Orville Merton Lindstrom – WWII letters, pt I

Note: These letters are from my grandfather to my grandmother from the time of him being drafted into WWII in May 1942 until his wounding in Ste Suzanne, France on 6 Aug 1944. These are not the original letters as my grandma transcribed them – I believe she did some selective editing to make them PG as they sometimes abruptly end… The photos I have attached have been found via internet and I’ve tried to credit the original source or at least the site from which they were found. – Cara Jensen, 27 May 2015, St. Louis Missouri

Monday, April 6, 1942

  1. 2 Btry. 343 F. A. Bn.

Here I is “Deep in the Heart of Texas” is plenty warm, too, quite some change from northern Minnesota. Left Ft. Snelling 4:20 Sat. afternoon, arrived here about 10:30 this morning (Monday). Was plenty hot on the train, too, wouldn’t allow any windows open. Only left the train once on the whole trip – that was yesterday in K.C. We marched double file from the train thro’ the depot up a hill to some sort of a museum and back. Had to stay in ranks, couldn’t even mail a letter or buy cigarettes or anything

The stay in Snelling seems like a dream when I think back – were rather busy, too, Med’s, I.Q.’s, tests of all kinds, instructions and what not. Didn’t even get a high end rating to register in the I.Q. Leastwise didn’t hear of it.

There were a dozen (approx.) Hubbard Co. boys on the train coming down here. Edmund Dyburg was the only one I knew though. Several went back home the next day after we got there.

Saw Marvin and Christie the nite before I came down. They had their uniforms, so imagine they are on the way by this time.

We just stood retreat and back from chow and is it ever raining as you no doubt can tell by the splobs in the indelible. Are in tents, six men in each, guess I got in the only leaky tent in the whole lot. Guess they want us to get tough right from the start.

Well, we get free postage now, pretty good, eh? Now for the 42 bucks per month.

It’s a rather poor light for writing, have a day room somewhere in these parts but as yet haven’t located it. Will send this air mail can use a couple stamps and hope to get an answer soon.

Address: Pvt. O.M. Lindstrom

343 FA Ba

H.2. Btry. 343 F.A. Bn.

Camp Barkeley, Texas

Hope you can make this out. This is the same camp where Waldo is. Don’t know if I can find him or not. Will be in quarantine for 14 days.

April 12, 1942

Was kinda expectin some letters for a couple of days or so – but no see ‘em as yet. Maybe I was expecting ‘em too soon. It really is quite a long trip way up there – so naturally would take several days.

These two weeks have gone rather fast, have been so busy. I guess I haven’t had time to think much about time.

Our first night here, will be remembered a long time. We nearly drowned. Put our overcoats over our clothes and our raincoats on the bed. Sure was a mess the next day, too. No walks here and is this mud ever sticky.

Will try to give you some idea of what we have been doing the past week. Have taken radio aptitude test, truck driving, and mechanical aptitude. Get movie instructions on military courtesy and discipline. Lectures on interior guard, movies on sex hygiene, classes on care of clothing and equipment, lecture on the care of rifles and Howitzers (105 M.M.) Tried to teach us how to take the rifles apart and put ‘em together again, taking apart is easy – but.

Have taken another typhoid shot, have still one more to go. Will get three more shots for various things before too long.

All rookies have to be in quarantine for two weeks, are supposed to stay inside our own boundaries, and to only one certain theatre, and to the Post Exchange. We do wander past the limits once in a while.

Have to take a physical every day for the 14 days – have only 8 more times to go, so that will help some.

Camp Barkeley marching
FIGURE 2 Camp Barkeley

We get some drilling each day, right full about face, by the right flank, march, column left, all that sort of thing. Get plenty practice marching to and from the theatre, class hall, and where not.

Waldo was over here for a visit this afternoon, he still insists he would rather have a rifle than just a first aid kit. We took in a movie on first aid the other day, also a lecture on insurance. Don’t know if this is very clear or not, maybe you can get some idea of what it’s all about.

Am on K.P. tomorrow, so guess I’ll quite now, maybe I’ll get a letter tomorrow. Must get my clothes lines up for morning.

Wed. nite

Your long looked for letter came today and was I ever a happy lad. Two weeks and one day since we last met, seems like that many months, but each each seems to go rather fast.

