Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

Letters From Firemen in the Service of Their Country
1942 to 1945

Firemen's Relief Ass'n.
Los Angeles, California

Dear Friends:

  I am a  little late in writing my thanks for what you did to help me while I am away.
    As to where I am, all I can tell you friends is that I am many miles away from our fine country.  I am attached to the U.S. Marines. (But still a good Navy man.)
  This place is full of swamps, mud, mosquitos, cocoanuts and bananas.  There are plenty of natives here but do not speak our language.  We are close to the enemy and it gets like a three-alarm fire at times.  I enjoy it here knowing that I can come back to a good country when this war is over.
  Well, friends, on June 19th, I received world that my wife had passed away on April 28th.  That was 51 days afterwards and I never knew what was going on in the States.  Why brother-in-law asked you folks what to do and you helped out just like you always have before.  I will never forget your kindness and will always be able to stand up and fight for our Association.  I thank you gentlemen from the bottom of my heart.  I notified my brother-in-law to repay my loan.  I am sending through the U.S. Navy all of my money to my daughter and have informed my brother-in-law to see that she buys a $50 bond each month, and to see if she can put her savings into the Credit Union.
  I guess I will be far away from my friends until after this war is over, but I will return then and take up the reins and be back with the gang that will always be my friends.  Thanks again, gentlemen, and have that youngster, Tom Carmichael, write me a few lines with that old pen of his that we have used so many times.  And please give my regards to all pals on the department.  I want to have the Grape Vine sent me please, so I can get the dope on what is going on.  Also, remember me to Chief Alderson and the gang at Headquarters.

R. J. Briggs, C.G.M.  
U.S. Marine Corps Area
No. 370, Naval Unit 2 
Postmaster, S.F.       

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, September 1942

Lieut. Patrick Bowman, in New Guinea, got a letter through the censor with no deletions.  Whether the censor's stamp bearing the name of Patrick Bowman had anything to do with this is problematical.  At any rate, the Lieutenant, in common with others in the service, would like to hear from his old gang.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, June 1943


Hello Tom:

  Just a few lines to let you know I'm alive and kicking.  I did not go to school upon arriving in the East, such as Bill and the other boys did.  I reported at the Fire Fighters School, Norfolk, was given one day to get my baggage squared away, ordered to get into dungarees and go to work.
  We are teaching actual fire fighting to the officers and men of the fleet.  There are no holds barred at this school, Tom.  We give them the works.
  We have a simulated ship built to scale, ashore.  In this ship we attempt to reproduce actual ship fires at sea, the way we use gasoline, diesel and fuel oils you would never think there is such a thing as gas rationing.  Honestly, Tom, I think we are doing a good job.
  Harvey Hamlin is one of my instructors here, and a good one, too.  I understand that Duane Cooper is doing some type of lecture work on fire fighting, at a near-by camp, but I have not seen him as yet. . .

Cordially yours,
Lietu. (j.g.) U.S.N.R.

Fleet Service Schools,
N.O.B. Norfolk, Va.
Care Fire Fighters School,
May 21, 1943.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, July 1943

Dear Friend Tom:

  . . . Roeder wrote me and said something about joining the union.  The only thing I would give John Lewis is lead poisoning.  After calling the coal strike and causing our factories to close, we men out this way don't like that kind of business.  It would be hell if we threw away our guns and said pay us more.  Glad to hear the Association has purchased $300,000 in bonds.  That is the spirit, Tom. I don't think the Japs will ever be wanted in California again.  Ship them all to China after the war and they will be taken very good care of.  Sentiment is the same out this way and I don't believe (I don't know this) they take any more Jap prisoners.  You sure have some V garden in that yard of yours, Tom.  Makes me hungry for some nice fresh greens. Sure take all of the machinery on those truck farms.  They will never need them again.
  Tom as far as those fellows getting the commissions and never being in the service before does not worry me anymore.  I am out here for that one purpose, to do my part and I know my fate and can hold it, but some of those men don't.  And when I get back I can tell them all to go to h---, I am just doing my best and am not looking for any medals or glory.  I will do my job here just as I tackled the fires in the past.  Get in and get it over with, then pick up and go home. . . 

Your friend,
R.J. Briggs, C.G.M.

Navy 207,
Care Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Calif.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, July 1943

Forrest M.Moore,
Assistant Chief, L.A.F.D.

Hello, Chief:

