles up on a mountain with no apparent contact with others. Just a solitary shack with a patch of cultivated ground perched precariously on a little bump on the mountainside. How did they get there in the first place? How do they live through the terrible winter storms and endure the sub-zero temperatures? And what do they get out of life except a bare existence? And what causes them to seek out such a place in which to live a solitary life? They are certainly far removed from the wars and other plagues of civilization.
I saw my little Shangri-La valley again the other day. It looks prettier than ever. There are people living there for sure, as I saw smoke rising from one of the buildings. It appeared to be a monastery. I look for this valley on every flight but it is impossible to see unless we go exactly over it so I have only seen it twice, and may never see it again. In another place we were surprised to see a road cut out of the sheer side of a mt. The mt. towered above it about a mile, while the other side was bordered by a straight down precipice of 15,000 feet! At the bottom of this gorge was a dashing stream studded with huge boulders. We finally decided it was part of the Burma Road , which ran from Banko k in Burma to Kunming , China. It sure is swell to be flying over it in a B-29 instead of grinding along it in a truck. We were surprised to see the Chinese in the Kunming area using carts with U.S. wheels and tires until we realized they came off of trucks formerly used on the Burma Road.
By the way, you probably think we didn't observe the 4th of July, but the Chinese were making firecrackers long before there was a U.S.A. so on July 4th the dusky citizens of India were startled by the popping of thousands of Chinese-made firecrackers. Over in China it was the same except the Chinese joined in the celebration, and observed it as a holiday in honor of our soldiers. If the striking union members in the U.S. were half as loyal to Uncle Sam as the Chinese are, there wouldn't be any more strikes.
It is hard to understand the emotion and psychology of the Chinese. They built our air base in China but had not seen any airplanes or trucks until we got there. Consequently the first airplanes to go in there were greeted by hundreds of Chinese standing on the runway watching them come in for a landing. Even after several were killed they did not realize the danger and even yet one is killed occasionally by running in front of a landing airplane. They apparently do not blame us when it happens, but just go on about their business. One ran in front of a jeep I was riding in and was badly bruised and skinned up but he got up and waved reassuringly at us and smiled at his buddies who were laughing at the incident. If one of our airplanes killed an Indian over here it would probably start a civil war.
Aunt Anna wrote me a nice letter and said she had read my letter to her missionary society. Needless to say, I will be careful in the future to confine my news to items not of interest to others, unless I write it more carefully than that one. Ha!
Joycelyn got eager and wrote about three letters in a row, then stopped dead in her tracks and hasn't written in quite a while. I enjoy her letters when she writes. I am glad you all and Irene write regularly as letters about the family are next best to being there, although a poor second. I will write as often as possible but it won't be regular on account of some places I go there is no mail service except what we fly in and out to the boys who stay there. Hope everyone is well and happy.
P.S. Am converting more and more people to dominoes.
India, July 13, 1944
I received a nice long letter from Mother mailed 29 June, the first letter from home I received later than one from Irene 20 June. I wish our mail was more regular but sometimes the cargo ships must carry supplies more vital than mail, although mail has a very high priority.
Gosh I wish I had been home when Beany Rya n was there. I saw a picture of his wife and she is okey-doke. Anyway he got to see Irene and the kids, which is more than I can do. I haven't heard from him since his visit there.
I appreciate you telling me all about the kids. Irene does too but it so happened your letter got through and hers didn't so I am glad you told me how fast Bobby is learning. It is hard to realize he is the same kid I left in Lafayette. And little Sharlee was a helpless bit of a girl. It looks like she learned to sit up sooner than Bobby , which isn't saying much. That dull tool takes twice the normal time for everything, except he appears to be perking up a little now. Sounds more like Te d every day, so I hope he grows as much as Ted did.
Irene doesn't like cats and dogs any better than I do so I don't guess she will get him any. I am mighty glad you are sending off her washing now. She isn't well enough for any hard work and besides she deserves a rest if possible. Her letters are much more cheerful since she moved to S.A. but still I could tell she was tired out some times. I hope Meril will help her some, by keeping the room straight and such as that, but I suppose she does already.
I went to a little Chinese village last time I was there, and the Yankee influence is very evident already. Several kids followed Barnes, Thiel, and me around town everywhere. Every kid over 2 yrs old hollered ``OK'' at us as we passed, with a thumbs up sign. We walked the crowded little back streets too, streets too narrow for a car, and we could look straight into every house we passed. These kids and I made good progress. I would call ``Hubba-hubba.'' They replied in unison ``HUBBA-HUBBA''; ``Chop-Chop,'' ``CHOP-CHOP''; ``Hunkey-Dory,'' ``HUNKEY-DORY''; ``In the groove,'' ``IN THE GROOVE,'' then I would come out ``Well OK,'' and they ``OK!''
It was a lot of fun and I had about thirty kids at the last. I bought a parasol for 200 dollars, which is too much. Later on it began to rain however and that paper parasol shed water like a duck. Oiled paper. I may send it to Irene. Prices are rising steadily in China due to inflation but our money has stabilized it a little.
There are many shops along the street which sell sticks of brown stuff which appears to be a spice similar to cinnamon. I found out how they keep it fresh. One shop keeper had a jar of water and would take a mouthful and spray it on the spice from his lips. Crude but effective. None of the passers-by paid any attention.
I still haven't gotten used to seeing babies with rouged cheeks , but it is very common there. The women who use rouge don't stand short either, but they don't look cheap for some reason, probably because it is all in one spot on the cheek.
We had supper with an English missionary on a previous trip but he was out among the hill people this time. He left a note saying his cook would give us good drinking water and to sit down and rest a while. Nice chap.
My engineer, Lt. Thiel, is pretty stout and a little lazy so he rode a rickshaw out from town, costing $200. ``Muscles'' Barnes and I walked and soon caught a ride on a G.I. truck. We passed Thiel (pronounced ``Theel'') up, ate supper at the base, and were on our sacks 30 min before he came. The joke was he rode the rickshaw in order to get to chow early.
