Dec 26, 2013

Bloomington, December 1943

My father, age 18, with my uncle Stanley, 10, and aunt Barbara, 15, at the family farm in Bloomington.  Dad was home on his second leave from the Navy training program in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in late December 1943.

Dec 20, 2013

Mon, Dec 20, 1943: the ice

"He [Stanley] worked pretty hard on a book report he has to get in at school this morning so he could go down and play on the ice this afternoon and when we were eating dinner he said something about the ice and I told him I thought it would be to soft as the sun had been shining all morning or most of the morning and he hit the table with his hand and tears came in his eyes, he was pretty disappointed about it but soon got over it."
-- Letter from my grandfather, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Monday, December 20, 1943.  Stanley was my father’s 10-year-old brother.  Dinner was eaten at noontime on the farm.

Dec 19, 2013

Sun, Dec 19, 1943: out of trouble

"As I previously mentioned, we spent the weekend at home to keep from catching the 'flu.'  To keep us busy (and out of trouble) during that time they required each man to wash the walls of his room and wax the floor.  Clarence and I were hard at work on this assignment about the time Frank Sinatra and 'Your Hit Parade' came on last night."
-- Letter from my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., Sunday, December 19, 1943.   My father was home on leave from about December 24 to January 2; so this was his last letter home in 1943.  His family kept all of his letters and numbered them, in part so he could have a record of his Navy years.  They numbered this last letter of the year "44."  (They actually had missed counting at least one letter.) So, on average, he was writing home 7 times a month, not counting postcards and not counting all the letters he wrote to friends and family members outside his immediate family.  He typically wrote home every Sunday and Wednesday.  He continued writing letters on Sunday throughout his life.

Dec 12, 2013

Sun, Dec 12, 1943: North Africa

"Ruby and Homer got word Jack has landed safely in North Africa.  He didn't write much and what he did write was partly cut out....
"All of us went to town yesterday to do our Christmas shopping.  The stores are rather empty looking and everything a person looks at seems rather cheap except when you price it, then you almost fall over."

--Letter from my grandmother, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Sunday, December 12, 1943. Jack Seal was one of my father's best friends from childhoodHe was the only child of Homer and Ruby, who ran the community store.  By this point in the war, the Allies had control of North Africa and it was a staging point for the invasion of Italy.

Dec 8, 2013

Wed, Dec 8, 1943: cattle interests

"Dear Stanley:
"The report you gave me on the farm livestock was very interesting.  So you're a hunter now!  Did you have the rabbits for dinner that you and Buzz killed?  And about my cattle interests -- I think I'd better appoint you to make a count of my animals.  After you mentioned the birth of a calf to my cow in the last letter.  I got to thinking that perhaps I didn't really know very much about my cattle.  So would you tell me how many cows and calves there are."

-- Letter from my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., to my uncle Stanley, Bloomington, Kans., Wednesday, December 8, 1943.

Dec 5, 2013

Sun, Dec 5, 1943: home for Christmas

"Boy! Oh Boy! were we tickled when your letter say you would be home for Christmas.
"My little puppys have their eyes open and are getting bigger.
"We have all the corn shucked over at Ed King's and drove about 98 head over there.  We took your cow over there and it has a new calf.  Yesterday Buzz and I went hunting and got two rabbit, Buzz chased down one and I shot one with my B-B gun.  We chased a third one but didn't get him.
"In the last week old Buzz has got two possums, one in the chicken house and the other in a pile of brush."

-- Letter from my uncle, age 10, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, age 18, Navy V-12 program, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Sunday, December 5, 1943.

Sun, Dec 5, 1943: reviewing lineup

"Personnel inspection was made by the Commanding Officer at 8 A.M.  All four companies formed in front of the library, and we stood at attention while the CO checked every man in the outfit for unshined shoes, no shave, no haircut, lint on uniforms, etc.  I got a kick out of the reviewing lineup, as formed when it passed me -- first came Lieut Soderquist, CO; next Lieut. Morrissey, Ass't CO; third a yeoman; and bringing up the rear was a nondescript mongrel dog."
-- Letter from my father, Navy V-12 program, Cape Girardeau, Mo., to my aunt, Bloomington, Kans., Sunday, December 5, 1943.

