On Jan. 23, 1943, my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, (photo in uniform, above) reported to the draft board in Chicago to start his training for WWII. So began the correspondence between him and family & friends, comprising almost 300 letters going both ways. I’m posting many of these World War II letters, each on or near the 70th anniversary of its writing. To start with his induction, click HERE.

This blog began in Nov., 2010, when I posted a century-old love note from Josef Gärtz, my paternal grandfather, to Lisi (Elisabetha) Ebner, my paternal grandmother, and follows their bold decision to strike out for America.

My mom and dad were writers too, recording their lives in diaries and letters from the 1920s-the 1990s. Historical, sweet, joyful, and sad, all that life promises-- and takes away--are recorded here as it happened. It's an ongoing saga of the 20th century. To start at the very beginning, please click HERE.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I pray hard for you

My grandmother placed two lights with green beaded shades flanking Ebner's high school graduation picture, as my father mentioned in his 2/21-23 letter. Here my grandmother tells her son how she keeps "in touch" with him through this home shrine she had erected.

I've edited difficult-to-understand language and taken out confusing parts. Original at end.


Dear Ebner,

20 minute [ago] I talk[ed] with you, so I [tell you now]  what I forgot [to say] we did. We was in church today. So many askt about you. [Fred] and Papa made the collection today in church. 

Will at Harlem Airport
Will is flying at Harlem Airport. Father went to his Work. Today is cold. As soon as I finish the letter, I send it airmail and American Express money order so you have it as soon as possible.

The lights are burning steady by your picture in the living room after the sun is sinking until I go to bed. Then I say “Good night, Ebner.”

Page 2

Dear Ebner my Son,

At 5 or 5:30 in the morning the 2 green light by your photo from Ebert [photo studio] go on with a “Goot morning and God bless you today, Ebner.” Then I go to work as allways. I forgot not one evening or Morning [to greet his photo] since you left us. So you see, you be with us steady. I pray hard for you that all will be with you well. Now I hope you can read this letter. Try hard to please leave me know if you have understood.

On 23 Feb. 1943 I was working as clerk at the poll [for voting]. I [did] goot so Father teases me [that I am a] Politichen). I like it well. We had to buy a washing machine. It is so much troubel with the Laundry. I got a Maytag and it is swell. You call again (next Sunday). Will tells you the time in his letter when we are all together.

So please don’t forget to pray to God, morning and Night. God be allways with you. As allways, Your loving Pops and praying for you.

Lots of love,

Mother with 1,000 kisses. God bless you.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mom bubbles over with joy to hear from you

The Gartz Boys. Left to right, Fred (my Dad) Will, the
oldest, and Frank "Ebner." My grandma did a bit of
magic by cutting in Frank's grad photo ten years after
the photo of Fred and Will was taken.
My father (left above) wrote to Frank, who was his best buddy as well as kid brother. Ten years older than Frank/Ebner, my dad had changed Frank's diapers as a baby, fed him, and entertained him with walks to the park when his Mom was busy working on the apartment buildings his parents maintained and the never-ending housework of era. 

Feb. 21- 23 1943
The grad photo of Ebner that his mother
flanked with "two green lights"
(see letter for details)
Dear Ebner: ––

First and foremost forgive my lateness in writing. It was more than once that I sat down to write but then sleep overtook me as usual or we were interrupted etc. etc.
However I finally finished one letter in German and was about to mail it when I heard that you believe that it might not be good for you.

My idea in so writing was to keep you from being completely out of touch with German, for after all, you might still some day find need of it and practice makes perfect. Well enough of that. I hope that you are in good spirits and in good health, and that “Soldaten Leben”
[military life] agrees with you. If I were you I shouldn’t gripe too much about desk work for you will get enough of activity later on.

At any rate this will probably give you some inside information and idea how an army runs which should broaden your viewpoint when you return to “active service.” I am very happy to hear that you have been given some responsibility. This is well; make yourself worthy of it. Have you started any of your radio work as yet? I think that you are in an excellent field for radio has an excellent future. I don’t have any of your letters here so that I can’t comment on your various statements as I would want to. You know “shrimp” every time Mom got word from you, she would call me either at home or at work and bubble over with joy about it. We all miss you but mom of course, as you know her, makes the most of it.

Your dresser must remain “as is” or rather, as was, with all of your paraphernalia in its respective place. Furthermore, and this is quite faithful of her, she has flanked your graduation picture on the front room radio with those two small green nite lamps from the bedroom and at sundown the lamps are lit and remain lit until sunrise.