I don't know if I told you before or not, but while flying the ``Hump'' one day Brenner (radio operator) picked up some Jap music on the radio. It is the most discordant jumble of sound I have ever heard, mostly high pitched and very fast. The instruments seemed to be string and brass. A girl sang a little in a strained nasal tone.
You should have listened in on the poker game in the officers' lounge there. ``Ante $100.'' ``Open for $500.'' ``Raise you a thousand.'' ``OK, I'll call.'' It was staggering unless you realize $1000 is only about $5.50 U.S. There is a lot of gambling here of course, and one of our majors lost 2000 rupees on one hand the other night, about $650 U.S. There is a certain crowd who does all the heavy gambling and the winnings generally average out. My co-pilot, Lt. Graham, gambles with them and wins fairly consistently, however my bombardier loses all his money the first two days of every month. Those two do most of the gambling and drinking for the crew, although all of us indulge in a little penny ante poker or blackjack occasionally when it is raining and nothing to do.
I am having a heck of a time with my envelopes during all this rain. All my envelopes and loose stamps stuck up and I had to tear them open again. Can't afford to throw them away as I have no more and the only ones for sale in town are about 2½" X 3". I like this paper though.
I hope everybody is well and happy. I haven't been sick yet, but the malaria season is on us so I won't crow too soon.
P.S. A cobra was killed on our front porch yesterday. I think I will buy a steel mosquito netting. Ha!
July 15, 1 944
Capt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
444th Bomb Gp.
676th Bomb Sqdn.
APO 215, C/O Postmaster, New York, NY
Your V-Mail of 27 June written in pencil was easy to read. You are really getting around the country these days compared to the fact I never went more than l40 miles from home for training. How do you like Arizona?
I told the bombardier here what you said about them being the lowest breed and they got quite a kick out of it, as it is true in one sense. The order of command on a B-29 is pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, navigator, and bombardier. Of course that doesn't mean a thing because the pilot is in command and everybody else has their own job to do with no question of rank, and each one knows he is indispensable to the rest.
On my crew my bombardier and navigator are interchangeable except that one is better at each job. The bombardier is responsible for the bomb sight and its maintenance, the bomb racks and loading of the bombs, the electrical circuits of the racks, and——very important——maintenance of the A.F.C.E. (auto pilot by which he flies the ship on bomb run). My bombardier has a very low C.E. dropping bombs, one of the best in the squadron, but he must have slept through his ground school classes because two of our missions failed due to his negligence or ignorance of his equipment, namely racks and A.F.C.E. Our supplies are limited at best and when a ship burns thousands of gallons of fuel plus wear and tear on the engines, all for nothing it really hurts. A man can be forgiven for missing the target, or a navigator for getting off course, but I hope that you are never guilty of causing a mission to fail because you did not know or did not care to do your job right. It is all well and good to say a bomber and its crew are built around the bombardier. That is true enough. But far too many bombardiers believe their responsibility ends with dropping bombs. It is very easy for a B. to slack on his other duties because the ground crew does nearly all the work, but frequently, we land where we have to do our own work and then the B. is not only responsible, he has to do it. Ours is learning fast but this is no place to be learning your job. They won't force that stuff on you. A lot of it you will have to dig out for yourself. Our lives depend on the navigator, gunners, mechanics, and pilot, but only the mission depends on the bombardier. Maybe that's why some of them slack off on their job, I don't know. You can be a real asset to your crew or just get by, it's up to you. We have both kinds here and by some strange coincidence the qualified men are getting the promotions. By the way my promotion came thru when our old C.O. left and a new one took over (used to be our assistant C.O.). I had l5 l/2 months as lst Lieut.
I missed the raid on Yawata, Japan, which I believe came out in the papers in the states, but of course we didn't come over here to make only one raid. Some of our bo mbing is blamed on B-24's by the Japs.
Well good luck and don't let anybody tell you bombardiers are the ``lowest breed.'' Remember what I say——Dropping bombs is only a small part of your job in combat.
Hasta la escribir,
India, July 16, 1 944
I believe your back mail has caught up now. First came a letter from Mother mailed 29 June, then at one or two day intervals letters mailed 28, 26, and 24 June in that order. Most unnatural.
Nothing much is going on here, except that our new squadron C.O. is a big improvement over the last. He started out as a flight commander in Great Bend and took over the squadron the other day when our former C.O. left. The first thing he did was get all the pilots promoted and now is promoting all other officers and enlisted men to fill every single vacancy, which should have been done seven months ago but was prevented by our former C.O.
We have been working around the barracks area the last two days clearing out scrub brush, weeds, snakes, and other trash. The work is a welcome diversion for us. We usually have native laborers for such as that but they are all working in the rice paddies during the wet season. The area looks 100% better now and my barracks is especially good.
We have a good screened-in latrine here and better showers. However we have to go about 100 yards to a washroom to even wash our faces which is a little inconvenient in a pouring rain. We do have running water there though. I haven't had hot water for shower or shaving since Great Bend, but don't miss it at all. It is going to be hard for some of us to become readjusted to ``civilization'' when we get back to the States, as life in this camp is so different and we are so accustomed to it. There are no women here at all, except the natives, so about half the guys take off for the showers with a towel slung across their shoulder and a bar of soap, period. Away with false modesty! The native women don't pay any attention to us so we soon learned to ignore them too, although I find it just as easy to wear athletic shorts. Our conversation is perhaps not quite as refined as it might be and is so much composed of G.I. slang that I doubt if you all would understand half of what is said. Our recreation consists of playing cards or dominoes, movies, or such outdoor games as we can manage between rains. Usually Sunday comes and goes without anyone realizing it except Lt. Thiel, my flight engineer, who attends church somewhere every Sunday, or mass rather. He is a staunch Catholic.