Nov 29, 2013

Mon, Nov 29, 1943: menu

"Did you have as good a menu for Thanksgiving as you thought you were.  We didn't have any proverbial turkey, but instead had chicken, gravy, dressing, potatoes, peas, celery, pickles, cranberry sauce and apple pie.
"Since Stanley is too busy to write in that he is making up his arithmetic he missed last week, he is giving news items to tell you.  Buzzy has four pups and of course Stanley thinks they are wonderful.  Then he wants to tell you that Old Mary Jane has a calf."
          -- Letter from my grandmother, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Monday, November 29, 1943.

Nov 24, 2013

Wed, Nov 24, 1943: feast

"And we should have a real [Thanksgiving] feast, if The Capala Arrow, college newspaper, has the right dope on our menu for Thursday noon.  Roast turkey with gravey and dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, butter peas, corn, tomato and lettuce, crisp celery, assorted pickles, hot rolls, butter, pumpkin pie, apples, grapes, candies and nuts are listed by that paper.  All of which probably means various combinations of hash and soup until Sunday, but I'm looking forward to it.  I suppose that you folks had one of the usual family dinners with a variety of food that would put the just mentioned menu to shame with a Turkey furnished by Uncle Frank.  No doubt the annual visit of the Shepherds - (if that's proper spelling) and the quail and rabbit hunt had to be called off for lack of ammunition and fuel."
-- Letter from my father, Navy V-12 program, Cape Girardeau, Mo., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., Wednesday, November 24, 1943.  This was my father's first Thanksgiving away from home, as an 18-year-old apprentice seaman.

Nov 20, 2013

Sat, Nov 20, 1943: the South

"Most of the boys here are from the South.  This is really the University of the 'South'.  The word 'Yankee' is used with a feeling of disgust here.  My English professor refights the Civil War in every class.  The other day he told us that ‘a Nazi is a Yankee carried to his logical conclusion.'  He said the South was their only hope.  To him a Yankee is a sort of heathen.  The South has all the culture and finer things."
-- Letter from Lee Lenz, University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Saturday, November 20, 1943.  Lee was my father’s neighbor and high school class mate.  He was in the Navy V-12 program, as my father was.

Nov 18, 2013

Thu, Nov 18, 1943: pup tents

"I'm now stationed somewhere in Tenn. on my winter maneuvers.  Expect the experience of the coming months will separate the men from the boys. (Thats a pet expression used around here, don't believe I'll have to elaborate)
"We are bivouaced in a wooded cow pasture and living in double pup tents.  The weather has been kinda cold when it frosts.  So thats why we have four men to a tent.  Sure is noisy when four of us snore."
-- Letter from Dale Sooter, near Nashville, Tenn., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Thursday, November 18, 1943.  Dale, my father's cousin, was a private in the Army; my father was an apprentice seaman in the Navy.

Nov 15, 2013

Mon, Nov 15, 1943: big cities

"Things are going along here as before.  Clarence Brewster of Wichita is still my roommate.  In fact out of 20 boys in our corridor only two are new -- both of them coming from St. Louis.  In fact all of the boys are from big cities with the exception of myself and Earl Burgett, a boy next door from Seabie, Montana.  Five are from St. Louis, 2 from San Francisco, 1 from Los Angeles, 1 from Chicago, and several from Kansas City, besides my roommate from Wichita and one boy from Columbus, Ohio."

-- Letter from my father, Navy V-12 program, Cape Girardeau, Mo., to my grandfather, Bloomington, Kans., Monday, November 15, 1943.

Nov 14, 2013

Sun, Nov 14, 1943: across the waters

"Ruby and Homer had a letter from Jack last week and he was at his place of embarkation. Suppose by now he is rolling across the waters."
 -- Letter from my grandmother, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Sunday, November 14, 1943.  Jack Seal was one of my father's neighbors and best childhood friends.  He was the only child of Ruby and Homer Seal, who ran the town store.  Unlike my father who entered an officer training program allowing him to remain stateside, Jack was sent overseas soon after entering the army.

Nov 10, 2013

Tues, Nov 9, 1943: cold as a barn

"It has really been chilly the last two days.   About 24° was the lowest Mon. morning and my schoolhouse was as cold as a barn."
-- Letter from my grandmother, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Tuesday, November 9, 1943.  Three day earlier, on November 6, Soviet forces had captured Kiev from Nazi forces.