Yesterday (2-20-43) Lil and I and Kenny and Arlyene went to the Schiller Liedertafel at the Germania Club. We had a good time and believe it or not, we left at two o’clock. At every other Liedertafel affair we never left before 4:30 or 5:00. Of course it was packed. This was a summer formal, their annual February concert. We missed most of their singing, but what we did hear was grand. I got an application to join. It might give me some much needed practice which I’ve missed since choir days.

Also there is now a new field of some new songs. Next Saturday the Rheinischer Singverein von Chicago [Rhein singing group from Chicago] is giving a Masquerade at the Lincoln Turner Hall. Lil and I are planning to go. As no doubt you know these affairs are loads of fun and in a most congenial atmosphere. 

Mrs. Von Arx’s mother died during the past week [see Mrs. Von Arx’s letter of 2/8/43] and the folks went to pay last respects. Dad got the Pastor and Mrs. Kaitschuk into such a laughing fit at the wake with some of his stories that they had tears in their eyes. Same old Pop.

Marvin Newman from church was also drafted and is at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin. Also Jack Magnuson was given a 12 hr notice to be ready to leave and for the present he is stationed at Loyola University and he flied at Palwaukee Airport.

Lil and I stopped off at Mrs. Grac’s today to deliver to her her pictures of the wedding, and we exchanged quite a number of stories.

Feb 23, ’43

Well here it’s Tuesday nite and I still haven’t mailed this letter. As you can see by the handwriting above, I was beginning to doze, as usual. Today I was 13 1/2 hours at work so there is little time left for all those things which one wants to do and has to do such as income tax returns, etc.

Tomorrow is registration for canned and processed food rationing. Well here at last is the method that will shorten my waist line.

The days since Sunday have been very springlike so at noon, “Steve, Katz Grazt & Borkin” go out to play ball. We roll up some fluffy packing material into a ball (or close facsimile) about 3” - 4” in diameter and use a parked car for a net and play volley ball. I know it’s screwy, but it’s fun, fast, and exciting.

Both brights and dims are out on Blitzbuggy [took Ebner to draft board 1/23/43]. They went out all at once while driving the other day. Essy [The Essex car my mother drove to her job with the Bayer Company at Chicago’s Wrigley Building]. Had a bit of misfortune. She had a rip about 3 inches long in her roof at the front end. That night there was a stiff wind from the west and in the morning the covering of Essy’s roof was hanging over her rear. Until we get it fixed, scotch tape is keeping her together. So I’ll have something left to say in the following letters I stop this one now. Take care of yourself and when you get time, drop us a line.

Auf Wiedersehen,

Love, Sam [Fred]

(Like Ebner, the family usually called my Dad, by his middle name, Sam).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Screwball Instructor looking for stripes

Frank Von Arx, Ebner's best friend, is writing to Ebner again from Von Arx's locale in Florida. The photo below is from the Von Arx's archives, of soldiers stationed with the Army Air Force drilling at Miami Beach. 
Von Arx "gives Ebner hell" in mock anger at Ebner for not writing his "Ma and Pa." He writes with lots of cynicism toward his training routine and how he gets out of it.
Army Air Corps troops training in Miami Beach. From Von Arx collection 
With the ARMY AIR FORCES in Florida

February 19, 1943

Frank Ebner Gartz,

Chief Yeep of the Yeep Flight.

Guy, you are really in for it! Yes sir, you may stop the yeeps in your flight from talking back in ranks, but brother, you’re still Private Gartz to me so get your ass out from under that bunk and take this like a man!

Now look, Hup, two, three, four, Gartz.

I got connections back at home and what they have been reporting is very bad. Agent G.B., who reported the condition first says, “Today was the first time she (your ma) got a letter from him (meaning you) since he’s been in this so-called tough life. Maybe he is just ignorant.” That was on February 13th, Gartz.

And the agent W.G. [Ebner’s older brother, Will] reported that “haven’t had written word from Frank yet except his telegram that he sent about a week ago….”

All of which makes this headquarters very irritated that the big Flight leader doesn’t even write home. Don’t be surprised if you end up on some goon platoon for the next couple of Sundays. You don’t have to write another damn letter down to this damn state of Florida if you‘ll only write one to 15 N. Keeler [Ebner’s parents’ address] at least twice a week.

I don’t want in my [illegible] discovering you as a [illegible] guy because they will sure make it tough on you when the army discharges you. I’m going to let you off easy this time Gartz, but if I hear another word about you missing the boat your ass is going to be in a sling, but good.