  Just a few lines to let you know that I am still kicking and feeling fine.  I have been wondering how all the boys are getting along because I have not had any mail from any of them for a long time.
  Up here in Alaska it's fine this time of the year.  Everything is nice and green, and the fishing is good.  Not that I have had a chance to go fishing yet, but I hope to as soon as I can get off duty long enough to go.  Suppose that you know by this time I am back on the fire department for the Navy.
  There are three fire stations at this base and they are run about the same way that you run them in L. A.  My duties consist mostly of inspection work, that is, checking and inspecting warehouses, extinguishers, heating units and other hazards that come to us for correction.
  There is also another fireman from L. A. here by the name of Rusty Chitwood, from Venice, but he does not work with me, but we see each other quite often.
  I see by the L. A. papers that the Navy has been having trouble with the zoot suite gangs.  How about it, chief, is everything under control?  If not, just give us a call and we will send a few men down and take care of things.
  There are a lot of things that I would like to write to you about, but the Navy censors would cut them out, so we will have to wait until I get back home again, which I hope is soon.
 Have you had any mail from Bottleneck or any of the other boys in the service?  I often wonder how they are getting along.  I do hope that they are OK.
   As far as the war is  concerned everything seems to be going all right fro us at the present time, and I expect that the Japs are going to take it on the chin from now on until they will have to give up.
  Up here in Alaska the days are long at this time of the year.  We have about two hours of darkness, so you see we have to put up the blackout shades to keep the sun out where at home you pull down the shades to keep the light inside.  That is something, hey?
  I was confined to the hospital for a couple of weeks.  You see I caught a piece of flying steel in my neck and it still is there.  The doctors tried to take it out but they gave up and they may send me back to Seattle to have it removed.  I hope so, anyway, because maybe I would get a chance to come home for a short time.
  Chief, I wonder if there would be any chance of getting the L.A. Fire College Engineer books.  Yu see we are getting a new American LaFrance, 750-gal. combination apparatus at our station, so I would like to know all about it, because we have to do a lot of drafting up here and most of my work has been with Seagraves.  Maybe Chief Danks would be big hearted and sell me one.  By the way, give my regards to all the Chiefs down at headquarters for me.
  The men that I work with come from fire departments all over the good old U.S.A., and they all have different ways of drilling and fighting fires, but as far as I am concerned the Los Angeles way is best.
  How is the cooking getting along at the station, and who is doing the cooking?
  How are the handball and baseball teams?  Or are they too busy to do much playing?
  This is about all for this time, and tell the boys that I am expecting a letter soon.
  Give my regards to everybody that I know and tell that everything is under control up here.  I will write more the next time.  As ever, 


Q.M. 1/c,
38th Batt, care Fleet P.O.,
San Francisco, Calif.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, August, 1943

Dear Tom and All Hands:

  How is every one back in good old L. A. by now?  You know, that sure is a swell town.
  Suppose you folks are busy as usual, plugging away and keeping things going.
  I'm a long way from there now, in fact it's winter time here, however, not cold, just short days and lots of rain, about four or five showers everyday.  The people here have many strange customs, and are very backward, however, for the most part are friendly to the Americans.
  We see a good many peculiar sights and get many laughs out of some of the customs.
  Oranges, bananas and cocoanuts grow wild and the mosquitoes are as big as dogs.  Consequently there is lots of disease among the native people here.
  Have nice work and like it fine.  We work seven days a week, but don't mind as there isn't much else to do.
  Wish you world send the Grape Vine to this address.  Haven't received one for a couple of months and would sure enjoy it.
  Well, folks, this is all for this time. Write soon.

  Lt. (jg) WM. L. MILLER,

Navy No. 150, Fleet Postoffice,
Op. No. 5, New York, N. Y.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, 
August, 1943

Hi Les:

  I hope you still remember me from good old 28s Ed Bohrer's assistant in the old galley, Harry (Moose) Hjorth.  I am now a machinist mate first class in Uncle Sam's Navy on a tin can where everybody lives practically on top of one another.  Its a great life though an experience I wouldn't take a million for nor would I ever do it again unless I could help it.  We have covered a lot of this old world at present doing a bit to give the Wops a bad time.  Hope you and the Missus are all fine and are doing all right.  I still get the Grape Vine and read your article.  I still think about our evening with that English Chief.  Wonder where he is now.  Sure would like to be back at the old engine house to hear one of your fish stories.  I tell these fellows about the incidents that happen all around the station.  Have won a lot of converts to the fire service.  I met Chief Humphries, L.A.F.D., who is now a Commander in the Navy.  He is the Captain on the D.E. No. 163, in New York not so long ago.  We had quite a talk.  Bet he sure is a swell guy to work for.  Well, Les, will close for now.  Drop me a line if you can spare the time

  The old DOUGH boy,

USS Gillespie,
Care Fleet Postmaster,
New York City, New York

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, 
November, 1943

Kiska Island
   Sept. 2, 1943

Dear Friends:

  Since the last time that I wrote you I have arrived at my new base which is Kiska Island, until lately held by the Japs, but now in our hands, and they will never land on this place again.
  I thought that we would have some good hunting when we landed but there was no slant-eyes to be had or to be found.  I suppose that they must of had some advance information that we were coming to drive them out and they did not want anything to do with us because they sure got out of here in a hurry.
  They left all of their equipment--that is what they could not caddy.  There was plenty of--also other things that I can't write about at this time.
  Our airmen did some good bombing at this place--our airmen scored direct hits on them and all they are good for now is junk.
  The Japs left all of their heavy winter clothing, such as fur-lined coats, blankets and other clothing, but we don't dare to take any of them---.
  If they would have been on this island I suppose that we would have had a hard time driving them out,-- comes to that king of fighting it is always a hard job.
  I don't see how the Japs lived on this place, their housing or living quarters were very poor and they must have been a filthy bunch of men as far as cleanliness is concerned.  There was none.
  No for the Island of Kiska itself, its just about like the rest of the islands in the Aleutian Group: by that I mean that they are all hills and mountains with quite a few live volcanoes.
  Kiska--should be a fairly good place to live.  The only thing that I don't like about it is that wind blows up here--.
  There are no trees on this island but for some reason grass grows good.  Of course there is no reason why trees should not grow, the soil is good.
  Also Kiska is like the other islands as far as fishing is concerned.  There are plenty of good streams and they are full of trout and salmon, so I should get some good fishing when I have time to go......

