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Singer Letters : Letters to Lou

portrait of a man in a suit

Letters to Lou

Lou Dorfsman was Arthur Singer's closest friend. Dorfsman, whom Arthur often called "Gate," attended Cooper Union, and worked as a graphic designer. Before the war, he created some graphic designs for the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Arthur was hopeful that Lou would get assigned to the 603rd based on his art talent, but instead Lou was assigned to the 8th Armored Division, where his work was more physical than artistic. The letters between Arthur and Lou are warm and affectionate, and also raw and honest about their Army experience, and views about read more
watercolor of military laundry hanging on lines in front of a window

February 13, 1943

Knocked off some artwork today – for a change. I hadn’t done anything for about 3 weeks. I made a decorative animal piece for my mother-in-law, who isn’t very well these days. Then I did a watercolor of the barracks and after I was halfway through I was almost going to throw it out. But I didn’t, I continued and it turned out damned good.

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watercolor painting of a woman's face, with her eyes closed

September 9, 1943

I saw Ellington last weekend and he decided to use one of the drawings. I had to make one small change so I mailed it to him this week. I hope he comes across because I could use the dough, I want to get something nice for Judy’s birthday.

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a group of uniforned men looking at silkscreened posters

October 6, 1943

I was brought down reading of your bad luck. Surely you must have told the interviewer of all the experience you’ve had in civilian life. The Army doesn’t seem to give a damn and yet they sometimes place men in jobs they are experienced at. After you are in long enough to become familiar with workings of the Army I would definitely try for a transfer.

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uniformed man in helmet

October 15, 1943

I had a nice time when I was in. We saw a swell show you would like – Katherine Dunham’s Tropical Revue – it’s all negro dancing. Some stuff.

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sketch of a young man from the waist up, from the back, with no shirt

October 25, 1943

I hope something comes of the request for your transfer. I really believe you will get it, I only wish it was to the 603rd but I suppose that’s impossible.

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wooded scenery under blue skies

November 10, 1943

There is one good thing you may make much greater progress in your outfit than I will in mine. We have such a bunch of very high I.Q. men and artists. I hardly think I’ll ever get a rating here, it’s damned discouraging.

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sepia-toned watercolor of jeeps under trees

November 23, 1943

I don’t know how to start, but your letter kind of hit me hard. Gee, gate, are things so bad? If there was anyone I wanted to see get a break it was you. I hope things will get better in the future.

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watercolor painting of a woman looking down

December 1943

At the present I am spending a five day furlough in Baltimore with Judy. I told you that I wanted Judy to come down and live here for I believe that we may get shipped out. Well, Saturday she came with her bags and baggage and we scouted around for a room.

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two men outside of tents

January 11, 1944

At present, I’m attending Motor School. Most everyone in the company knows how to drive, now it’s my turn. Had a nice time learning a few things today. It’s a break from the monotony of drafting work which I’ve been doing all the past week.

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watercolor painting of an oak tree trunk

January 20, 1944

I am now with the same organization, but in Camp Forrest, Tennessee instead of Meade. ... This is definitely a maneuver camp and it’s very obvious. What a flat mud hole this place is! Mud that sticks like hell.

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watercolor painting of a dark-haired man in uniform

January 30, 1944

Prospects for promotion do not exist and that part of it doesn’t mean much to me anymore, all men are “frozen” meaning that no one can be transferred from this outfit to any other. The only way anyone can get out is on a medical discharge. The men are the only thing that makes life bearable – they are a swell bunch to be with.

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a stack of envelopes and a postcard, all addressed to Lou Dorfsman

February 5, 1944

We are very active here now and doing big things. I wish I could tell you more about them but they are classified as “secret”.

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watercolor painting of a dark-haired man in uniform

February 10, 1944

The other night we got out on pass that allowed us a few hours in New York. You can guess where I headed for. But when I got to Bellaire I found out from Judy’s mother that Judy went to a friend’s house for the whole night! Did I feel low!

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uniformed man seated, leaning against a tree and working on a watercolor painting

March 1, 1944

Every minute of the day here everyone lives in terror of this “inspection crazy” Colonel, the officers particularly. He gigs them, too!! He is really going the limit and we clean the barracks morning noon and night. Full field inspections are a regular Saturday affair now.

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b/w photo portrait of Arthur Singer

March 20, 1944

The weekend I’ve been looking forward to has arrived and it’s paradise. Judy is here with me. It’s too bad it had to rain but we’re very happy regardless. Judy will be returning to N.Y. soon but I hope the hours drag, wish I could make time stand still.