It’s really bad when your ma says I do better than Ebner––and I’ve only written her two letters in two months!

I don’t know, Gartz, I just don’t know what can be done to a guy like you. We’ll drop the subject right here.

Everything is lousy in Florida. We’re in our second advanced training and still no shipping orders for sheet metal. Yesterday we got a chance to shoot the Thompson submachine guns. They’re not bad, but as they have a strong pick up and to the right. This idea of getting drilled day after day is out [? illegible] so I am becoming a professional fuck off.

Today is Friday and it was the first day this week that I was on the field in the morning. They have us doing mass commando all morning and that is screwy. When they tried to make me do P.T., well that was the last straw. I ducked out of that field so fast and got back here to the hotel. I don’t even think the Major saw me go by.

There are only 3 guys left of Flight 232, three out of a hundred, and we are put in Flight 12, which is a patched-up affair of left-over soldiers. Naturally us enlisted boys of 232, who were the best boys on the beach, don’t like to be put with the Indiana Hoosiers so we just are in a state where we don’t give a damn!

The time goes faster and it’s more interesting trying to find an easy life rather than dragging your carcass around the drill field all day long while one screw-ball instructor tries to get himself another stripe by making our tongues hang out.

I wish they would send me to school so I could feel that I was really doing something while iI’m in the army.

This is all I’ll bother you with now, Gartz. I hope everthing is ok in Mississippi and that they are really giving you the works––and no girls (I’m only kidding!)

Your constant admirer as
Miss. [Mississippi's]  Best Driller,


P.S. Did you hear my Grandmother died last Monday? She was buried on Thursday. I’ve tried my hardest to get a furlough, but they wouldn’t give me one in time to get home for the funeral. It sure seems funny knowing you won’t see her when you do get home. This is the first letter I wrote since Monday so don’t blame me it is goofy.

Original will be added later

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Watch your spelling!

Will Gartz writes this letter
In an earlier letter, after his family expressed concern they hadn't heard from Frank, he assured them he was writing at least every 4 days and suggested they start numbering the letters so that he'd be sure he received them all. His older brother Will, starts doing that numbering here. Will also tries to smooth Frank's ruffled feathers at the apparently sarcastic letter Will had sent regarding not hearing from the young soldier.

Will, ever the older brother, chastises Frank/Ebner for his spelling (which I had corrected in the transcription to eliminate confusion.)


Friday Feb. 19, 1943

Dear Frank:

We have just received your letter of Feb 16 and as you will note we’ll start numbering from now on, this being no. 1. Later letters will be designated by L-2, L-3, etc.

Now, as to the tone of my first or second letter, don’t take it so hard. We had no word from you and were getting worried, particularly since we hear you had written someone else. So I hope you’ll excuse its curtness since we were only wondering whether you had forgotten us. Since thenn we have been receiving your letters on schedule.

Don’t crowd yourself in the writing. So long that we hear from you at least once a week and know that you are alright. By the way, not to be critical though, watch your spelling for you will be tested for that in O.T. School examinations. For instance , “geting” for “getting” and “appreatiated” for “appreciated.” Another rule is “I before e escept after c as in “believe” and “receive.”

Talking about examinations, we have just taken our officers qualification examination with C.A.P. [Civil Air Patrol] Boy, what an exam--about 20 T and F questions and 40 questions in essay form -- all in 2 hours.

Mother and I are sending you five dollars apiece via the enclosed money order for ten dolars and hope you can use it to help replace your pen and anything else you might need. If you can’t get a pen, let us know and we’ll get one for you.

Have you had time to write Pastor Kaitschuk? [pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, where they attended].

Oh, by the way, we are receiving your letters 2 days after you send them. How much time elapses in your receiving our mail and packages?

So long,


“By transcription for Mother:"
My Dear Ebner,

Here are but a few lines that are racing through my mind which is crowded with so many things that it would fill a book. How are the chances of getting a snapshot of you? Have you lost any weight? We did not receive your watch as yet, but we have arranged with Sam to have it repaired fro you. Your letters have made me very happy and I wish to think you for them.

God bless you wherever you may be and I pray that you may be alright every day.

Lots of love and kisses from us

Monday, February 18, 2013

Money all gone

In Frank's letter to his Mom, below, he refers to "boilers." These were the furnaces in the many buildings my grandparents cared for. In this era, and for many years afterwards, they burned coal, requiring lots of coal shoveling when the weather was very cold, often several times a day, even overnight. They could be finicky and required a good deal of attention. 

