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Training in the USA

February 13, 1944

Letters from Theodore Katz

sketch of sergeant watching soldier filling sandbags

Ted's sketch, titled "Showdown inspection," 4/9/1944

13 Feb
10:30 A.M.

Dear Helen,

Your letter written on the choo-choo arrived yesterday and has already been incorporated in my memoirs. The resumé of what you have been doing did much to clear up any misunderstandings I had regarding which apartment you had taken.

I have made an amazing deduction. It is a technique for inducing dementia praecox, paranoia and sundry other variations of nervous breakdown. All one has to do is apply for membership in the 603rd. To illustrate, yesterday afternoon an order suddenly came out restricting all men to their Company areas. In view of the nature of our activities, status etc., it was the opinion of all concerned, and rightly so, that such an order meant only one thing, that we were moving. Sam and others who have their wives here immediately began to chew their nails to the nubs. At 4:30 we were gathered together to hear an important announcement. So with bated breath we anxiously waited to hear what the future held in store for us. After interminable purgatory, the announcement: COLONEL REEDER, AFTER EXAMINATION OF THE BATTALION AREA, IS COMPLETELY DISSATISFIED WITH THE APPEARANCE OF THE AREA, BARRACKS AND SUPPLY ROOMS. NO MAN SHALL SIGN OUT UNTIL THIS CONDITION HAS BEEN RECTIFIED. Whereupon the men all spring up with dolorous cries and begin to beat their heads against the nearest wall. In the Army there is a name for an order such as this – it is aptly descriptive, but it would require a very lengthy explanation and besides it is much too vulgar for your delicate, shell-like ears. It is enough to say that I have calculated that situations such as this, the cumulative frustration in combination with aggregate stupidity can upset the strongest reason. Applications to the 603rd can be procured at the nearest delicatessen or your neighborhood insane asylum.

My sketch for today shows how I look in running from the field to the office and back to the field and back to the office as the occasion demands. As you see I am dressed appropriately so that at an instant’s notice I can fit into either category.

Helen, I see you are threatening me with bobby-pins and long flannel pajamas. I could take these superficial things in my stride – but when you add cold cream and snoring I wave the white flag. I’ll be good. I see you’re sleeping with Anne – what a lucky girl she is. Does she really appreciate you? I shall now give you explicit instructions for waking your sleepy room-mates. I can see that threats, bribes and cajolery would be useless. Therefore, I prescribe force, seeing that you are dealing with a pair of monomaniacs, whose sole thought is sleep. First, you must casually soak the bedclothing with kerosene making sure that the area covering the pedal extremeties [sic] has been well saturated. Then striking a match on the nose of the nearest sleeper you apply the ignition and in no time at all there will be a cheery blaze which, if you are thrifty, you may utilize to make coffee. When the flames reach a height of two or three feet this shall be a signal for you to run round and round the bed shouting “FIRE!”, ringing all the bells available and imitating the sound of a siren all at once. If this has no visible effects on the slumbering beauties, then you must immediately douse the flames and sleepers with large quantities of water, shouting wildly, “TO THE HILLS, MEN! THE DAM HAS BROKEN!” If all this proves to no avail, you must set your lips in a grim straight line and throwing your one hundred and ? pounds of well moulded femininity into the effort, pound the component parts of blankets and sleepers into a homogeneous mass and leave them for the vultures, taking care to salvage the blankets. We may need them when my overcoat wears out.

Your letter, written from New York on Friday has just arrived. I hope the letter I sent to you there arrived in time. The cold spell has even reached the sunny South. It is bitter cold here after weeks of warm weather and we too were caught with our coal bins down. Due to the discrepancies in mail delivery, I find that I have answered all your queries in the letters you will find when you return to Washington. At last, I have the answer to what attracts you to me. It’s the way I imitate Mrs. Roosevelt – and all the time I thought it was something else. Well perhaps sometime I shall show you some other qualities or has your probing eye already discerned some of the things which make me tick. Do not let the ticking alarm you. Because I go “tick, tick” and not “TICK, TICK”. I am telling you this so that you will not relegate me to the bathroom with Big Benjamin.

Last night I saw “Jane Eyre”. A fine picture which I recommend highly. See it if you can. This afternoon, I am going into Tullahoma to see Eva. I’ll give her your regards. Also a letter from home requests that my folks be remembered to you.

If nothing interferes I’ll call you Sunday, Feb 20th, not the 19th Helen mixup, at about 9:00 AM. The number is Ra 8833, n’est ce pas? By the way, what does Ra stand for?

I miss you more each day.


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