But we do adhere to the regulations at meal time. Everyone must be smooth shaven and in a clean uniform. I think that aids morale because nobody likes to eat around a bunch of half naked, sweaty people unless it is necessary.
I am glad you like the kids so much. As long as you all and Irene are satisfied with the present arrangement I certainly don't object to her staying on there but I had figured it would be so crowded you would be stepping on each others toes. Pretty soon they will be helping her with the housework at the rate they are going.
Thanks for the ``Postman's Outlook.'' I enjoyed reading it and spotted the little item about Irene being in San Antonio .
India, July 20, 1944
This place is really going to the dogs lately. The XX Bomber Command put out an order that we must wear Class A uniforms at all times except for work or athletics. In other words no more shorts or tee shirts. Things are rough all over. Some of the boys were sporting luxurious growths of beard on the upper lip, real ``handlebar'' mustaches, but those fell to the shears this morning and were reduced to military style.
Two of the crews are being photographed in front of a B-29 this morning. Don't know if my crew will be or not but I will sure try. That would be much better than the one you now have.
Our base now has a canteen in operation at which we draw all rationed items such as candy, tobacco, beer, fruit juice, gum, toilet articles, and occasionally stationery. You may be interested in our monthly ration per man: Each man gets 10 bars of candy, assorted brands 5 cent size. Four cartons of any popular brands cigarettes (or cigars or pipe tobacco). Ten packages of assorted chewing gum. Four packs of double-edge razor blades. No other types available. One case of beer (24 bottles or cans).
Eighty-four ounces of fruit juice or tomato juice. Four bars of soap. We have to pay for this of course. In addition the government issues free an additional 46 ounces of fruit juice to flying personnel. The juice comes in pint or quart cans. Beer is usually Pabst, Schlitz, or East Side. It has all been bottles so far. The above rations are pretty certain of being here. Sometimes we have extras, such as 1 lb. cans of Whitman's chocolates; cans of Planter's peanuts, etc. Our mess hall has ice cream occasionally now. Last night we had vanilla ice cream on apple pie. Our chow is comparatively good. Better than my previous stations overseas. The enlisted men get good food and enough of it but not as many special pastries or fancy dishes. Their PX ration is the same as ours.
I haven't heard from anybody for six days, so am sweating out the mail this evening. I should have a big bunch all at once soon.
India, July 31, 1944
Dear Mother and Dad,
I sure was glad to get those snapshots you took at the reunion, although I don't know all the people. For instance this Shirley, Jerry, and Buddy. By a brilliant deduction I finally decided they belong to our little-known cousin Maude . However I just spotted another stray named Merlene Rentz who seems too old to be Maude's. Grandma seems awful old but you four gals look like spring chickens. Daniel Ray and Junior sure are husky, and we seem to have quite a few young ladies springing up, although they seem a little on the giggling side yet.
Mother appears to be a public figure since her Victory Idea. Congratulations Mother, and I see I rode into the spotlight on your coat tails. You look a little grim in the picture but I knew it was you the minute I saw your name under it.
What is the status of my esteemed cousin, Lt. Brantley ? Is he pilot, navigator, or what? I am glad to see him make the grade, whatever he is, and he is on a good ship flying B-24 's. I am sorry to disappoint you all by not being a hero on the Yawata raid. Maybe I can do better in the future. Since then we have made other raids. The only ones made public I believe was one we made to a place in Manchuria and another to Jap mainland. We were all pretty excited about our first blow at the Jap mainland as we had waited so long to do it, but believe me since then it has boiled down to a lot of hard work and no excitement. The ``new'' has long since worn off the Himalayas and they have become merely a flying hazard instead of an adventure. None of my crew has received a scratch so far, for which I thank my gunners and equipment. I don't mean to imply that we are battle hardened veterans or any such thing but I just want you to know that we are able to take care of ourselves and that my bombardier is doing a lot of damage. That's what we are here for and I am glad my crew is showing up well. We received a very nice compliment for our part in one raid on Manchuria, as our bombs did more damage than the other ships. That was last week.
By the way Irene writes that she feels bad about not letting you all read my letters to her but I am sure you understand most of them are strictly personal and of no interest to anyone but her. I told her not to worry about it as you all don't expect to read them I'm sure, unless they contain news of interest.
I appreciate your writing so often as I know you are pretty busy, and I will try to reciprocate, but I am afraid I can't send any pictures as I don't have a Kodak. It would be nice to send pictures of the ``Hump,'' or our bombs exploding on a Jap installation. By the way I expect to take the crew's picture by a B-29 soon, but my gunners have just received promotions and I will wait until they sew on their new stripes.
It rains all the time now but we are used to it although it is aggravating to have to fly in such sloppy weather. China is as bad as India only their chow stinks so the weather seems worse.
India, August l, 1944
Dear Bombardier Brother,
I ain't heered from you all in quite a spell so no doubt you have a typical cadet schedule which doesn't allow time for letter writing.
My crew just got back from blowing up a little piece of Manchuria and another little piece of Japan. We had good visibility and it really felt good when the bombardier yelled ``We hit the sonofabitch and split it wide open.'' I can't see the bombs hit myself and have never seen a bomb hit the ground but the bombardier and gunners give me a blow by blow description. Sometimes there are clouds over the target which makes bombing difficult but last week we had very good luck. Thanks to the gunners none of us have a scratch yet. The worst part of it was we lived on emergency field rations for a whole week in China. I like my chow so it is good to be back to our permanent base in India with a good mess hall.
There was a Hindu snake charmer around last night, and he made the cobras stand up and spread their hoods. They are very pretty but wicked looking. I tossed him a coin and he obliged by letting one of them strike him on the hand. He probably had the poison removed but even so the fangs were there. We have killed quite a few cobras around our barracks lately. That is about the only use we have for our pistols. It rains all the time now and it seems to have brought the snakes out.
