Unpacking this postcard has been a fascinating journey including a long-forgotten Army Camp in Central Louisiana and the famed 101st Airborne Division. The image depicted, its caption, the writing style of the sender, his assigned unit, the location of the postmark, and content of the message all have much to offer.
Let’s start with the arrival depicted here. The linen postcard image is a color-enhanced photograph of new soldiers arriving by rail car and transferring to trucks at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. The installation was primarily used for basic training and artillery practice. Camp Claiborne was also notable for the Claiborne-Polk Military Railway, a rail line spanning 50 miles, including 25 bridges, which connected the camp to what’s now Fort Polk, Louisiana. The railway was used to simulate rail repairs and test methods for derailing trains. Though Camp Claiborne was returned to civilian use right after the war, it had birthed one of the most decorated units of World War II – the 101st Airborne Division, which was activated there in August of 1942. Continue reading “Earliest Days of the 101st Airborne [1943 – Camp Claiborne, LA & Nashville, TN]”→
I never cease to be amazed by the veritable explosion of construction projects and mass movement of personnel that characterized 1942 and 1943 across the United States. The creation of Camp Breckinridge in Morganfield, Kentucky near the Illinois state line provides a textbook example of this furious pace of military activity in many rural corners of the country. A testament to the swift construction of Camp Breckinridge, the buildings here were built in such haste that they were not properly insulated, a fact not lost on our sender who keenly felt the cold in December of 1942.
When it comes to spending your time in the Service on a remote island during World War II, I would wager that most folks first think of the Pacific Theater. However, the American military boasted a robust presence in the Atlantic as well, including places like Bermuda and the Azores. Based on his handwriting, it appears this sender served as his own censor before sending this postcard to Delaware in mid-1941. The Lend-Lease policy would have been the dominant policy at the time, prior to the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ subsequent official entry into World War II in December of 1941. Continue reading “When you come to Bermuda [1941 – Bermuda]”→
Though occasionally vacation postcards can be entertaining, they often contain the most ironically mundane commentary regarding the weather or scheduling. I find the most interesting postcards are the ones that involve births, deaths, marriages, relocations, war, homecomings, graduations, illness, and even lost pets. Those are the ones where I find the most interesting tidbits of individual humanity and anthropology on a larger scale.
An article published in 2005 by the U.S. National Library of Medicine notes “Not only can the illustrations on postcards reveal a considerable amount of information about hospitals in the early twentieth century, but the messages, addresses, postmarks, and stamps can also offer a glimpse of the lives of ordinary citizens and their perceptions of the health care system.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1175805/)
Here we read about one such hospital experience. The sender expresses relief in having made it through surgery, and makes note of the diversity of her fellow patients inside McCleary Hospital near Kansas City, Missouri. I think most people have mixed feelings about hospitals — perhaps, not thrilled about yourself or a family member falling ill, but grateful to have a hospital where you can seek care. I’m glad that Mrs. Goetsch seems to have had a mostly positive hospital stay.
Here is the place I am and I guess the place to get well. Had my operation and am over the worst I hope so. Sure meet people from all over the country, young and old, fat and small. Hope from now I will feel better.
Postmark: Excelsior Springs, Missouri – May 18, 1942
To: Mrs. Mable Kueck – Janesville, Wisconsin
McCleary Thornton Minor Hospital
McCleary Clinic and Hospital remains in existence as McCleary – Thornton – Minor Hospital in Excelsior Springs.
“Silhouetted in the golden glory of a Pacific sunrise, crosses mark the graves of American boys who gave their lives to win a small atoll on the road to the Philippines. A Coast Guardsman stands in silent reverence beside the resting place of a comrade., 1944”
“Army Reserve soldiers render final honors at a Fallen Warrior ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C. Jan. 10, 2012. The command’s soldiers and civilian employees honored seven Army Reserve soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Memorial Day is the Past and the Future
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those who paid the ultimate price and the families who lost love ones. I hope that you will spend a moment to reflect upon your own mortality and the blessings for which so many men and women have sacrificed.