As ever,
             HARRY W. HOLMER

Q.M. 1-c-U.S.N.R.
38th N.C.B. % Fleet P.O.
San Francisco

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, October, 1943

Captain Don Hibbard:

  Thought you would be interested to know that Don is in foreign service  "Somewhere in the Mediterranean."  Left Norfolk July 24 on the cruiser Philadelphia for North Africa.  Have heard from him from Oran and Palermo.  He is damage control officer on the Philadelphia and on the admiral's staff.  He is the only one of the four who received commissions in foreign service and on a ship.  The others are at bases.  Thought this would be a good way to let the boys know where he is, and maybe get a few Christmas cards on the way.  His address is Lieut. Don W. Smith, U.S.S. Philadelphia, Fleet Postmaster, New York, N.Y.

    Thanking you sincerely.
            MRS. ANNA MAE SMITH

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, 
November, 1943

Dear Sirs:

  Just received three copies of the Grape Vine, and cannot tell you how much I am enjoying them, even reading the ads.  Needless to say I am quite interested in what is going on in the good old L.A.F.D.
  This bunch of Seabees out here in the Pacific are working hard, and making good progress on their assignments.  I am a member of the 99th Naval Construction Battalion.  We were "adopted" by the state of Texas and now we are known as "The Lone Star Battalion."  We have men from every state in the Union, and Washington D.C., Panama and Alaska.  Texans predominate tho.  Have quite a number of boys from L.A., but no other firemen.  Have one policeman.
  Best wishes to all my friends, and thanks again for the Grape Vine.
              ROBT. H. SMITH,

99 NCB Co. B 3 care Fleet P.O.
San Francisco, Calif.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine,  May, 1944

Captain M. J. Carter
Care Truck 27, L.A.F.D.
Hollywood, Calif.

Dear Cap:

  Guess you gave up ever hearing from your tillerman, what?  I am in the European theater of war working out of England somewhere.
  Have had some very interesting experiences since I left the Fire Department, Cap, and I'll tell you all about them when (?) I get back.
  How is your boy doing and also how are all the guys at 27s?
  Am in good shape and made Chief Boatswain's Mate, but still looking forward to coming back to the fire job.  Say hello to Beke and Gillette and Chief Davlin and all the boys.

R. Radke, U.S. Navy No. 100,
Fleet Postoffice, New York, N.Y.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, June, 1944

Dear Lads:

  Had the darndest experience the other day and it is high time I tell you and check to see how true it may be.  While cutting a trail through the jungle, my compass went haywire and I was unable to find my camp.  So macheted my way onto a game trail, ran this into a path used by the Nagas (head hunters) and finally came to one of their weird camps.  Since they receive 75 rupees for a Jap head, but 100 rupees for each American returned safely, I was not too worried.
  One of the formalities in Nayese is that the tribe's witch doctor must look you over and perform some rites.  Now, this may sound too fantastic for credence to you, but remember, the Orient is a strange and exotic place where unusual occurrences are taken for granted.  One of these rites was remarkable, the good Doc peers into a large receptacle, made of ebony and encrusted with jade and large, black, star sapphires.  It contains fresh human blood, obtained from the jugular of a Naga that has screwed-up, or from anyone not worth the aforementioned 75 R or 100 R.
  Curiosity overcoming caution, I had to look too, and what a strange sight;  many,many rupees.  I counted then in the blood and they came to 298,000.  By rapid calculation I surmised they equaled $60,000 American.
  As I continued to gaze, the reflection gradually changed and I could see someone in a blue uniform,  sitting in a chair, feet propped on a table, his head lolling, then jerking, mouth open, just as though he were asleep.  Someone, and it resembled Chief Cougar, paused to look;  passed on.  I looked intently at the figure and, so help me, it looked like my old pal and severest critic, Joe.
  Now, Joe, does this all have any significance?  Hope this letter finds all of you still at attention, of course, ah there, Brute.  I recall, you all promised to stick around, at least, until I came back, don't forget.  Recent events in the Pacific theater look very promising, don't they.  Hope they can keep rolling, since I have some unfinished business to attend to in Los Angeles, the sooner the better.
  Reports of the men considering unionization are very disturbing to me.  Doesn't it seem that unions, in their present, uncontrolled form, are a bit on the vicious side?  At the most, hope it merely represents an attempt to gain more serious attention to our own organization.
  How I envy you your sighting trips down Hollywood Blvd. as directed by one Stearns Barrows in the La France.  Best of luck to you all.
                                                   As ever,
S-Sgt. Robert O. Crume, 39296974,
775th E.P.D. Co., Base Section 3,
APO 689, care PM, New Your, N.Y.
Burma, April 17th.


Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, June, 1944


Hi Ho There, Gang:

  This joint dive, jail, etc., makes me ashamed to say I'm from California.  One night the wind blows like hell and the next day the sum comes out and proves it.  About 95 here today and still two summer months to go.  (Plus about seven or eight hundred miles of hiking).