This snake charmer didn't make any music but he always had some part of his body going back and forth, usually his hand or knee. The snakes appeared hypnotized by the motion but would strike if he stopped moving. What a way to make a living.
The folks write that you are doing a pretty good job out there. If you hit that target sleeve you are better than I am. Incidentally the bombardier is gunnery officer on a B-29 but my B. never went thru gunner's school so has to depend on the enlisted gunners entirely. That's where you are lucky. You see we have to clean and repair our own guns and turrets when away from our home base.
Good luck old bean, and write when you can.
India, August 1, 1944
Dear Donk ,
I haven't heard from you for quite a spell so I assume this Port Director you work for is quite a slave driver. I have been over in China the past few days living on Army emergency field rations, so it really feels good to get back to India where we have a nice mess hall and decent chow. And barracks instead of leaky tents. While in China we blew up a little piece of Manchuria and another little piece of Japan. They were pretty important little pieces though so no doubt Hirohito wishes the B-29 had never been built.
I have a mighty good crew. Thanks to my gunners none of us have a scratch so far. The bombardier drops his bombs smack on the target and the navigator takes us straight there and back, so what more can I ask of a crew?
Yesterday a Hindu snake charmer came around doing his stuff. He had three cobras in baskets and made them stand up with their hoods spread. One was very pretty. For a small coin which I tossed him he obliged by letting one of them strike him on the hand. Even if their poison was removed their fangs must hurt quite a bit.
It rains all the time here now and it is bringing out the snakes. We have killed quite a few around our barracks, mostly cobras.
India is full of strange creatures. Huge scorpions 4 inches long, great tarantulas as big as a saucer, weird looking lizards which appear to be miniature relics of prehistoric times, gaudy butterflies and moths, gayly plumaged birds, and even the lowly insects are often a bright scarlet or vivid blue or green. It is too bad that nature also included swarms of disease bearing house flies and millions of mosquitoes spreading malaria.
We are getting some very rough weather over the Himalaya Mts. lately. Blizzards, hail, sleet, freezing rain, and thunderstorms bigger than I ever dreamed of back in the States. Bombing Japan is child's play compared to flying over those mountains, but of course everything becomes routine if you do it enough.
Write when you can, old gal, and by the way I am afraid you have hurt Mother's feelings by neglecting to write home now and then. They like to hear from you.
India, August 2, 1944
Dear Avant 1019,
I enjoyed drooling over your vivid description of Sunday dinners and watermelon. I would reciprocate with a chunk by chunk description of Army field rations but I am sure you have already read it in magazines and papers. I drooled mostly over the watermelon though. We had some in June but they were sad imitations and quite devoid of flavor. I sure would like to bury my face in a big Stone Mt. melon from Stockdale right now.
I was very surprised to learn of the interest taken in my letter describing the Yawata raid. I figured you folks might like it but never figured it would be more so than other letters. However I must ask that you not release anything I write, in part or in whole, to the newspapers. We are very expressly prohibited from making any releases to the press, either written or verbal. So show it to as many as you like but don't allow it to get to the papers as a direct quotation from me or old Hap Arnold is apt to get unhappy about it. If you have already done so don't worry about it but I just thought I had better tell you now as it never occurred to me before. They probably wouldn't hold me responsible in a case like that anyway but it's best to play it safe.
On the first raid in which my crew went over the target it is hard to describe our feeling as the bombardier turned around and yelled ``We hit the______ and split it wide open.'' We knew he was good and knew our navigator hadn't failed us but nevertheless it was a great load off my shoulders to know we had proven we could do it. Everybody on the flight deck heard him of course and the boys in the back saw the bombs hit so the interphone was a bedlam of congratulations and verbal back-slapping for a few minutes.
It has been a little different since then although it is still a thrill to have our bombs fall true but that first raid was the one. We have only had a few so far but are hoping someday to go over Tokyo itself and drop one down Hirohito's chimney. Whenever circumstances permit I will give you a full description of events but so far the Yawata raid is the only one we could really talk about. Other targets in Japan, Burma, China, and Manchuria have not been publicized near as much and some restricted entirely.
Love to all,
P.S. This paper was made in China, as any fool can plainly see. See?
India, August 5, 1944
Dear Mother and Dad,
I reckon ye olde homestead is pretty empty these days with Meril and Laurance, Te d and Donk and I all gone. It seems the third generation has moved in with a bang to fill our empty places though, and I am not forgetting to include an earlier addition to the family who can no longer be classed as a newcomer to your fold.
The trouble is I haven't the faintest idea what Sharlee looks like except she evidently has straight black hair and brown eyes. Bobby couldn't have changed a great deal except to get bigger. I will be glad when he is big enough so people stop calling him ``pretty.'' I remember Irene and Mother and Dad just as well as if I had a picture here but I really enjoy those pictures taken at the reunion. Irene says she will send me a picture of her and the kids soon, so I hope they are good and clear so I can see what my family looks like. You and Dad haven't changed much in the past six months except you are looking very well, but Irene will probably look slightly different.
I received the little clipping from the Express. I have changed quite a bit since that picture was taken. Ha! No doubt but that all my teeth are there! My flight engineer, Lt. Eugene (Ronald Reagan) Thiel saw the clipping and asked for it to send home to his folks so I gave it to him. He saves everything.
We have movies several times a week now, inside a building, too. Outdoor movies would be impossible during the monsoons. A heavy rain distorts the projection and restricts visibility.
We have a nice little P.X. and yesterday I got a tooth brush, writing paper, some cookies, ink, and other little things like that which haven't been available before. We have ice cream 2 or 3 times a week and I can't complain about the chow. In other words this place is getting very livable. It sure beats that icy country and freezing cold barracks at Great Bend. I nearly died last winter but am fairly well thawed out now. This is also better than Walnut Ridge. I seldom left the base at either place anyway so this is better except the mail is slower. Incidentally the flying school at Walnut Ridge has been discontinued the same as Lafayette. That means a lot of former instructors will be in combat soon.