It seems to take the mail a long time to get thru – don’t know if I gain much by sending it air mail, will send this free and see how much difference it makes if any.

Army Day wasn’t so exciting for me, arrived here about 10:30, then it was nearly 2 o’clock before we had dinner. Just got things straightened up that afternoon and stood retreat. We are going to take part in a big parade tomorrow, the whole battalion. Don’t know just how many men in each battery, but there are five btry’s in this bn. Our outfit got complimented this morning at practice, hope we can hold up tomorrow.

Today we had our first gas and gas mask drill. Got a whiff of three different kinds of gases. They really take a hold, too, no foolin’! We have what are supposed to be the best masks that are made – good in all gases known so far.

This letter so far is rather strong on the military side, but guess that’s what I’m here for. Sure will be glad when our quarantine is over. Don’t care much for a physical inspection every day, will be over with it next Tuesday.

This is a dry country, we can’t even get drunk, sure miss that. The closest town is dry too, so isn’t much advantage in going there. Everybody says you see more soldiers in town then out here, that wouldn’t be much of a treat either.

Am planning on what I’m going to do when I get my furlough (if and when). Will be here seventeen weeks then don’t know where we’ll go – probably on maneuvers some place. From what I can gather we will be on foreign soil before too long. They seem to want that plainly understood.

Had a letter from Cy yesterday saying he had traded off my old jalopy, seems to think he made a good deal – hope so, only wish I was there to help wear it out. Will instruct him to give you a ride in it for me sometime. Sure would be swell if you could come down here for a visit – isn’t the nicest place that I know of – but sure would be glad to see you.

April 20, 1942

Didn’t get finished last nite when the lights went out – had only one stamp on. Did manage to get by with my flashlight after the Sargent had gone down the street.

April 19, 1942

This is a beautiful sunshiny day about 90 in the shade and no shade. Have been loafing and wondering about the post since I got my washing done this morning.

Found out where Marvin is or rather found his tent. He was out looking for someone he knew so didn’t get to see him.

Stumbled into Edmund D. in the P.X. barbershop the other nite. He said the whole bunch of Hubbard men that left the same time I did, are all in Camp Barkeley. There are only about 45,000 men here so there isn’t much chance of finding them unless you have their address.

Heard a rumor that we are going to get foot lockers. Surely hope we do. Everything gets in such a mess and whatever you’re looking for is down in the bottom of the barracks bag.

On the whole, army life isn’t so bad as it might seem. Of course we don’t know what’s going on in the outside world or as much I should say as the civilian population. Really the whole situation doesn’t seem as gloomy as it did from the “outside”.

Imagine it is getting rather springy up there by this time, soon be fishing season and won’t be long till school is out, then —.

Later, Marvin just dropped in when I was writing. He said there was a Hubbard Co. gathering up the street. So I dropped everything and joined them. There were nine present and several more accounted for by the time we broke up. Those present that I knew were: Marvin, Christy, Carl Haines, Bill Finlay, Norman Gladen and a Bashal from Laporte. They are all in a small group within 8 or 10 blocks of each other. So Hubbard is rather well represented in the TO division (Texas and Okla.)


Looks like a bad electrical storm brewing in the North – hope it doesn’t get too close. Have only 3 min. left before lights out – 9:30.

April 20th continued

You may think something is wrong with my writing so soon, but really do feel okay and have time now. Have my shoes shined, laced up and put neatly under the foot of the bed.

Have tent inspection every morning so everything has to be just so. We do have some distinction tho, one day we had the worst, sloppiest — tent in the whole… Then the next day we were on the excellent list. Nothing like starting on the bottom.

Being as you suggested it I will send this letter free and save the 6 cents. By the way I … different… there in the time. Seems to be quite a little difference from there here, your letter postmarked the 18th, got it today noon, so that isn’t too bad.

When I get my furlough, I think I’ll charter a plane, maybe I mite be able to thumb a ride on a bomber. There is an airfield about 80miles from here, don’t see many planes here tho!

