Letters from the Good War

A running series of World War II letters written by a Navy Seabee who served in the South Pacific theatre taking the reader through the entire war experience.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Gulfport, Mississippi 11/28/1943

Dear Mom,

Since I've been in the service, it seems I've developed an inclination to reminisce, to review unimportant incidents of the past and enjoy looking back on them even more than when they actually happened. Now that I'm about to leave the South, I can't help looking back on all that happened during my ten week stay here: that day we arrived amid a downpour, those weeks of drilling, the first time I fired a rifle, the march to the rifle range, Gulfport, Biloxi, basking on the beach at Cat Island, the first time I saw the Gulf of Mexico, the evenings spent with the Linfields, New Orleans, the ride up the Mississippi, Mobile, the football game, Baton Rouge, and a hundred little things that would fill many more pages. All seem so far away yet so vivid. I've seen plenty, learned plenty. I'll always look back on the days spent here as a time of happiness.

In spite of some disagreeable experiences, I can say, for the most part, it's been swell. Of course there were the usual disgusting sights, the drunks, the cheap women, and the filthy talk, but they were minimal and are easily forgotten. Certainly exposure to such things broadens a person's knowledge of men and life in general.

Thursday night was my final liberty. The Linfields had invited me to spend the evening with them for last good byes. We spent the evening again listening to records, discussing every imaginable subject and eating pie. The evening reminded me so much of home. It's not often that a fellow can experience home life 2000 miles away from home. The average guy raises the devil and returns to camp feeling chipper. He misses his home so much that he does crazy things when in town. In going to the Linfields when I leave camp, I don't have to drown my loss with drink and women, as so many do.

We arrived at the Linfields at 6:30, rather early, when the girls had just arrived home from a Gulfport High football game, which it lost. Mary, the younger girl, a senior, went upstairs to dress for a dance that night. At about 9:30, so typical of a young fellow's knock, interrupted the conversation. Mary now all dressed up slick, looking darn pretty, flowers in her hair, opened the door and dashed out to the porch to meet her beau for the night. This was a different fellow than last time. He was a “civy.” As I watched them, it occurred to me that I had just witnessed something that I had outgrown. I have never known what it was like to call on a girl, and now seeing it, I realized I had missed something wonderful, and that the opportunity was gone forever. I can't quite explain why I felt this way. Suddenly, I saw all the fun I had missed in high school by not dating. I saw as plain as day that all the fun I could have had from social contact was worth more than all my damn studying. Although there's only one year's difference in age between me and those kids, I felt so much older as I closed that door.

I was unable to get in touch with you that night because of a six-hour delay on calls to the Northeast. I should have expected it on Thanksgiving eve. Mrs. Linfield asked for your address. She'll probably tell you about the "bad" boy I've been. As we were leaving, she asked that I return someday to visit her. She suggested that, after the war is over, to detour to Gulfport on my way home to Massachusetts. Maybe someday, after the war, I shall revisit all the places I've seen, and take advantage of her invitation.

Love, Hughie