We have a new system on ice now. Instead of paying $3.95 for 80 lbs. and buying whenever we feel like it we now pay a flat rate of $1.50 a day per barracks and get 80 lbs. every day. That means it costs each of us about $3.80 a month for ice all the time.
We made a pretty good ice box out of sawdust, machine gun ammunition cases, and a big wooden box. The ammo cases are non-corrosive so we set the ice in them. The cases are surrounded by sawdust and the lid is heavily padded with soft cardboard. Eighty lbs. of ice will last two days in this box so we only put in forty lbs. a day and have two boxes for the barracks. The ice compartment itself is roughly two feet square, so that is sufficient room for the six men who share each box to cool their fruit juice, beer, water, or candy bars.
Our Officers' Club is scheduled to open shortly. It was a very crude building so we lined all the windows and doors with pieces of half round cut from 3" bamboo poles. We built a bar, also lined with bamboo. We white-washed the interior and made indirect lighting fixtures. All we are waiting on now is for the electricians to finish wiring the place. The bar and sandwich counter are just alike. The counter is about six feet long and is highly varnished. Notice also the foot rail. There are signs prohibiting females under 18 years old or any lady without escort. There is a mock door with ``Ladies Powder Room'' on it. Of course there are no white women anywhere near our post. Not even nurses any more. We have built the whole interior ourselves so it should be appreciated by all. We bought chairs and tables made from bamboo also. Construction has started on a swimming pool and tennis courts, but they can't do too much until after the monsoons.
Well good luck to all and I hope the heat isn't too bad. It is very pleasant here since the monsoons started.
India, August 9, 1944
Dear Mother and Dad,
My incoming mail has been pretty splotchy lately but I finally got two letters from Irene this evening. I hope for a couple from you all tomorrow.
It seems that Irene's family was well represented in San Antonio the last week in July. I guess you all had a nice visit together, and I was very glad to hear that Irene finally had herself attended to by the doctor. Now if she will pay a visit or three to the dentist she should be in good shape.
I got a nice letter from Donk and she was very thrilled when Boop Faseler dropped in on her after a flight to England. Our clan grapevine is really on the ball as Aunt Anna in New Mexico also heard of his flight and relayed the news to me. I am glad to hear that Donk is finally applying for Officers' Training. I can understand her reluctance to give up her present good job and responsibility but I would like to see her become an Ensign just the same. Do you know how long it will be before Te d finishes all these different schools and gets his commission? He should be very learned by then and well-versed in his duties on the air crew, or else both he and Uncle Sam have been wasting an awful lot of time. It will be nice if he can get assigned to B-29's as I believe it is the best assignment he could get as far as combat is concerned. Or maybe he will be kept as an instructor. They keep the best ones.
Last night we cranked out two freezers of ice cream. It was really good. We get ice cream fairly often now and it is not unusual to have pie a la mode for desert. I never thought to see it in India. Things have improved 100% since we first got here, but it rains all the time and the natives haven't improved at all. In fact they get more greedy and worthless every day. Just like the French and the Arabs in North Africa these people want more and more for less and less. It is disgusting.
On my last flight to China I brought back a Captain who has been overseas two years. A fighter pilot . He was married a week before he left the States and apparently didn't remember his wife too well. Anyway he was very apathetic about seeing her again. Most unnatural attitude. He had no use for bombers and was a nervous wreck after the flight because I had to fly instruments for a solid five hour stretch and one of our engines was bad. Occasionally the wings would ice up and the air would get rough and I never saw a happier man when we finally broke out of the soup into brilliant sunshine. You know how depressing it is to drive in a dense fog. Well that's just how it is flying instruments except there is no street under you. Only this cold and dreary gray. He kept asking me if we were going to make it on the three good engines and how much we were clearing the mountains under us (we couldn't see them of course) and if the navigator was on course. Ha! We all secretly enjoyed his apprehension but I felt sorry for him in a way. Of course fighter pilots don't fly in such weather because their job doesn't call for it but my crew is used to it.
Aunt Olga writes that Mozelle 's husband was home on leave after 26 months foreign service, but evidently he didn't have very much time off. All these pilots with two years overseas make my five months look pretty weak. Two years is quite a while as it looks from here, if you know what I mean. By the way I don't know if I told you Aunt Olga donated some blood in my honor. I got a card from the Red Cross. Personally I hope I don't use the donation but we do carry blood plasma on our ships and Sgt. Brenner is trained in its use along with other first aid.
We finally have our volley ball net up again and play between rains. The ground is very porous or something as it doesn't get muddy and dries very fast. We have movies every two nights, and indoor theater!
Don't work too hard and I enjoy hearing from you often.
How is Dad's headache trouble now?
India, August 16, 1944
Dear Mother and Dad,
It is quite a while since I heard from you folks and five days since I heard from Irene. I know you are writing regularly so I should get a stack of mail setimes this week, especially since Irene is able to write several times a week now. I reckon it is pretty hot there in Texas now. Aunt Olga and you all seem well agreed on that point. Our hot weather went away with the coming of the monsoons. It seldom gets over 90 or 100° here now and the nights fall to 70 or even 60°. But it rains all the time. No doubt you all could use one of our showers once or twice a week and we wouldn't miss 3 or 4 inches of rain.
Since we moved to this base a couple of months ago, the officers and enlisted men of my crew have been separated by some five miles. They are near our airplanes, while we are set back in the brush a ways. Therefore about the only time I get them all together is for a mission (flight). I never have said much about the crew and the only thing you know of them is from the crew pictures taken at Great Bend. But we fly together on every mission. Each of us has a special job and each man is indispensable to the rest normally, although some can double up for short periods of emergency. You may be interested in knowing more about these men who are my crew, and whom I depend upon for the completion of every mission. Our lives depend on one another on every flight.