Nov 3, 2013

Wed, Nov 3, 1943: capital

"I'm now back at work in the V-12 program at Cape Girardeau.  The trip from home was uneventful outside of the stops in Kansas City, Jefferson City, and St. Louis.  While in Jeff City we spent about 15 minutes looking over the Missouri state capital building -- big place.  Of interest were a lot of Civil War relics on exhibit on the ground floor.  After stopping at every mail box from Jeff City to St. Louis we arrived in time to catch the bus that arrived in Cape at 11 P.M. Oct. 31."
-- Letter from my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., Wednesday, November 3, 1943.  He was back at his naval post Southeast Missouri State Teachers College after his first leave home.

Oct 27, 2013

Wed, Oct 27, 1943: Navy Day

"The radio is over in the other corner of the barracks, the announcer is saying something about Navy Day so believe I'll write to the Navy to-night.
"Mother writes that the Boomington folks are expecting you home on a liberity.  You should have lots to write about.
 "I was expecting a furlough but it seems the army considers winter maneuvers more important for the time being."
 -- Letter from Dale Sooter, Camp Rucker, Ala., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Wednesday, October 27, 1943.  My father was on his first leave home from Navy duty, when Dale, his cousin and an army private, wrote this.

Oct 17, 2013

Sun, Oct 17, 1943: good feed

"It's up to Dad to write you tonight, so I had better get at it, its bed time now so don't expect much of a letter....
"We had two hard frosts last week so the kaffir is ready to be cut, have 20 acres over on Ed King that you helped plant to cut yet, and DeLoss Myers is going to start cutting it tomorrow, it didn't get ripe but will make good feed."
-- Letter from my grandfather, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Sunday, October 17, 1943.
What my grandfather called “kaffir” or “kaffir corn” is a southern African variety of sorghum first brought to the United States in the 1870s.  It was an important source of fodder for cattle, hogs, and chickens on my grandparents’ farm.  My family letters indicate it was planted on the farm in May and June, cultivated and curled in July, and harvested from October to April.  As I discussed in an early blog post, the word “kaffir” derives from the Arabic word for “infidel” and is a highly pejorative term that white South Africans have used to refer to black South Africans (see my early post, “Sun, Jan 18, 1942: ‘kafir corn").  My sense is that it has always been seen as an offensive term by black South Africans; but I don’t think white Americans or black Americans in the 1940s had any sense that it was such a derogatory term.
            Southern African sorghum was not, however, the first sorghum to come to the Americas. People in what is now Sudan and Chad had domesticated sorghum by 4,000 B.C.E.  From there, farmers developed some twenty different varieties of sorghum and spread them throughout the savanna belt from Sudan to Mauritania.  Likewise, sorghum spread from areas in Sudan into southern Africa.
Sorghum and millet (both referred to as “guinea corn”) first came to the Americas on slave ships from West Africa.  In order to feed the enslaved Africans on board, ship captains bought food, including rice, manioc flour, sorghum and millet, meat and fish. Given the cultural expectation of both Europeans and Africans that women would cook, captains made sure to include enough enslaved African women on each ship to prepare mealsThese grains were often purchased unmilled (in the husk), because it was less expensive.  This left African women the job of milling them aboard ship with a mortar and pestle.  It also meant (whether by design or not) that leftover grain could be planted in the Americas, while milled grain could not have been.   
Throughout the three and a half centuries of the transatlantic slave trade, some twelve million enslaved Africans were forced onto ships.  Many died during those voyages, but some ten million arrived in the Americas alive.  At least 35,000 slave voyages brought these men and women to the Americas, and likely each one voyage brought African plants as well.  It was the leftover provisions from these voyages, which allowed some enslaved Africans to continue cultivating these plants in the Americas.
References to “guinea corn” (sorghum or millet) in Brazil appear as early as 1587.  The two grains became crucial to the subsistence and export economies of the Caribbean, based on the labor of enslaved Africans.  The grains were well adapted to the aridity of many Caribbean islands, where they fed both humans and livestock.  When white slaveholders brought African slaves from Barbados to the Carolinas, African crops including sorghum raised in slaves' subsistence plots, came with them.  These slaves also continued African agricultural practices, such as intercropping nitrogen-fixing black-eyed peas with cereals.  By the early 1700s, whites recognized the value of sorghum for feeding livestock as well.  Sorghum has had an important role in American agriculture ever since.  Beyond its role in feeding livestock, most Americans are likely familiar with it today in the form of molasses.  In the 1990s, sorghum ranked fifth among U.S. crops in acres planted (after corn, wheat, soybeans, and cotton).
          (Sources: Judith A. Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff, In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009], 16-19, 65, 75, 144-48, C. Wayne Smith and Richard A. Rederiksen, Sorghum: Origin, History, Technology, and Production [John Wiley & Sons, 2000]).