Ebner gives a detailed description of Keesler Field, MI, where he's stationed. He even includes a drawing of his barracks) 


Dear Mom:

How is everything at home? Please don’t work too hard on those boilers. I still want to see you standing up if I ever get home. Your letters get here in about 2 days and packages take a day longer.I have been writing you every other day or so. I don’t know why my letters haven’t been reaching you. Today I received the package from Powers and I want to thank you for sending me those cookies; they were delicious. The Mississippi miserys are almost over for the time being. [The "Mississippi Miserys" is apparently some illness the boys came down with at Keesler].

I’m waiting for that picture [of Cookie, his girlfriend] impatiently. I wish the time was up to collect that $5.00 from Lillian because my money went too fast down here. I bought a garrison hat last Saturday which cost me $5.00 with the pin and rain cover and seven arm insignia at 15 cents apiece. I bought more shoe polish and an almanac which cost me 98 cents. Now all my money is gone. I was shopping for the boys who couldn’t leave camp and I over ran my money so I owe three dollars to one of the fellows. He trusts me but I hate to owe anyone money.

[Note: Lil and Frank made a bet about Fred or Frank losing more weight, and Frank, apparently is winning. See 2/15/43 letters]

There is a nice U.S.O. down here, but I didn’t stay long because I wanted to see the town. Then I started drinking, first Boilermakers and ended with Tom Collins. It was my first drink since I left Chicago and it tasted good. They have military beer in camp but the stuff isn’t even 3.2.

Thank [Fred] for changing his letter just for my sake. [Fred, my dad, had written a letter in German but after Ebner's request to send no letters in German, Fred rewrote it in English. This letter is coming up soon]. I really appreciate it. As I told you in my last letter, I have received that $20.00, but I haven’t a cent left. If you could send me $10.00 soon I could really use it.

John Hetzel and I have been together ever since Camp Grant and are still very near. I owed him seven dollars before I received your money order and promptly paid him in full.

I’ll give you a detailed description of Keesler Field. It’s about a mile away from Back Bay on the Gulf of Mexico near Biloxi, Mississippi. In fact it’s on the outskirts of town. The terrain is sandy and the roads built in camp are based with clam shells. We live in huts which house a maximum of 28 men at the present time. See diagram on the back of this sheet.

The weather down here is mild. At night it’s cold and during the day it’s warm, but not hot yet. The last three days the moon has been so bright that you don’t need a flash light any more. It even casts a shadow. I must close now but I want to ask one more favor.

Please send my camera in a well protected case for the mail is mistreated something awful. The cookies were broken but most of them were in good shape. The boys down here are talking about girls and it takes concentration to keep on the beam. Please protect my camera well and send my equipment with it.

I must close now but I’m very happy here and I’m fighting a clean battle for leadership. In about 10 or 12 days I hope to get shipped to Chicago? If so, I’m going to show the boys that come with me some Northern hospitality. I must close now so goodnight. It’s 10:45 now and I must turn in so till I write again I’m just

Your Loving Son,


P.S. I’m going to send my watch home soon. You can tell [Fred] that it’s losing time one day and keeping it another. I can’t figure it out. Still, Frank.

Below is the original letter and the drawing Frank sent along of his bunk house, "hut."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mississippi Miserys

Ebner writes to brother, Will, about “The Mississippi Miserys,” [I'm spelling it the way he does in the letter.] It's a word apparently created by the men to dub an ailment that affects many soldiers in the camp.

He describes his duties as  flight leader (referred to in a previous letter), most of which appear to take place in the "Orderly Room," a room  set aside in the barracks for general administrative purposes. Ebner is still asking for a picture of his high school girlfriend, Cookie, aka LaVerne Karbach.

No date on this letter, but probably early February because the content fits in with other letters from this period.  

Air Corps Technical School
Keesler Field, Mississippi

Dear Will,

Never fear about my watch. It will be safe as along as it’s with me but I’m sending it home as soon as I can get around to doing so. It’s losing time fast and is of no real value to me in that condition. I wish you would give it to [Fred] and have him take it to a reliable watchmaker to have it timed.

We have a good man on the Field here but he hasn't the wrench to work with on this type. I’m sorry to hear about your bad weather up there and I hope it will clear up soon.

Down here it’s damp always. In the morning it’s very damp and chilly but there’s always a clear sky or slightly mottled with fleecy clouds and in the afternoon and late morning it’s warm and clear The camp is only about a fifteen minute walk to town but so far we haven’t been able to leave the camp.