My co-pilot, 1st Lt. Harry E. Graham , Jr., is from Los Angeles, and is 26 yrs. old. He is a B-17 pilot and could bring the B-29 in if necessary. He is above average intelligence and makes a first rate co-pilot. His mother died years ago leaving him to grow up with his father among adults. He became arrogant, rude, and selfish, oddly combined with a rare generosity to his friends. He excels at chess and is a coldly efficient gambler. He has absolutely no respect for any woman which is understandable considering his early maturity among a fast ``modern'' set.
Our flight engineer is 2nd Lt. Eugene L. Thie l, age 20. He hails from a long line of farmers in Racine, Wisconsin. Early training with modern farm machinery fitted him for his present duties and he is well informed and efficient in the air. However on the ground his enormous appetite and good nature make him the butt of everybody's jokes. Strictly an overgrown adolescent. (weight over 200 lbs.).
Our Bombardier, 2nd Lt. John F. Master s, just turned 21 but was thrown on his own rather early. He grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C., with a pretty rough crowd and has never lost his habit of heavy smoking and drinking, nor has he any respect for authority. But he is about the best bombardier in the squadron and very conscientious preparing his bombs and racks for a raid. He is also a qualified navigator and is in charge of the gunners. He has become a better officer during the past few months.
Our navigator is 2nd Lt. Lamar A. (Muscles) Barnes , a real son of the old south raised in Arkansas, Miss., and Tennessee. Age 25 and weight about 125 or 130 lbs. He is married and expecting an heir this month. Besides being the most popular officer on the crew he is among the best navigators in the squadron, although low in date of rank. We have never missed our destination yet, and usually arrive with no error in estimated time or position of arrival. He is very conscientious but always full of fun and ready to laugh.
1st Lt. Joseph H. Paul , age 31, is by far the ``Daddy'' of the crew. He is also from Wisconsin. He is married and expects a new arrival in November. He is very good-natured but stands aloof from the tom-foolery of us youngsters. His duties are listed on the back of the crew picture. Next to myself he has the most service in the Army and was a Staff Sergeant before being commissioned.
Our chief gunner is S/Sgt. Charles H. Tallant . He had two years at Stanford U. then tried for the cadets but washed out of pre-flight for color-blindness. He is well qualified for his responsibility and our airplane's defense is in his hands mostly. He is from San Francisco, age 23. He and Lt. Graham are somewhat alike.
S/Sgt. Harold V. Cook reminds you of an old Army veteran but actually has only four years service and is 23 years old. He is the chief mechanic of the crew (under Lt. Thiel of course) but in the air he is right gunner. He is the man I depend on most and is a good all around man. From W. Virginia.
Our left gunner is S/Sgt. Hardin F. London . Very dependable and capable both on the ground and in the air, he is about the most stable man on the crew although only 21 years old. He is married and hails from Indiana. When there is extra work to be done he is always right there without saying a word.
S/Sgt. John H. Russell of Hico, Texas is ``tail-end Charley.'' He rides alone in his little tail compartment on our long missions and is quietly alert while smoking numerous cigars. He is not what you could call ``eager,'' but he does not shirk at all. Just a typical easy-going boy from near Johnson City. He is 22 years old.
Last but not least is S/Sgt. Albert M. Brenner of Detroit . He is the youngest on the crew, 19 years young. His father is Russian, his mother Finnish and he is a Hebrew by religion. As a radio operator he is one of many kids who were radio ``bugs'' and put their talents to good use in the Army. He is not too dependable as yet and is apt to forget things but with a little prodding he is pretty sharp and a speed demon sending code.
You can plainly see that we come from all over the U.S. and vary greatly in age and personality, but it was not too hard a job to shape them all up into a team, with pride in themselves and respect for each other. I have every confidence in them and I believe they have confidence in me. Results of our combat missions have strengthened mutual confidence and respect.
We don't stand much on formality. Russell is called ``Speedy'' by all the crew. They call me ``Spellmann'' or just ``Spell.'' Everyone calls Barnes ``Muscles.'' They usually say ``Yes Sir'' but never address me by ``Captain'' as I asked them not to. After each flight we hold an informal discussion to exchange comments or criticism. If I have not held the navigator's course or held the ship level for the bombardier they say so, likewise with the gunners. I have never had to impose discipline on any member of the crew but instead have made them feel their individual responsibility to the crew. That policy has paid dividends in harmony and efficiency, although other officers disapprove of our crew familiarity. By dispersing ourselves in different barracks we have avoided the friction that invariably arises when people are together too much. Four of us neither smoke nor drink (Muscles, Paul, Thiel, and I). Only three are really drinking men, (Graham, Masters, Tallant). Paul and Thiel attend church regularly, (Catholic). All of us play penny-ante poker together except Paul.
The co-pilots beat us, the pilots, at softball today. A tight game.
Hope to hear from you tomorrow.
Love to all,
No mail this evening.
India, August 23, 1944
Dear Mother and Dad and anyone else at home,
I have been sort of holding off writing to you all this week hoping to get a letter in to answer, but for the past 23 days there has been no letter from you. The last I got was dated 17 July. I know full well you haven't stopped writing so every day I look for a big stack of mail from your section. Fortunately a couple of Irene's letters have sneaked through somehow, but not near all of them. Gen. Sherman must have been thinking of the mail situation when he said ``War is hell.'' Back in the States mail did not matter so much because I could always call long-distance if necessary, but here we just wonder what's the matter and wait. But come to think of it I didn't mind the war so much back in the States, so maybe we should amend Sherman's statement to read ``Foreign service is hell.'' Especially the C.B.I. theater. (China-Burma-India).