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watercolor painting of a man seated with a guitar

March 23, 1944

The artwork I do is strictly for my own pleasure at the present and it will continue to be. There has been a radical change in our mission and there is no possible way of any artwork being needed that I can see.

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watercolor of several military ships

March 31, 1944

Arthur sends a change of address card to Lou. He's going from Camp Forrest in Tennessee to an APO box, which means he's leaving for Europe shortly.

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watercolor painting of a uniformed blond man

April 12, 1944

As for myself I’m afraid the news can be called anything but good. We’re shoving off! We’ve been working very hard, more than ever before. Last week we had some lulus of night problems that kept us up all night and part of the next day – oh yes, plus all the Goddamned inspections on Saturday & Sunday.

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watercolor painting of woods and small homes

August 29, 1944

Other than missing Judy more than I care to say, life has been pretty damned good. France is a swell country, one which would appeal to you and Ann. The girls and women are beautiful here, that’s no shit. I’ve done a lot of artwork since leaving the States, in England and in France, I sent home three packages of it already.

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men in uniform, leaning against a tree

November 8, 1944

The Army is really strange one never knows what’s going to happen next. Two nights ago I was in a pup tent on guard post in an area that looked as much like no man’s land as any I’ve seen yet. It was a windy night pouring rain, Nazi robot bombs roaring hideously across the sky every little while.

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eight men in uniform, holding a sign that it's Thanksgiving 1944

November 20, 1944

All your letters to me have been ‘gems’ and 50 years from now if you ask to see them I’ll still have and cherish them! You really touched me deeply with the sentiment you voiced on out close relationship to each other - it sure goes without saying that you are one of the few people I really am close to and someone I call my friend with pride.

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painting of the Luxembourg skyline

December 4, 1944

And we have a few cases of artists who are known nationally and it is their life work. One of these men has been making arrangements for a studio and models for a life class. It sounds wonderful but also it sounds too good to be true! Things so often have a way of getting “screwed up” in the Army.

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b/w/sketch of a church that has been damaged

December 19, 1944

Thanks for your latest contribution to my collection of interesting letters – It was a lulu and I’m afraid what I can hardly match it. The photo of yourself is terrific. When Ann saw it she squealed with delight and kissed it & the next thing I know her eyes are damp! I guess we just are plain fond of you!

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watercolor painting of a church

February 21, 1945

I thinks the Nazis captured about one or two weeks worth of our mail or at least so it seems from Judy’s complaints. I’ve sent out a great deal of artwork, some of it the best I’ve done, I sure hope those bastards didn’t get any of it.

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watercolor painting of a panoramic view of a city

May 7, 1945

Up until a few days ago I could have written you all about our present work in Germany – now, that the cat is already out of the bag, they’ve clamped down on censorship. One thing I guess I can say is that the work is different from our real mission over here, which we finished with a bang a couple of months ago.

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watercolor painting of a rooftop view of city buildings

May 14, 1945

When I sit down to write to you and Ann I have a smile on my face, just as when I write Judy. I feel of [sic] closeness of your personalities even though there are thousands of miles between us. I rarely ever try to rush off a letter to you, Gate.

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watercolor view of farmland fields near trees

July 8, 1945

Just a little note, Gate. I’m back in the States and came home on furlough July 5. ... I’m really getting my “kicks” now – It’s marvelous.

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sketch of three military boats, one of which is sinking

October 6, 1945

My decorations are keeping me busy as hell (for which I’m thankful) and are turning out beautifully. I’ve done five of them and have seven to go. It’s an unusual job for me and the best I’ve ever done in that sort of work. They are not completely flat like my animal designs, they are closer to – say a Dufy watercolor.

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watercolor painting of industrial buildings under a cloudy sky

October 23, 1945

I met Herbie yesterday and went shopping for clothes. Believe it or not my civilian clothes don’t fit me, they are too small. I’ll have to wait until Saturday to get into civilian clothes. It sure felt good when I tried them on. Herb is having a couple of suits made for him.

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a man posing for an artist, who is painting his portrait

November 12, 1945

We’ve had no luck whatsoever in finding an apartment. The situation is so hopeless. Something may turn up. Ads in the newspapers don’t bring results although I intend to try again. There is usually a “catch” to each proposition.

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newspaper clipping with artist and one of his paintings

November 26, 1945

As for free lancing, I find I’m quite tired by the time night comes. On the children’s book deal, I tried a couple of sample illustrations but I’m not much on handling children or women either and I had to sweat to get what I did. I wasn’t sure I wanted the job.

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