  I've been in the army a month now.  (Boy, what a month).  The first three weeks were spent at "hard labor."  The prisoners of war here, "Ities" don't work as hard as us.  I've mixed cement, cut lawns, dug fish ponds, built cesspools, anywhere from eight to twelve hours, six days a week.  All for $1.67 a day.  (Who do you see for our availability certificates around here?)  Last week was our first week of training.

  We get seven weeks of basic infantry training, seven weeks of specialist training, two weeks of bivouac, and one week of makeup.  At first I was in a rifle company.  They were going to march me right up to my armpits.  (That's the strongest part of me).  I could "jump for joy" when they said they were going to give me a typewriter.  I'll punch the hell out of that "Underwood" all the way to Tokio.

  This camp is strictly a replacement outfit. They drag the casualties out and drag us in. We are supposed to have a ten day furlough and then our address will be A.P.O., Fort Ord or S.F.  (Too damn fast for me!)  Sure seems funny to go to bed without my boots by the side of my bed.  I find myself "checking" every once in a while.  Probably getting groggy.

  Brought my car up here and my corporal tore the transmission out.  Whatinel can you do in a case like that?  I have to get along with him for the next sixteen weeks.  Of course he didn't tell me a word about tearing it out.

  Last week was rough.  "Second alarm" twice in a row.  Tuesday and Thursday evenings had night hikes.  Got in about 12:30 each night.  Friday I was on table waiting and they start you at 3:45 a.m..  Finished at 11 p.m. Next day was Saturday.  (Every day is "Friday" and every Saturday is "semiannual") inspection so I stayed up a couple of hours trying to get my stuff cleaned up.  At 3:45 a.m. up again.  This time I was on K.P.  Got off at 6:00 p.m.  Who said this country is on a forty hour week?  The army gets 25 hours out of 24.  Next week we double up. Three force marches in a row.

  Well, lights out 15 minutes ago.  Have to close. If any one there hasn't anything better to do, drop me a line.
                          So long,


Girard Anear,

Camp Roberts, Calif.

Source:  The Fireman's Grape Vine, July, 1944

Burma, June 7
23:10 Hours.

Dear Cap:

  Good night to write a long letter--owe you, Peshett and Sid--suppose they will be much alike.  I couldn't write a long letter without repeating myself.  So seldom anything happens I can write, that even permissible little items are welcome.  Too, may be some time before I'll be able to exercise the luxury of writing.
  Sergeant of the guard tonite.  Only sounds from the jungle that presses in on all sides and overhead--gentle rain, bench, table (crude, very), lantern attracts myriads of bugs, etc.--defend right and left with aiosal bombs--attack on frontal area with repellant.
  The enclosed snap is part of a story--sorry I rather hammed up the "take"--Hollywood exposure trapped me.
  After four months of beating thru this leech (etc!) infested land of "no sky" (overhead foliage)--saw the outside world--escape from third degree claustrophobia, people, civilization (?), bazaars--Ah Mother India.
  My buddy and I arose early yesterday morn--day off-yi!  Jaleli, Jaleli to advanced air strip and hitched ride on plane and the panorama that unfolded below was magnificent--bit ironic, too.  Months of beating our weary way forward thru the green stuff below, and we are out in an hour.  Worst flying area in the world, pilots say.  The cool air at 7,000 feet and we forget the humid 130 degree heat below (they say "wait 'til summer and the monsoon really come"??? After landing we catch a jeep to a nearby village.  Flush, with long idle ruppees (one P is enough, kid) and a long list of musts and hopes, we attack the wily merchants, but first food, real food, fugitives from cold "C" rations.  Chinese restaurant, eggs, salad, potatoes, chicken, banana fritters, green tea.  Well, won't say how many rounds of each, but that inner man was appeased while other diners smiled knowingly.  Now to the native bazaar--a new billfold--mine is so mildewed that it sickens as much as the stench of jungle death.  New leather boots, 50 rp., and then try my luck at the jewel merchant--cagy lad--but think (?) I malum the oriental mind by now??  After the usual preliminary courtesies of his "Rham, Rham, Salaam, Sahib," and me calling him a cheat and dirty thief--the dirty work begins. Result, a fine opal bracelet for Kathleen--22c gold, 75rp.  She will have it appraised and I'll know how to operate in the future--but there is little point in cheating here--gems plentiful.  British control export to hold prices up.  Duty is boxsies to overseas troops.  Rubies, emeralds and star sapphires, not prime stones--someday--Delhi or Lucknow for real gems.  Next day off hope to go over the hump to China for jade and silk.
  So after another meal (pig) off to airport and the Requim Begans.  Catch a ride on an overloaded plane, but they like us for what we do down there, helps them up there, and vice versa.  But such a strange crew, 1st Lt., pilot, captain, only co-pilot??? Seems Capt. can't fly so good--hmmm.  We manage to get aboard and settle down for another cool ride.  Lt. lets Capt. fly one trip a day--this trip is Capt's. and things start--but now.  Both swell lads.  Personable, but such qualities don't fly airplanes, it seems.
  Ye Capt. proceeds to run off the strip and we stick in the ever-present mud--now I've seen everything--a plane stuck too!  After being extricated from this embarrassing predicament and hearing a T-Sgt. say, with a slight ting of sarcasm, "Where are you going, Captain?", we try again and the proud sky bird (mud hen) is airborne--well, sort of anyway.  Let's not think of landing now.  Below, the limitless jungle of Southeastern Asia, God, venturing into that tangled mess without a compass, or to misread one--finis.  Never realized how lucky we had been at times.  As we leave India, the geometrical patterns of lovely tea plantations and villages, rice paddys, fade behind--Burma bound--ho hum (oh yeh!)
  The Lt. let's us have his seat at the controls and the view, a circle of sky and green earth.  After a bit of this we says "Hows about buzzin' them elefinks down there?"  (Forgetting and forgetting, but mostly forgetting the mud miscue).  Says he, "Like to, but don't dare with this air load."  So just to be consistent, he then hooks a fast right at the wheel and zow--we go buzzin'!  Lt. comes forward, looks Capt. in eye--Capt. don't look Lt. in eye--so we go upstairs again--muy promto.  Lt. stays-so do we--too good a spot to leave and maybe it's gong to take all of us to fly this airplane now.  Hit hard rain at 7,000 ft.--thick fog.  Lt. makes Capt. circle to get another 1,000 ft.--oh just some 7,000 ft. hills dead ahead in the soup.  rather glad Lt. is along by now.
  After an hour of this hilarious alleged flying, we look for our target.  Now a fighter strip in jungle is darned hard to locate and ours is particularly well concealed, but maybe Lt. can find it--he does.  The traffic pattern is busier than Wilshire--so we bend and skid, bend and skid, can't keep that wing up--must be heavier than the other.  So the tower finally says to come in, and we comes--right behind another plane--his prop wash doing the funniest things to our airplane, but we don't have any bad luck.
  By this time I'm leaning well over both air corps to watch the imminent landing with a vague uneasiness--must be the chicken salad, etc.  The landing strip is a fill, at the approach it raises 20 ft. high--we are leveling out and heading lickety split right at raise--but Jittery Joe gets us over with a violent tug at the throttle.
  Now the strip is just big enough.  When you come in to land, you land, no gunning her up for another crack at the field.  but I'm relieved as we slip almost to the runway, even if we have used up half the allotted space already and things are rushing by plenty fast.  Then, right in my ear, a blood curdling scream "WHERE'S MY WHEELS?"  and that's all, brother. I'll be leaving now to figure the rest out for themselves, but "Parting is such sweet sorrow," especially now. Well, Lt. had already put wheels down, so we crunches in and stops--with great big trees right in our whiskers!  "JE-SUS CHRIST,"  yells the pilot (our Capt.) with vehement relief--so we says same--with same relief.  So ends the "Saga of Jungle Young and Burma Bab"--or "The Rover Boys in the Flying Popcorn Machine."
  Have been hearing rumors on good news in Europe--that Rome fell and the second front is on--check date of letter against these things if true and consider it will be weeks before we have details of fact or find out it's fiction--our little "agreement" is taking up most of our time now.
  Better I go check my guard and see it all heads and necks are still connected--nite now.

                                                 As ever,
                                                      BOB CURME.
S-Sgt. Robert O. Crume, 39296974,
775th E.P.D. Co., Base Section 3,
APO 689, care PM., New York, N.Y.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, November, 1944

Somewhere in Belgium,
7, October 1944.

Hello, Fred, Gus and Gang:

  I have been wanting to write and thank the person or persons responsible for me receiving the Grape Vine, but time has not permitted until now and I am taking advantage of the fact that I am sergeant of the guard tonite, so in the few spare moments between inspections I'll try and write a bit.  My outfit landed in France on the 12th of June and the moment we hit the beach we had our work cut out for us and we have been very busy ever since.  There were very few troops here when we landed, so it wasn't all just getting off a boat.  The Germans has a few ideas of their own and those people are stubborn.  They have to be shown.  The first couple of months it took some showing.  I got to the place that if the Jerry aircraft hadn't made their nightly visit I couldn't go to sleep.  The pyratechnic show that we got every night free was better than I have ever seen at the Coliseum.  Any way at the Coliseum there wasn't any 90's to roll you out of bed when they went off and you didn't have to worry about shrapnel falling on your head.  The old tin hat comes in pretty handy for other things than just something to wash your face in.  I hear from some of the boys quite often and with the Grape Vine, the Protective league paper, I am still in touch with the gang and believe you me it is very, very nice. So tell them all to keep up the good work and from what I have seen in the last two years the Los Angeles Fire Department is a damn good organization to be a member of.  Got a few slants on England's fire brigade system that I'll get to you some of these days, it looks like their career is coming to a close. so there should be some interesting stuff.  Oh, yes, Paris is a great town.  Maybe some of the boys have memories, they say it hasn't changed.  Well, I'll ring off fro now. Thanks again, whoever is responsible for the Grape Vine.

As ever,                

T-S, 6100835,
227 Ord. Maint. Co. AA,
APO, 230, care Postmaster,
New York, N.Y.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, November, 1944

Dear Pop:

  After waiting so dog-gone long for a letter, today I finally received three,  one from you and two from the wife.  As I'm so pleased at receiving some mail and this particular time it was from you I just decided I'd write one back to you.