Based on how it’s referenced in this note, I can only imagine how the stationary Virginia used in her previous correspondence to Bernice must have looked. Apparently duty in Fort Myers, Florida is not all sun-bathing and nights on the town. Working Kitchen Patrol all night, which is what I can only assume the sender means by K.P., does not sound like a pleasant way to pass the time. It seems Bernice survived the nighttime duty though. I hope he did get a glimpse of a bathing beauty before leaving the Sunshine State.
The place of origin for this card, expansive Buckingham Army Airfield located near Fort Myers, Florida was in operation from 1942-1945. Known for its “Flexible Gunnery School,” the installation provided a variety of new technologies for training aerial gunners including sophisticated gunnery ranges, dummy target aircraft, dummy ammunition, and high-altitude training. If you want to learn more about all of the fascinating military training methods that were pioneered at this airfield, I highly recommend the Wikipedia page. (Source: Buckingham Army Airfield Wikipedia)
For better or worse, little remains of the hundreds of buildings and runways that constituted Buckingham Army Airfield. It was closed immediately after the war, was purchased by a land developer, and became a residential area.
Here I am again and a very sleepy chap at that. I just got up after working K.P. all night so you can guess how I feel.
That was some stationary you wrote on the other time. Where in the world does a person think up things like that. It’s straight stuff though. Here is the picture of the bathing beauty but she surely must be in some other part of Fla. I haven’t seen her yet.
Postmark: Fort Myers, Florida – August 7, 1943
To: Virginia Andrews | 410 Elizabeth Street | Durham, NC
Apparently Leonard’s department store was quite a place to see in its heyday. This store, located in Fort Worth, Texas, was a modern marvel before its time, even including at some point an indoor monorail. I found out about Leonard’s by way of Pvt. Luis France who sent this from Texas to a friend in Durham, North Carolina.
Leonard’s is now home to a museum about its spectacular history.
I am on my way back to camp from furlough. I am sorry I didn’t go through N.C. I wished I had gone by that way. Was fine being home again. I had a swell time.
Will write later.
Postmark: Fort Worth, Texas – Jan 28, 1944
To: Miss Ruby Lou Atkinson | 515 Chapel Hill St. | Durham, N.C.
It would be interesting to know whether or not Harry did end up in a desert theater, once he was deployed overseas.
How did it feel to get back to army life after your furlough. I expect it was lot of fun. I am learning to be a soldier now and maybe I’ll make a good one sometime. It is hot down here and so I ought to be able to stand desert service after this training is over.
Answer soon. Harry
Sent to: Pfc. Homer E. Baugh
1590th 318 [?] S. G.
Barksdale Field, Louisiana
Sent by: Pvt Harry Hawkins
Battery B 195 A. A. A. A. W. Bn.
Camp Stewart, Georgia
Postmark: Camp Stewart, Georgia – June 28, 1943
2nd Postmark on the front: Harding Field, Baton Rouge, Louisiana – July 5, 1943
George found himself in a quaint alpine village in the late summer of 1945. The picturesque village of Reit im Winkl is a small German town near the Austrian border with a strong tradition of tourism. No rank or unit is given on this card, but the postcard was stamped at APO 527.
We are now quartered in this little Alpine village. We are really miles from no where. They say the snow here is terrific gets to 8′ deep in the village. Don’t you think the Alps look beautiful?
Postmark: U.S. Army Postal Service A.P.0 572 – 25 Aug 1945
To: Miss Olga Schleichen | 450 N. Pine St. | Indianapolis, Indiana
Image description: Reit im Winkl mit Keisergebirge 2344m
Reit im Winkl
An alpine community in the Southeast corner of modern Germany, to this day, the town has no rail connection (source), but remains a popular destination for winter and summer outdoor sports.