Don’t know how far it is to San Antonio. If you can find Abilene on a map you might be able to ‘figger’ it out, as we are about 10 miles from there. Waldo’s address is Pvt. W.H. L. Co ‘B’ 56gh Med. Tng. Bn. Camp Barkeley, Texas. Imagine he would enjoy getting an extra letter as most soldiers do.

Our quarantine is over now., boy oh boy, bet we’ll make whoopee now. Don’t think I’ll bother about going to town, till we get a chance to go to a real town, such as L.A., Frisco, New York. They keep telling us every day that we will be in the midst of it before very long. Don’t think they know any more than anyone else about it. Guess they want us to get ready for the worst and hope it doesn’t happen.

Everyone takes the same basic training here unless they are entirely hopeless. Then after that I guess we will be put where ever they want us. Of course, it depends a lot on the ability. If you can figure out some of things that they pull here, that’s more than most people can do.

April 24, 1942

You telling of spring outfits, doesn’t exactly help our comfort here, as our uniform is wool until May 1st, then we officially change to cotton. Have our summer outfits now but no wear ‘em.

Were to go on an overnite hike yesterday leaving after dinner, did start – just got nicely started when it began to rain and did it ever pour. Got soaked in about 2 minutes. There is a short space between our raincoats and leggings so naturally the water would get on the inside of the leggings and run down in the shoes. Didn’t mind so much tho till I floated out of my shoes. Only went a couple of miles and returned about 2:30. The ‘old man’ dismissed us for the day to dry our clothes. Pretty good of him, don’t you think?

They hauled us out in trucks today to the rifle range, where we were supposed to be last night, for a little rifle practice, 22 caliber, didn’t do so hot, got 20 points out of a possible 25. It was above average but not good.

It was quite a treat to get out for a while to see nice green grass, leafed out trees, flowers, even the cactus looked good as there aren’t anything like that in camp. If it could grow it would be all trampled down.

Haven’t gone to a single show since I’ve been here except in the line of duty. The evenings go so fast, retreat at 5:45, supper at 6:00, mail call 6:30, read letters when I get ‘em, shine my shoes, write a letter or two, sweep out, and one thing or another and it’s lights out. Believe I told you last time it was dark at 9:30. Imagine it won’t be so bad after I get onto the ropes a little more, as it is now have a lot to learn about the equipment and so on. Have to memorize our general orders, there are eleven of them and some are not too short.

I am fine physically. Got a new tent now only leaks thru the floor (upwards, no foolin’)

There is an old radio, magazines, playing cards, dominoes, dart games, etc. in the Day Room, also a coo cola machine – only one nickel.

Chow at 7, 12, and 6.

Don’t plan too much on me getting a furlough, as we were freshly reminded a couple days ago by the B.C. that a week end pass is the limit until further orders, excepting in extreme emergency. Doesn’t sound too encouraging, does it? Hope we’ll get further orders by the time I’m ready for a furlough. As if I wasn’t ready now.

One of the fellows in our tent got a picture of his wife in Mpls. A few days ago. Every time he looks at it he says, — the Army, got a notion to go “over the hill” (Death Penalty). Hope I don’t get such ideas in my head. Really makes it worse for themselves. The best way is to grin and bear it or take it with a smile would sound better. How about it?

Army life is just about what you make it. There is plenty to choose from, good, bad, or indifferent. I really don’t mind it at all. It’s just this idea of being isolated here in No Man’s Land – so far from civilization. Without much hope of getting away for even a short visit.

Have a swell bunch of officers here, non-com’s, too, with about two exceptions. They are not directly connected with us, so doesn’t make it too bad.

The 45th Div. Started moving out from here last Sun. Going at the rate of a train load every two hours, that includes equipment and all. Gives you some idea of the hugeness of a single division. Their division is larger than ours – it is a square and ours triangle. Imagine that is about as clear as the mud on the floor in this tent. Haven’t “mudded out” since the rain yesterday and does it ever get muddy and dries up just as fast – then gets like concrete. The tent leader is scraping the big chunks with a wide board so guess I’d better quit and help a little.

Have a lot of letters to write yet – if I don’t go back on my word to all those I promised. Should have a stenog and stenog’s remind me that after we soldiers get back in civilian life we will make model wives with the experience we get making beds, scrubbing, shining and the such like. Now if we could only cook. Must quit now.