  For the news here there really isn't much.  The Japs are still using their very silly tactics of war and what, with our superior force, both in strength and training, they are rapidly being exterminated.  Actually the show has gone off in fair dinkum style but is slightly behind the expected schedule and has gone off far better than I personally anticipated.  Those two task forces trying to give us a good ol' fashion pinch play, which indeed (if successful) would have, I believe, folded us up that were here;  thank God for our naval and air might throughout this theater.

  We've had an alert since I started and I've been outside watching a couple of 38's chase ol' Photo Joe.  They finally tagged him and he came down in a whirl and then broke into a ball of fire.  All clear now.

  That's what I mean by their silly tactics.  I don't care what they have to offer, we always have a ringside seat on these great shows.  Suppose they will ever learn?

  Your guess was correct on J. A., except it isn't spelled the way you did it.  The double "o" is at the end, not the beginning.

  Getting pretty dark now, so I will close for now, as it is a necessity--no lights, you know.  Until the next time, love to all.


Lt. Geo. A. Reed
Hq., 5th Air Force,                                A.P.O. 710

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, December, 1944

Germany, March 24, 1945.

Hi 4Fs:

  If I can keep dodging the 88s, artillery shells, mortar, 31s, machine pistols, tanks, stukas and what have you, I will whip off a fast letter to cheer you who are on the verge of being drafted.  Don't worry about a thing, they will give you at least six weeks' training before shipping you to the front line and besides that, we will soon wind up this theater of combat so you will probably be shipped to some nice South Pacific island on the order of Iwo Jima.

  This division was committed to combat under Patton.  Yes, old Blood and Guts.  Third Army.  Imagine me bring shoved into the roughest combat team here.  Personally I think they made a mistake.  While on guard at night I can feel my poor old heart jumping around inside of me, looking for a place to hide.  It is a peculiar feeling to be standing there at night and suddenly have a .50 caliber open up.  That sleepy feeling leaves you in a hurry.

  We spent a few days in Luxembourg on the way in.  That is pretty nice country--at least they have good beer.  A little short of malt but good.  We have a whole barrel of German bock beer with us now and although it is a little sweet, I must say, quite delectable.

  Germany is now realizing the full weight of this war.  The first town I entered was completely leveled.  They didn't even save the lot.  Glass, rubble and abandoned German equipment were strewn about in utter confusion.  The people just stared with blank faces as we rolled by, pulling the big guns which converted their homes to dust.  Some timidly wave but I return their gesture with my "you stole my last candy bar" look and they quickly become at ease.

  Prisoners pass us by the score, minus that superman look and looking plenty beat up.  All men of military age are rounded up and shipped to the rear.  This helps relieve that cold chill feeling about the spine.  They can shoot straight from hidden places.  We always keep a round in the chamber ready to go.

  Dead Germans lie in grotesque positions and horses, their substitute for prime movers, lie where they have fallen, awaiting our kitchen.  Speaking of fresh meat, these German chickens are mighty tasty and I have a long wire with a hook on the end which I use to shag 'em on the fly.  Deer are plentiful, although small--just right for six.

  I have a pretty good German rifle which I am sending home.  It is .31 caliber and built just like our .03.  Shoots straight but kicks like hell.  I also found of all things, a fireman's helmet last June.  Will bring it to the Big House for examination. Before I leave here I will have a Luger.

  The Grape Vine keeps me posted on Fire Dept. activities.  Stan's stuff is especially good.

  Better get this in the mail before we receive march orders.  So bye, bye for now.


Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, May 1945

Hello Gang:

  I am sending you my A.P.O number, see what you can do in making some use of it.  I would like to hear from some of you.  It has been quite warm over here recently;  most of the mud has dried up and some of the fruit trees are in bloom  I know that some of you are curious as to just where I am,  but that is something I can not tell you. The Germans know we are here and a lot more, but we have not been given the OK to write it.  I can say it say it is a section of the country where some hard fighting has been going on.  Most of the people around here wear wooden shoes.  I can understand why this is necessary in the wet or rainy season.  I doubt that a pair of regular shoes would last out the season.  Bicycles are very popular.  All ages ride them, from small children to gray haired men and women.

  It is all very strange at first the way thing are over here.  The town we now occupy was occupied by the Germans.  Civilians were living in the town with them.  Now we occupy the town and the civilians continue to live in it as before.  You would really be surprised, but the civilians still cultivate the fields, practically up to the front line, and well within artillery range.  One of them gets killed occasionally, but no seems to think much about it.  Boy, will I be glad when I get back to good old California, and get some fresh fruit!  It has been so long since I have had any fruit, I am beginning to wonder what it looks like.

  Well fellows this finishes me up for the evening.  At that I wrote more than I thought I could.

  Best regards to all.


No. 39279239,
Hq. Co. 3rd Bn. 263rd Infantry Reg.
A.P.O. 454, % Postmaster, New York.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, May 1945

Caserta, Italy,
11, May, 1945

Friend Augie:

  Your "V" mail letter dated April 24th finally caught up to me here at Caserta where I am waiting to go to Austria.  I have been transferred to a new outfit that is about ready to leave.  We are going to teach those people how to get along without fighting.  So it looks like I am going to have to learn to speak German after all.