My crew is in Calcutta on a 3-day pass but I didn't go for two reasons. #1——it costs too much money. #2——I feel sort of rough, namely a very slight case of the ``G.I.'s'' normally known as dysentery. Everyone who went to Calcutta says it takes at least Rs.150 ($50.00) to spend three days there. Many spent as much as Rs.1000 (over $300) so I figure I will just stay on the base and save my rupees. Any way all their merchandise is at least three times the peace-time price and they have nothing but junk to sell so why waste my time? Maybe I will go some other time when I feel better just to see what Calcutta is like and I will write a full description thereof.
We had a little bad luck on the last raid and lost our Commanding Officer and his entire crew. He made the raid OK but crashed on the landing at our advance base. I didn't see him crash. He was a mighty fine fellow and a good C.O. I won't mention his name as we are not allowed to and you don't know him anyway. It was an accident which could just as easily have happened in the States, but the loss of his crew and ship is strongly felt by our squadron, both for sentimental and practical reasons. This C.O. was the successor to Lt. Col. Thornhill. Our next ranking officer is also a good fellow and will make a good Commanding Officer. Plenty of experience, too.
Donk writes that she will try for Officer's school in November. I am mighty glad to hear that and am sure she will make it but I guess she is rightfully reluctant to give up her present good job. However a person can't afford to get stagnated in one spot. There are always greener fields ahead for those who are qualified and ambitious and I'm mighty glad to see her go ahead.
Te d's last letter from Kingman indicated that he is in advanced by now, but I don't have his new address yet. Except for unusually bad luck beyond his control, Ted won't have any trouble. I hope he gets into B-29's, and who knows but what we will run across each other?
I never did get quite straight on Laurance. I figure he should be graduated from high school already so what school is he trying to go to now? Or this fall.
Aunt Olga said Meril was at her house for a while and is quite a young lady. From the pictures of the reunion I see she has grown considerably all right, and will probably be as pretty as Joycelyn. What year was Meril born? I have Mother's birthday as 1898 and Dad as 1892. Is that correct?
I notice the newspapers and radio are already beginning to discuss the mailing of Christmas packages to us overseas. Since it is impractical to mail food such as cakes and candy and we get plenty anyway, and since I have plenty of clothes and equipment, about the nicest presents I could ask is a Christmas card from each of you. No use loading down our military supply ships with unnecessary packages. The spirit is the thing anyway.
Nobody has sent a picture of your new house yet. How about a snapshot of all you folks out in front so I can see what kind of shack you have and have a picture of you at the same time.
I hope everyone is well and happy. I am looking forward to all your back letters, if and when they ever get here.
August 24, 1944
To: Miss Meril Spellmann From: Capt. R. R. Spellmann 0-480009
218 E. Malone 444th Bomb Gp.,
San Antonio 4, Texas 676th Bomb Sqdn.
God's Country APO 215, C/O Postmaster, New York, NY
Even though you are getting to be a young lady I guess it is still all right for me to call you by your first name as I am your brother. If you think I should call you Miss Spellmann just let me know.
I am sorry I didn't explain what a mongoose is. I thought a woman your age would have read Kipling's Jungle Book by now. A mongoose is a combination of a rabbit and squirrel. The size of a rabbit, with a tail like a squirrel, and a head like a rat or a squirrel. It is a rodent of course. They are usually gray. Unfortunately all the mongooses we had around here have died so now we are at the mercy of the cobras and kraits. By the way a cobra does look like in the comic strips. Their hoods are very pretty but they look deadly as the dickens. A krait is about the size and color of a coral snake (pronounced ``crate''). A krait is about the deadliest snake in the world but are not very common fortunately. A cobra is comparatively safe since they are only a little more poisonous than a rattler.
Write again soon. Be sure to include my serial no. in my address. Also spell my name with two ``N''s. Keep up the good piano work.
India, August 26, 1944
Dear Mother and Dad, and (?) Meril,
I never know how many I am writing to at home these days since Meril and Laurance spend so much time mooching off our various relatives and even Fath talks of spending a while in good old Kerrville. That sounds mighty good by the way. It should be much cooler up there and of course there is the swimming hole to boot.
I received your letter of Aug 7th, the first since yours of July 17th. I am sure it was not all there. Only one page with no signature, and although it didn't break off in the middle of a sentence it sure didn't sound like the end. The letter had not been opened since mailing.
I guess all of you enjoyed the visit with the Glimps. It makes me homesick to think of Brackenridge park. Remember when we used to take a big gang of Smiths or Spellmanns out there with several watermelons and freezers of ice cream?
Do they still have the polar bears and Jerry the chimpanzee? I would like to see all the animals again. That must be one of the most complete zoos in the country. Ask Irene if she still likes to ride that ``Lindy Loop'' there by the highway a little south of the park. I never saw anybody as scared as she was that day.
I hope you all are getting my letters. There has been no space more than one week between my letters to you all, and sometimes 2 or 3 in a week. If I write more than once a week it is just a lot of drivel. Your back letters should be in soon, as our mail has been good the last three days.
Dad are you still keeping up with that Literary Guild? I paid good U.S. dollars in advance so I hope you are receiving the books O.K. I sent you complete information on the procedure before I left the States.
Meril used ``San Antonio 3'' as her return address. You haven't been putting that on your return address so I just wonder if those postal district numbers are still being used.
It has rained steadily here the past 30 hours or so. Sometimes hard and sometime just a drizzle but no let-up. The temperature is usually around 80° at night and seldom over 100° during the day, so we don't mind the rain too much since it keeps that infernal heat away.
There appears to be quite a drive on over there for blood donations. No doubt the infantry uses quite a bit of that plasma, but in air warfare it is generally all or nothing at all. However we have plasma on board our ships and my radio man, Brenner, is qualified to administer it in flight if necessary.
