Monday, October 19, 2015

Port Moresby, April 1943

Howard wrote to Margaret on April 7, 1943.  She did not receive the letter until May 25:

My Darling,

     You'll probably get a lot of mail from me at one time so just relax and take it easy.  I got a short note from you just today, also a letter from Katherine. She seems to think that Bobbie or is it bobby is O.K. Nothing like the patter of little feet around the house I guess. I see in the papers where the OPM is going to let the manufacturers make baby carriages, so I guess there s a good bit of pattering about. All those [unclear] young men that are getting bumped off will take a lot of replacing, although there is one school of thought that claims that wars are primarily to reduce the surplus population. I wouldn't know about that. I do know that a lot of those boys that I see around here are the cream of any crop. A fine body of troops - some of them.
     Today has been a pretty damp day. It is a real relief to get one of them come in a while in place of the usual hot ones. I thought I smelled spring in the air but it couldn't be. I guess I remain about the same. I got me a new pair of G.I. Specks this morning and they are not too bad. I wore them for a couple of hours and got me a nice headache out of it. All new specks do that though.
     I have not been to a movie the last few days and I must see about that. This business of sitting around camp is not good for the inner man. It gives for introspection. After being in the sticks as long as we have, a very little of that thinking stuff goes a long way. I can't understand how the time seems to go so fast. We are not particularly busy and even if we were the days would not go any faster than they do. Here it is Thursday, or Friday rather and it seems only yesterday that it was Sunday. I suppose that this is a very fortunate state of affairs. Although we keep getting older all the time, the war is bound to be that much nearer a close. That'll be the DAY for sure. I suppose I will be in some God forsaken outpost when that day comes and it will be about six months before a ship calls to pick me up. There is some talk  about eighteen months overseas and you go home but I reckon it is just talk. It would be all right I guess but I would just as leave go to China or somewhere first. That is right now I would. On hot days I want to go home and get away from it all for a while. We live so comfortably here in the bush that I doubt if I could stand it indoors where you have to keep all your brass polished and stand inspections and all that stuff.  After living in a tent for over a year barracks would seem kind of stuffy too. The rain has stopped so I will go and shave. You can't watch me this time anyhow. Them were the days.

                                                                         All my Love


There actually is a smell of spring in Port Moresby for a few days in the transition from the wet to the dry season.  I don't know who Katherine was.  The OPM was the Office of Production Management, and was replaced by the War Production Board in January 1942.

He wrote to her again on April 9, 1943:

My Darling Margaret:
     Several days have passed since I have gotten a letter from you. For that matter it is a few days since I have written. With me things seem to be O.K. Much the same as usual. I latched on to a pipe and I am having the very devil of a time keeping it lit. I think it will be nice if I can start smoking a pipe for I have gotten into the habit of smoking cigarettes, the vile things and I can hardly talk a lot of the time.
     This is just another nice hot day. There seem to be plenty of them. My long awaited camera finally got here the other day and I suppose that I will take a lot of pictures now. It is a honey for sure, an Argus color candid camera. There are more gad[g]ets on it than there are are one of Rube Goldberg[']s inventions. Some of the boys in a nearby photo section tell me that I can't miss with it though. I got a pound of coffee at about the same time and if you can believe what you hear about the scarcity if [of] this item back  home this must have represented a real sacrifice on someone[']s part. The coffee situation is not nearly so critical here as it once was. We have plenty now.
     The war news seems to be pretty favorable to the Allies just now. Mr. Rommel appears to be having a kind of tough time in Africa just now. Maby this is all propaganda. I suppose that with you things are unchanged too. The day will come my love when virtue will have it's [sic] own reward.
     I ran across a little poem the other day that I will send to you thus reversing the usual process. It tells more plainly than I how things are at times. This will have to be in the nature of a note on acc't that for now I cannot think of anything to day.

                                                                         ALL my love


Considering that Howard was hunting and pecking  on a World War II era typewriting, the layout of the poem is amazing.


When your sucking at your pencil
And you don't know what to say,
And you wish the dear old censor
Had never seen the light of day,
There's always one small item left,
You know it's safe to tell,
And it doesn't take much writing-
"Dear Mum, I'm feeling well.