  I was here when the Germans came down to headquarters to surrender but, of course, that was all secret and we did not see them.  Well, the shooting in this part of Europe is finally over and many of the people at home are breathing a lot easier I am sure.  the censorship has been practically all lifted.

  I was stationed almost eight months in the city of Florence and like every place else I have been I made many friends and I hated to leave but after all I feel that we are that much closer to getting home.  This town of Caserta is a little town outside Naples where there is a royal palace and as this is one of the largest building in Europe it is used for American field headquarters in the Mediterranean area.

  My last town (Florence) was a very nice place and the people there are a lot different than the people down here around Naples.  The city is very clean and there was not much destruction as it was reported to be an open city.  The Germans left thousands of mines and bombs and my civilian defense group cleared more than forty thousand of them  My big job there with the fire department was to get them wheels and tires for their vehicles because the Germans really cleaned them out before they left.  The commandants and I got along fine and had a fine dinner for me before I left and believe it or not I made a speech in Italian to them.

  Our trip overseas was not too bad; it took 23 days to go from Hampton Roads, Virginia to Biserte, North Africa.  The trip seemed very long and the night before we hit North Africa we were attacked.  We lost a ship and from the way it disappeared and the explosion it must have had ammunition aboard.  The blast was terrific and there was only one ship between it and me.  After that we had a thunder and lighting storm to keep up awake.  Afterwards we were stationed near Algiers and went to school there before we came over to Italy. My first assignment was Rome, but while I was in Naples getting some experience, Captain Griswold was killed and I was kept there until after Rome was taken so I missed out on being the Rome fire officer.  I was just as well pleased because the assignment I had was much better.  In Naples I had the entire civilian defense outfit along with the fire department and we had some pretty good raids when I was there.  Well, by the time you get this I may be in Vienna, but keep writing as I sure like to get news form home.

  Good luck, best regards,


Capt. A. W. MacDougall,
Sec. "B" 2600 Spec.Det.,
APO 400, Postmaster, N.Y.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, June 1945

V-E Plus Two, Germany.

Hi Slaves:

  Well it was a great fight but we won.  Ike and I finally got down to business and, without even sacrificing our queen, checkmated the Krouts.  I must confess we used some of the strategy protegeed by Luther to achieve this end, but it is all over now and I am off to Paris, Brussels, the Riviera and other pleasant places--I hope. I don't feel like the C B I (China, Bruma, India Area) at the moment--my war weakened heart would never stand for it.

  Except for a few lacerations from "C" ration cans and chronic periods of mess kit (diarrea) for which I should receive the Purple Heart, I came through without a scratch.  Of course I didn't receive any medals--they don't decorate for shoving a Pfc out of his foxhole, do they?--But hell, medals are only for thirty year men like you guys who are coming in now.  It will be that long before you get out.  Tra La La--Sam's got 'em.  Ho Hum.  I figured out my points today and found that I Don't have enough to get back across the Rhine-in fact I owe a few. T S C B I (Too soon the China, Bruma, India Area?)

  I am not allowed to give my exact location or itinerary through Germany as yet but I will say that we are near Czechoslovakia.  With the ceasing of hostilities, we immediately ceased work and just lie around on our bird dog pratts and play soft ball.  It is a little warm to bat the ball around so I just swing a beer bottle instead.  Pardon me while I open a new pack of Camels.  Gee, I'm getting low--must get another carton out of my duffle bag.  As I was saying, goldbricking is the vogue now.  Our liberated radio plays music while we empty a liberated keg of beer.  Some of the boys write, some wash clothes, others go over to visit the Polsky and Rusky girls who are still here, and I clean the gun.  These guys can vanish faster than McCormick into a beer tavern.  Anyhow, we aren't firing day and night, ducking Jerry planes and counter battery or firing at bushes which you would swear was a German in the darkness of night. Ho!

  It might be interesting to you to hear how V E day affected us.  Rumors began pouring in days before the actual capitulation.  I started a few myself to liven things up a bit.  When word finally came in, we uncorked a few jugs and drank to Hitler, the son of a (censored).  It was sort of a subdued celebration, through, knowing the war with Japan was yet to be resolved.  Then, everyone forgot about the war and began speculating about furloughs and the point system.

  The big flow of prisoners began that day and are still coming in.  There are convoys of tanks, trucks and other vehicles driven by their own crews and bearing swarms of their own men, being led in by a single jeep.  Their faces have that same bewildered look as that worn by former prisoners and I do believe that they never fully realized the condition of Germany until the very end.  A few of their people wave as they pass, but for the most part, they are stared at with an indifference which must be embarrassing to those jokers who may have been superman at one time but are kaput now.  Enemy planes pass over heard companioned by P47s and P51s, on their way to Allied fields.  Liberated Poles and Russians swarm the roads on their way home. They must have requisitioned every bicycle in Germany and come peddling along carrying a pack and spare tire.  I don't really know how the people feel.  No doubt they are glad it is over but not so happy about who won.

