Training in the USA
May 15, 1943
Letters from Harold J. Dahl
Fort George G. Meade, MD.
Dear Mom & Lou,
It looks like I have plenty of letters to answer - and some things to say about the bivouac, too.
We had a lovely day on Thursday [5/13/43] for our ride down through Marlboro, Waldorf to Issue, Md. where we bivouacked right on the shore of the Potomac in a grove of pines - overgrown as could be. The river there is as wide as a lake. On the way we rolled up the side curtains on the truck so we could see the scenery which was well worth while, particularly at Marlboro which is a tobacco center. We got there just as the auction warehouses were opening, the roads were full of trucks piled high with tobacco and there were quite a few gals around. We got snarled up with a tobacco convoy & had about 10 minutes there. All along the way there are lovely houses in open country - few towns but lots of negros and the kind of place they live in. It was pleasantly pastoral - warm & lovely.
We hit the bivouac area & ate at about 1:00, after which we were given a problem. The enemy had landed on some headlands off shore a couple of miles away & we were to proceed to knock them out. We were not far from an AA position that was lobbing shells into the water so that made things more realistic. Anyway, D Co. was the advance guard & the 1st platoon was the reconnaissance patrol of which I was a scout so I had the toughest job of the day - dashing thru swamps up to my knees, picking a path for the Battalion & reporting back every so often - running most of the time. I can get thru woods pretty fast, you know - and D Co as a whole is quick at it - the Major said we ran the Battalion ragged.
Finally we came upon the headlands & saw that the “enemy” had taken a position on a hill, (among other positions) so D Co had the job of taking the hill & holding it. The 1st Plt. had to make the assault, all of us being “wiped-out” but completing our mission & paving the way for the success of the rest of the operation. Being “dead” we had to sit out the rest of the problem so we undressed, pulled ticks off one another & went for a swim, not that we couldn’t have gone in with all our clothes on without getting them any wetter than they already were, what with stinking swamp water & perspiration. But the water was wonderful & we need the pick-me-up.
We didn’t get back to camp until after 7:00 so we went to bed right after chow - Hovel (now a sergeant) and I slept in the 1/ 1/2 Ton truck - at about 3:00 the gas alarm woke us up - the place was full of smoke & tear gas. We put on our masks & awaited orders which turned out to be to assemble & march to support A Co. who were engaging the crew of a submarine that had run aground en route to Washington. (some imagination someone has) It was so dark & smoky we could hardly see, but we got there somehow & got the job done. Afterwards we heard from the Major that the only camouflage Co abroad, newly in Africa, was attacked by Nazi parachutist all of whom were wiped out (& no “bang, bang, you’re dead”, stuff, either) by the camoufleurs who had quite a party, apparently.
Friday [5/14/43] morning we got up at 6:00 as usual, it was raining cat & dogs & we stayed in the truck until 11:00 when we had dinner - we were scheduled to pull out at 1:00 but the road had been washed out by the rain & the trucks couldn’t get thru. We (D Co.) were sent to work with C Co. building a corduroy road around the bad spot so off we went & worked until almost five when we managed to get the last truck thru & start for home, covered with mud, tired as we had never been tired before, and so hungry we could have eaten our new mascot, a young crow we caught. Finally at 8:00. Andrews was in charge of C Co. - he said he had a letter from Jo - did I tell you he came in one night while I was on CQ & I told him about it? He sends Lou his best regards, and wants me to say that he saw Jo a couple of months ago & she looks about like she always did.
We went into semi-tans today but it is quite cold & we are all shivering.
There are a lot of pictures enclosed - many of me with my rifle & my tin hat - can’t look tough though.
Thanks, Lou, for sending the shoes, & thanks, both of you for the Schrafts package which will undoubtedly be swell. Another favor - now that I have a summer blouse will you send me my belt?
The other fellows think Nancy [Dahl] must be lovely & are somewhat amused at my having a 17 year old niece & being so obviously fond of her. I do think she is one of the best & I’m delighted to hear that she enjoyed her visit with us.
We don’t know when we will leave on the survey - I would like to get home again so, of course, but rather think I will go to Washington again this weekend in order to see as much of the place as I can before we leave. Also I can do that on so little money -I’ll have to pay for insurance again in June so I have to be a little tight.
The Hornick I knew was Emil, not Martin - which one is it? If it is Emil I should be able to find him since he is an officer. I still have not been able to get in touch with Anne Gibson - ‘though I know where she is. Guess I’ll have to drop her a line unless I go over there tomorrow.
Well that about covers it -
P.S. Is anything wrong with Claire? [Van Dyne] I haven’t heard from her in quite a while.