Training in the USA
January 30, 1943
Letters from Harold J. Dahl
Dear Mom & Lou,
I’ve never had such a time as I have had lately. Our little home is surrounded by a sea of slush, through which we have to struggle every day. Thursday [1/28/43] it was snowing like sixty so we had classes at in the barracks all morning on the new carbine which will be our basic weapon. We learned how to take it apart and learned all its characteristics. At noon Capt. Stack came in and asked if anyone felt that he would not be able to take the bivouac that was on the schedule for that day. Of course no one spoke up. He then told us we would just go on our 10 mile hike, set up tents, have our night problem in decoy fires and then come in at about midnight in order to sleep in the barracks. That made us feel better so we started out not minding our wet feet. We walked the 10 miles thru 4 or 5 inches of snow and ended up about 2 miles from camp. A group of us were on the guard the night before so we had to walk on back to the barracks, change to our OD’s and stand change of Guard ceremony. We were absolutely bushed - in fact I could hardly lift one foot in front of the other when we got here and here we were faced with hiking back out again, - We changed shoes & socks & started out after we ate supper - hiked our 2 miles and met up with the rest of the Company and went thru the night problem. It was a wet, bedraggled bunch that drew up in front of our barracks at 11:00 that night & you can imagine how good we felt when Capt. Stack said we were to sleep until 10:00 the next morning! Of course we had to clean our rifles, hang our wet things on the air-ducts & take showers so it was about 12:30 when we finally hit our beds.
During the night I heard someone walking around making a noise - looked at my watch & it was 4:45. Dalrymple said “What’s that?” & I said “Oh, it must be the - - cooks - time for them to pull out.” Just as the words left my mouth the lights went on & in strode Stack bellowing at us to jump out of bed - we had 1/2 hour to get ready to eat - 45 minutes & we would load trucks & pull out for the Martin plant where the storm had done some damage requiring immediate attention. We rushed out on schedule, loaded our trucks with tools & pulled out. 2 1/2 hours later we were at the plant & started work up on their flat-tops over the parking spaces. All day we worked in the snow - of course our feet were in awful shape before the first hour and we were so tired we could hardly stand. But (and this is confidential) the plant was at a standstill and it was up to us to open them up. At noon they fed us in the cafeteria where we had chicken, eggs, corn, peas, fruit juice, dessert (pie a la mode) - milk, coffee, candy, cigarettes & cigars & all the crackers we wanted to stuff in our pockets for later on. We also had supper there & when we reached the barracks at 9:30 last night we felt like crawling on our hands and knees. We were soaked thru & were more tired than I have ever been in my whole life. We slept until 9:00 this morning and I don’t believe that a single man was really awake until afternoon. Those meals were the only saving grace - and we did have fun in the trucks on the convoy which was 2 1/2 hours each way - due mostly to the terrible condition of the roads.
Fortunately they let us take it easy today - they did spring a sudden inspection on us at 9:00 but we had 10 minutes to clean our rifles - and this afternoon we had nothing but a written test in camouflage given us by a very nice lieutenant who was sent here from the Engineer Board for 2 weeks duty. He is definitely a fine guy & we are sorry to see him leave us, as we were sorry to lose our Lt. Darugaard who went on the cadre. But you get accustomed to change in the army.
The package came today & was most gratefully received. The cookies are very, very good & I agree that only two thicknesses is better than three. But I question the need for butter - these were swell - we again are getting butter - for how long I don’t know, but for the time you can lay off sending any more jellies or spreads since those I have will do very well for several days weeks I should think. We have been eating the Blue cheese lately - that and the pineapple are the best - in fact are excellent.
I found where Lou wrote my income amount. I guess what I’ll have to do is pay the State Tax which is only $5 or so & let the other go - I can’t scrape up even 1/4 of the amount due so can hardly pay it. What I’ll do is let the Veteran’s Admin pay it & then I’ll pay them as soon as I can.
Well, I’m going to bed - it is 9:15 & I have to get up early enough to be a waiter tomorrow - will write more in the morning.
Oh yes - Jo wrote me a nice letter - Miriam was married recently to an East Orange boy who has my deepest sympathy. I was always fond of Miriam - she is so basically honest & decent but living with her is another story.
Sunday Morning - [1/31/43]
Boy, I had a fine breakfast - 4 eggs, cereal, coffee, real buttered toast & oranges - and anticipate a better dinner of fried chicken. Being a waiter is good b because you eat earlier than the others & get plenty of hot food. Also had one of the cookies - they really are good - I just think they could have a little less cookie in proportion to the mince-meat. Don’t you think that would be better?
I have definitely put myself down on the list for a furlough April 1st  which is as far ahead as I dare put it since we are apt to move out & I’d hate to get the furlough from Georgia or some other place farther away from home, and we may even be getting ready by then for a trip to Nova Scotia from which there will be no furloughs. That, of course, is just a rumor - but we may yet head for England which would really please me quite a bit. If we go over there and a front opens in Norway I think I’ll ask to serve there. One thing I could do if I went to England would be to look up the Free’s [Wynne Free - her husband worked with Fredrik Dahl] Naturally I would get a great kick out of helping to free Norway.
Do Sears show any arctics any more? If so I’d like to get a pair - you’ll soon get a new catalog so how about sending down the pages out of the winter one so I can see what I can do. Some of the others would like them too. We get so frightfully wet & have a whole month of snow & plenty of mud ahead of us.
As far as teaching camouflage is concerned, rumor has it that we will split up the Battalion into two parts one of which will be A&B Co. & the other C&D. The first would stay in this country teaching & the other half would go across & teach & work there. From all I can gather, D Co is likely to go on a cruise this spring. Those that stay will probably go from place to place by truck & teach in various army camps all over the place. It could conceivably mean a visit home, but on the other hand could just as well mean the opposite. As far as trips home are concerned, I may be able to come sometime, but probably not until the weather opens up.
Thank goodness we get paid tomorrow - I had so little left this morning that after I paid $.15 for a “Times” I have exactly $.10 to my name. Well, that will buy me a couple of cigars & some peanuts at the PX.
Well, I guess I’ll go wash my leggings & my cartridge belt now - will write more another day -