Oct 14, 2013

Thu, Oct 14, 1943: Kappa Rho sweater

"I suppose you have heard of the KK's plan for wearing the Kappa Rho sweater once a week to keep the old K.P. tradition alive.  The Pi Eps managed to get 5 4F's or student preachers back.  Do you know where Jerry Morral is?  He bought my sweater and I would kind of like to have it back."
-- Letter from Everett "Sammy" Samuelson, Camp White, Oreg., to my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Thursday,  October 14, 1943.  Sammy was my father's classmate at Southwestern College.  By this time, they were both in the military, but still interested in news about their college pep clubsStudent preachers and 4-F's (men judged not physically or mentally qualified) were exempt from the draft and the only male students on the campus at that time

Oct 10, 2013

Sun, Oct 10, 1943: river boats

“After seeing a really good musical- "Stormy weather" with Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway and an all Negro cast -- we dropped down to the riverfront about 11 P.M. to watch the boats.  A couple of oil barges went by and we learned a lot about river boats from a local merchant who was down to take an order for supplies from a govt. steamer.  He says the oil barges we saw -- about 100 to 150 feet long and not more than two ft. above water -- will hold as much oil as 6 trains with 80 tank cars apiece.  So that's why it's such a cheap form of transportation-- even upstream."

--Letter from my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., to my grandmother, Bloomington, Kans., Sunday, October 10, 1943.

Oct 6, 2013

Wed, Oct 6, 1943: Pearl Harbor

“Today was a busy one for me.  I was well occupied from 1 to 6 P.M. with three classes -- Problems of Labor and Industry, Psychology (and the first pop quiz of the year), and International Relations, as well as A Cappella Choir and a talk in Naval History class by Seaman Wells.  He is one of the four or five men stationed here who went through Pearl Harbor, and his account of the raid was really good. Especially interesting were the facts that he brought that were withheld from the public for obvious military reasons for over a year.  For one thing 6 of our 9 battleships there were sunk -- and the only other three battleships we possessed were in the North Atlantic.  Also, civilian Japs living on the island attempted to break into Hickam Field, and the Japs had perfect information on the location of all major ships -- this happened to be the biggest concentration of ships in years there.  The most interesting parts of his talk were the numerous personal incidents he told about the battle.  I'll give you a better account of this speech when I return home.”
-- Letter from my father, Cape Girardeau, Mo., to my grandfather, Bloomington, Kans., Wednesday, October 6, 1943. 
            I apologize for the racial slur in this letter and I apologize to my father, who if he were alive would be chagrined to see how he expressed himself as a young man.  My father, a professor of Japanese history, would never have used that word later in life.  Indeed, when he transcribed some of these letters, he changed the word to "Japanese."  The word was considered offensive by Japanese Americans in the 1940s, but was widely used by white Americans to refer both to Japanese Americans and to their Japanese military enemy.  Only a few U.S. newspapers in the 1940s tried to avoid the term in news coverage.  The word appears throughout my father’s letters and it's impossible to quote the most interesting passages of these letters without using it.
            Seaman Wells was repeating unsubstantiated rumors that began to circulate immediately after Pearl Harbor: that Japanese civilians in the U.S. had aided the attackers.  Secretary of the Navy Knox began blaming the disastrous events of Pearl Harbor on a “fifth column” of Japanese Americans soon after the attacks.  Others in the administration, including J. Edgar Hoover and John Franklin Carter, disputed Knox’s assertions.  But those and similar rumors, along with existing racist attitudes, helped create the climate that led to the internment of Japanese Americans.
          (Sources: Tetsuden Kashima, Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997], 55; Daily Tulean Dispatch, November 6, 1942).