  I get a big kick out of the letters from the Big House.  Your's of the 27th of April arrived today containing a refreshing line of (censored) as I ever read.  Looks as though I will have to save my best stories or I won't even be included in the conversation when I return.  From its contents, I concluded that the Bug is still a . . hound, McCormick was loaded when he wrote his part, Braden has forgotten about the radio, Stan should write for Esquire, Claunch, knowing that I read the Grape Vine, is looking for compliments on his bowling, and that Al and I can still beat Chief Moore and his shovel shots in the corner.

Your Foreign Correspondent,     

Sgt. Darwin J. Nielson, 39566326,
C Btry. 563 F.A.Bn.
APO 89, care Postmaster, New York.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, June 1945

28 March, 1945

Dear Stan:

    Now don't drop dead when you see who this is from. I have been threatening to write you for months. Maybe it's the fact that today is my ninth anniversary or maybe it's because I read your column in the latest Grape Vine to reach me, that has finally prompted my writing, but anyhoo, here I am.

    I'll give you a quick resume of what's been doing with me in all these months. As you know I knocked around San Pedro for eighteen months on a converted yacht doing costal patrol and ocean and costal escort work.  Finally received orders to S.C.T.C., Miami. . . I worked like the dickens as I wanted commend of a P C boat. . . My efforts were rewarded with the command I wanted . . .I was on my way to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. . . The ship I had had been run on a reef just south of Miami by the exec on his first night watch.  The skipper talked himself into being relieved, so I received my command sooner that I anticipated.  We were on the Gtmo-Trinidad run for nearly six months.  The Carribbean had quieted down by that time and we had no excitement.  

    [Later in Norfolk] I had charge, so called of training our crew there for four weeks and then we drove down to Orange, Texas, where the ship was to be commissioned, arriving there the day before Christmas.  The ship was commissioned on 28 Dec., 1943, New Years day. . . We left Orange with the ship. [for Galveston, left Galveston] for our shakedown at Bermuda.  Bermuda may be a romantic isle to a lot of people, but I have seen all I want of it.  Darned near froze to death and the wind blew something fierce all but three days of the 26 we were there.   We had ten days availability in Charleston and then were off again.

    For five and a half months we ran from Curacao to the Med.  We stopped in Casablanca, Oran, Algiers and Naples during this time.  Algiers fascinated me and I could write about the mystery and intrigue of the Casbah for hours, but won't.  Naples was the dirtiest of those cities and whoever said "See Maples and die" had not seen much of the world that is sure.  Visited Pompeii while there and acquired a nice coating of dust of centuries on my shoes.   It is really incredible how dirty people can become until you see them living in some of their native surroundings.  Naples wasn't much above the Casbah in Algiers.  In the later city you could see every kind of uniform extant, I believe, except German.  There were a great number of Italians even, Berbers, Sudanese, French by the thousands, Poles, Czechs, Slavs, English, American, Brazilian and Peruvians, to mention a few, plus many more native soldiers whose name I can't remember.  We made four trips during this time and became known as the lucky four, there were only four ships of our division making these trips, because nothing ever happened to any of our ships.  Convoys just ahead or behind had ships torpedoed or were attacked by planes, but we escaped all forms of attack.  One outfit had four ships torpedoed an hour after passing us one night and a CUE was torpedoed a day behind us.  It is a fine feeling to get you ships through safely, but we want a sub.

    We returned to the states after these four trips and had our run shifted to its present one. This was a wonderful break as we made fast trips and I am home for a few days after each one. . .  It won't be long now I don't believe until we are off to the Pacific and then I probably won't be home for at least 18 months.

    We will be off on our ninth trip soon and in the other eight nothing has happened except that we did have a sub contact one night.  One of my men got buck fever and put a firing plug in wrong side to or we would have nailed it on the first run.  As it was we chased him around, depth charging and using our other weapon for five and a half hours, and finally lost contact.  The sea was so heavy I had several men washed off their feet while reloading the D C and it was impossible to man the forecastle while making over ten knots.  As it was a pitch black night we had no visible evidence of damage to the sub.

    I have seen the results of the German's early war bombings and they really are terrible.  On the other hand they aren't as bad as the British would lead you to believe.  Our people at home who sit around on their fat fannies and bellyache about helping the Red Cross or rationing or are striking, make me so mad I'd like to come home and do a little shooting in our own backyards.  The Red Cross is doing a marvelous job and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Congratulations on making the Captain's list, Stan.  I surely hope you make it.  I have taken the last two but with no books to study have not done much on them, of course.  Would you mind sending me a list of the books you studied so that I can obtain them in time to really try and be ready for next year's exam.  I want to stay in the Navy, but doubt seriously that I will have an opportunity because of my age.  I made a "spot promotion" to Lt. Comdr. on 31 January.  This was made possible by having command of a DE and handling it satisfactorily for a period of three months. I took over command last September.  It doesn't look as though I would make the regular list until next September, if then.

    This has become quite an epistle, much to my surprise, but my arm is beginning to ache now.  Hope this effort will priduce results. . . One of these days we are dur to get five inch guns and when that happens I'm coming home on a real leave. . . 
                                      Best regards,


Lt. Comdr. D. R. Shaul,
U.S.S. O'Reilly (De-330)
Care FPO, New York.

Source: The Fireman's Grape Vine, June 1945

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