HEADQUARTERS 444TH BOMBARDMENT GROUP
OFFICE OF THE CHAPLAIN
APO 2l5 C/O POSTMASTER
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
September l9, l944
Mrs. Irene B. Spellmann
l0l9 Avant Street
San Antonio, Texas
Dear Mrs. Spellmann:
I am the Chaplain for the squadron in which your husband, Captain Robert R. Spellmann, 0480009, was serving when he was reported missing on September 2, l944. We had high hopes that he might show up after a few days, but to this date no word has been received from him. We do not feel that he could have been taken a prisoner as the plane when last heard from was over friendly territory in unoccupied China and was headed back to its base.
Captain Spellmann played an important part in his organization and his presence is greatly missed by all of us. We were proud of the very fine work that he was doing for his country, and hope and pray with you that he may yet return safely.
May your deep faith in God comfort and sustain you and your loved ones in your anxious hours of waiting for further word from Robert.
John D. Barringer
676 BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON
AP0 2l, c/o POSTMASTER
New York, New York
September 20, l944
Mrs. Irene B. Spellmann
l0l9 Avant Street
San Antonio, Texas
Dear Mrs. Spellmann:
It is with deep regret that I must write you that your husband, Captain Robert Reynold Spellmann, O-480009, is missing from an airplane flight in this theater. On behalf of every officer and every man of this squadron I desire to extend to you our deepest sympathy. Your husband was loved and respected by every man of the squadron, and his absence is keenly felt by all of us. His untiring devotion to duty and high morale have done much to hasten the day when victory will be our's and peace return to the nation.
Your husband's plane was last reported in the vicinity of T------, China, on September 2, l944. This was the last radio contact with them and no word or trace of the plane has been received since that time, although numerous searches have been made over this area.
His personal effects are being handled with the greatest of care. Please be assured of this. Any allotments made by him will continue in effect for a period of twelve months, and pay and allowances will accumulate to his account for a like period, unless there is a change in his status. In which case the Adjutant General will notify you promptly. On any matters of doubt I am sure that a request to the Veterans' Administration, Washington, D.C. will bring you a prompt reply.
May it be some measure of consolation to you that at the time your husband was reported missing he engaged in a work which has inflicted much damage to the enemy, and those of us who remain are determined to carry on this work with increased determination.
If there is anything that I, or any member of the squadron can do to aid you at any time please do not hesitate to ask it of us. Anything that we can do is yours for the asking.
Olbert F. Lassiter
Major, Air Corps
I was called out of class at Brackenridge High School on a morning in early September of 1944. I met Meril and she told me that Bob was missing in action . No matter the probability of such an event, it is always a jolt. We went home, and soon there arrived the old faithful trio. Just as when Kenneth died, Uncles Frank , Christian , and Elmer were there to lend comfort to their brother.
It is hard to describe feelings and reactions at such a time, because it takes a while to realize what has happened. I suppose my main feeling was disappointment. A realization that I would never know and associate with my brother as an adult.
When he unexpectedly came home for Christmas in 1943 , we did just what we had always done. We played dominoes, Monopoly, and cards. He handed out the presents at the tree, just as he always had. He didn't want to lose touch and he didn't want to leave. That Christmas was the last time we saw him.
Bob's letters made it abundantly clear that he was a homesick kid who really missed what he left behind. He always acted as if it was a reflection on his manhood to show affection, but it was pure sham. Bob was a family man pure and simple. He loved his family and treasured his friends.
Mother clung to whatever hope she could find and refused to admit to Bob's death, but I don't believe Dad ever doubted Bob was gone. I was sure my brother was dead. In the event of a crash, the planes were equipped to send out automatic messages giving their position. This would happen unless the plane was demolished. Everything indicated that an instant catastrophe had occurred. This of course was cold comfort.
In Dad's The Story of Paul and Jessie V., he wrote as follows:
On September 2, 1944, Bobby's plane failed to return to the base and thus began three long years during which his fate was unknown. The last communication from his plane was from a wild and almost inaccessible region in western China, inhabited only by wild Lolo tribesmen. He reported no trouble. Three years later, after the War, these tribesmen found the wreckage of his plane where it hit near the summit of a 14,500 foot mountain peak. The entire crew was killed instantly. No recital ``in depth'' of those three years can properly be written. I will only say that each of us bottled up our feelings in the secret recesses of our minds and went about our work, thankful for the relief it afforded.
In a letter to Irene dated April 2, 1946, Major General Edward F. Witsell, of the Adjutant General's office wrote as follows:
Additional information contained in the Missing Air Crew Report indicates that at the time your husband's aircraft was last contacted, it was flying over territory sparsely settled and characterized by extremely high mountain ranges and dense jungles. A sketch map shows the location to be between the Mekong and Yangtze Rivers, in southwestern China. Although there is no information available in this office which reveals the real fate of you husband and the rest of the crew, it was learned that the plane struck the very top of a 14,500 foot mountain peak of the Wu Tai Shan Range, approximately fifty-five miles southeast of Hsichang, Sikang Province, China. It is apparent that the altitude of the plane was insufficient to clear the high mountain and the crew was unaware of any immediate danger. Parts of the plane were found at the top of the mountain on the west slope. No individual identity, partially or otherwise, could be established and since the investigation made at the scene of the crash indicated that no one could have survived, the Graves Registration Service recommended that the official status of the entire personnel be changed to ``KILLED, BODIES RECOVERED AND IDENTIFIED AS A GROUP.'' In view of the above information and the length of time which has elapsed without any indication of the survival of Captain Spellman, the records of the War Department have been amended to show that he was killed on 2 September 1944 when his plane struck a mountain peak of the Wu Tai Shan Range near Hsichang, China.
Interment was in a common grave at the U.S. Cemetery, Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri. The date of interment was September 2, 1949, five years after he was reported missing.
- Laurance R. Spellman
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