The tucker may be awful
And the water pretty crock,
You might still be feeling mournful
Since the boat left 'Frisco's dock;
You may have been before the Captain
For being A.W.O.L.,
But take your pen and write it down,
"Dear Mum I'm safe and well."

You hear the cry of sirens
And the bombers of the Japs,
You make a bee line for the trenches
And hold on to your caps;
You may live with snakes and lizards
And their everlasting smell,
But still you can write the same old line-
"Dear Mum I'm safe and well."

You've seen the Zero fighter
Come screaming overhead,
And we know it isn't pleasant
To be dodging chunks of lead,
But when your sitting in your trenches
'Midst the hail of shot and shell,
You'll still have time to send this line-
"Dear Mum, I'm feeling well."

Your gray haired Mother's standing
Beside your dear old Dad,
She's waiting for the mailman
For news of her soldier lad,
A smile lights up her care worn face
With a beauty no words can tell,
As she reads your old familiar line-
"Dear Mum, I'm safe and well."

                          Betty F. Keith

The Argus candid camera debuted in 1936.  Pictures of various models can be found here, although none of them are labeled "candid."  The camera below was available between 1936-1945 and may be the model Howard had:

Source: EBTH.

The poem appears to be Australian in origin and is attributed to different people.  This version is typical:


Howard's next letter is dated April 11, 1943:

My Darling,
     Another nice enough day for writing letters has rolled around. It is another Sunday but as such it does not mean much to me. Just another day of duty. I had figured on going out this afternoon and taking some pictures but it is pretty cloudy. Maby it will clear up soon. I am more tickled about the camera each day. I can't wait to see how some of the pictures come out. I am going to take a couple of rolls right quick and see and then maby I can tell better. Incidentally maby you have heard but the postal laws in reference to overseas shipments have been relaxed a little. It is no longer necessary to get permission to send little items that do not weigh over eight ounces. Could you manage to get me a couple of rolls of film occasionally and send them to me. I guess from what the folks say at home they must be just a little difficult to get. The size I am using is 35 mm film and there are a number of different kinds of them. My first choice is Super II and after that it does not matter much. There seem to be a lot of tricks to this picture taking but fortunately there are a lot of boys in the Army who know whereof they speak when it comes to pictures and cameras. The government is developing film for [unclear] soldiers now so I should be able to get one of the more innocuous pictures home.
     I got a letter from home today and it told of planting a few seeds in the ground with the hope that I might be home to help with the harvest. That is very unlikely indeed to say the least. I have been away from home just long enough to begin to love this foreign service. Especially New Guinea. A beautiful spot anyway you take it. There are not very many blonds or brunette here though. I guess there are a few nurses around the hospitals but that is one place I don't spend much time. Perhaps it is just as well. Some of the boys have gone to a native village this afternoon and although all the females have been evacuated to the interior I suppose that they will get a few pictures or something at least. I can tell them one thing for sure, they will get a bad smell in their nose that will not leave for many a day. These native people may not smell bad but they certainly smell different.  Me [?] boy was out there the other day and he got a couple of pictures of cannibals or so they said. I rather imagine that they were just ordinary natives dressed up for the tourist trade.
     The situation here just now is not too bad but on the other hand it is not too good either. I have not gotten a letter from you for some time but I suspect that things will change before long. It has gotten to the place where if a guy doesn't get any mail from his true love for a while, he can automatically assume that she has lot interest and perhaps found another. One of the boys here says that when some of these pilots were going to school back in the 'States they must not have been paying attention. This is all for now, you have all my love

Howard's next letter, dated April 23, 1943, suggests that he has been in a "forward area" for some time. That could be Port Moresby, or it could be Milne Bay.

My Darling Margaret:

     Two letters from you, 21 and 26 Mar., both the same day. Things in general remain peaceful on the New Guinea front. You seem to be keeping busy which is good I think. You want to save up a lot of dough so that when mine gives out after I get home we will have carfare home.
     There are a lot of rumors about us going home one of these days but they are only someones [sic] wishful thinking I suspect. I'll have a year and a half in very shortly. It surely can't go on forever but look at the war of the roses. Of course things are a little different now and war is a little more expensive than it was in those days. from what I read in the press and hear over the radio it won't be long before you have a manpower board over there that really functions. It will give a lot of people a chance to see a lot of the country at the tax payers (God bless 'em) expense. They have the same system or practically so in Australia now and a lot of people work just where the Government tells them to. If it will help the war effort let them get busy right away says I.
     I have a couple of rolls of film away now to get developed and I guess that if I live right I will get them back in due time. You will get your fair share of them if they are any good. I have a lot that are of objects that might have some military signifigance [sic] but there are a liberal amount of non-military pictures. A guy offered to trade me out of my camera the other day. He offered me an Agfa 616 for mine with thirty pounds to boot. that would be a very advantageous trade if I had two cameras or did not want it or something.
     We have a Victory garden planted now. It has only radishes in it yet on acc't that this is the only kind of seeds that we have yet. You might put a small packet of some kind of seeds in your next letter. Carrots or lettuce or something. I want to have a few seeds stored up so that the next time that we move I can plant a garden right away. We have been in this place about as long as we customarily stay anyplace but maby this will be an exception to the ordinary and we will stay here from nwo on. We are what might be called in the forward area now and maby we will not go any further until the allies have some gains to consolidate. I don't mind consolidating gains but when it comes to retiring to a more strategic position that is not so good.
     I will enclose a little bit of Australian coinage in this letter. It will be a threepence or six pence if I can find one. Small coinage is rather scarce here. It just seems to get away some how. I am money made these days for I sure want to have a certain sum when I get home. We might need it. I am trying to teach my boy Herman how to play chess. I can't say whether he will stick to it or not. Regardless of what I tell him, chess is a game that is not learned overnight. I have to close now.

                                                                           All my love,


Howard sent a telegram, date stamped April 25, 1943, Easter Sunday, perhaps for Margaret's birthday on April 30:





                            HOWARD E MCCORMICK

He wrote a letter on Easter Sunday, too:

My Darling Margaret,

     Today is Easter Sunday.  I'm afraid that any celebrations of an appropriate nature that may be held on this day will have a hollow kind of sound. Nothing special seems to be planned for the troops over here for this day and as far as I can see it is just another day of duty. It is even hard to remember what the observation of Easter is supposed to mean. Ah well, there will come a day. I got to thinking about that little catholic church in San Antonio, Fla. I took Miss Hazel over there one Easter and it so happened that one of her friends was getting wed after the main service. It was very impressive to say the least.
     I have a couple of letters here from you. One of them mentions a Capt Gooding in some QM outfit here. I have not happened to run across him and I will doubtless not strain myself hunting him up. I find that for myself at least if I confine myself to strictly business when I am dealing with Officers I am much better off. If you get to passing a quip or two with officers you run into the old business of people in general being able to give it out but not take it. On top of this you run into the rank proposition. I did run across a young Captain in the medical section the other day that had a very nice command of the english language. He managed to get off some pretty good ones in just the short time I was talking to him. These guys are all to [sic] rare though.
     I ordered me a new pair of glasses the other day and I am supposed to get them in about a week or so. The ones that I have are my old civilian glasses and they may get broken at any time of course. Things are pretty quiet here just now but I guess that they are humming on some of the other fronts. Maby the Army is getting into high gear now. I surely hope so on acc't that I am ready to move again but I do not crave to go any way but foreward [sic] or home. I suspect that the people at home are getting war minded by now. I understand that the government is trying to raise some astronomical amount of money for the further prosecution of the war. I have not heard of late how the people are responding. Prices must be out of all reason just now. Maby if the government passed a 100% excess profits tax like they have in england the price ceiling would come down a little. Being a very amature [sic] economist indeed I would not know. Speaking of ribbons we are entitled to wear several but they are not available. We will doubtless get them on our return to our native land. Service ribbons will be a tuppence a dozen after this war if I can read the signs correctly. An enormous amount of troops are bound to go overseas when and if we invade Europe. With what figures are available now we are not doing so badly. I have no idea how many soldiers there are over seas now but it must be a very large amount. This has got to be all.

                                                                            All my love


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