I might get a class B pass and I tell you the reason why soon. This pass is good until 11:00 P.M. Well here’s the pay off. I’ve been made Flight leader and responsible to the sergeants in the Orderly room. That’s over approximately 200 men. At first I was scared as hell but after I got over that I had and am having a good time.

I sit on my tail in the orderly room all day doing odd jobs for the sergeants while the Flight drills like hell. Boy! Is there red tape in this man’s army.

I have what is called the “Mississippi Miserys.” It’s a sort of a cold. I’ve had it about a week now and there’s no change for the better. Nearly all the men down here have it and it’s hell. It’s a cough that almost chokes you and a clogged up nose. It comes from the damp weather. I sent home some personal papers I want kept for me.

Also before I forget, remind Mom not to write to me in German. If she thinks that I can't read her English then you write it for her. I’m up also for Officers’ Candidate School, but I’m going to pass that up right now until I’m done with my Radio Operator Mechanics course. Well, that finishes this letter right now. Maybe I’ll have more time to write now so you can expect more letters than one a week.

Your dear and loving

P.S. I’m only kidding

Just as I was finishing this letter I heard something like the rumble of thunder and asked what it was. It was the big bombers dropping their load about 14 miles away.

Send that picture of Cookie soon.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Writing as much as I can

Ebner responds to his mother's desperate plea for more letters, and his oldest brother's (Will) apparent chastisement about the "dearth" of letters.

To read about the history of Keesler Field click HERE

Air Corps Technical School
Keesler Field, Mississippi

Dear Mom,

I’m sorry to hear you are not getting my mail regular but I’ve written as often as time permitted. Maybe you haven’t been getting all the ail I’ve written because I’ve never postponed it over 4 days. I have received the $20.00 and thanks a lot. I’ve spent most of the money now. You see that I’m writing in pencil. That is because I was too generous and lent my pen to someone who shipped out, pen and all. Until I get another pen I’ll have to write like this.

I have received your letters and I suggest that you number your letters up to 10 and then start all over again. This way I’ll know that I’m getting all your letters. Will’s subject and item letter which is very facetious and not appreciated very much for I’m trying hard to keep writing as much and to as many as feasible. [Older brother, Will, just have chided Frank/Ebner for not writing enough. I don't have this letter from Will, which obviously upset Frank/Ebner with its sarcastic tone.]

I haven’t written to Holub or Hatley as yet. We have a bugler now and he just blew lights out. I’ve been switched as has everybody else in the 953rd T.S.S. In Hut City (our area’s name). I’m now flight 675’s Flight leader. A fellow (southern) just came in and displayed the provincial Southern hospitality by giving the fellows of the orderly room cake and candy which was sent to him. I must close now, so lots of Love

Your son,

Original letter below:

© Copyright Linda Gartz - No part of this blog (photos, letters or letter quotes, written work, etc.) may be used without the express permission of Linda Gartz or a link back to this blog.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lots of Love on Valentine's Day

Lisi, Ebner's Mom
Lisi Gartz, my grandmother, struggles again with English, writing in her tortured spelling and syntax to Ebner, her youngest son, who's in basic training at Keesler Field, Mississippi. She enlists  my mother, Lillian, to take over midway through the letter to help with the writing. 

My father's family seemed to prefer their son's middle names to their first ones, so just Grandma addresses Frank Ebner as "Ebner" my father, Fred, is often referred to as "Sam" in the letters. I'm going to transcribe his name as "Fred," so his identity won't be so confusing, but he's "Sam" in the original, which is, again, at the end. About midway through the letter, my mother's handwriting appears, clearly taking dictation from Grandma to ease Grandma's English problems. Mom refers to herself by her middle name, "Louise," which no one called her. I think she does it tongue in cheek, repeating the "Middle name syndrome." Again, I kept her name "Lil' in the transcription to avoid identity confusion.

Chicago, Il
Feb 14-43

My Dear Soldier Son Ebner,

Here I come with my best, as always. I am allone, father on his Work. We have today a bitter cold strong wind from north and west. Will is on the Field [flying]. They have there many new members from a Chicago school so he hat to go.

My Dear Ebner you never know how I was sick for a few line from you...to hear what you are doing. Now I am so happy I don’t know if I am shouting or lafing or crying. Don’t leave me watching for so long for one word from you, I beg you, or I come there. Or like father said, send a telegram and find out what it happening to him.

God bless you and be all right with your miseries? Get cough drops and Anacin tablets. You know how we do it for coughing. If you got turpentine (?) take two drops if you can in sugar once dayly.
Fred (aka "Sam") and Lil Gartz, who
took over writing the letter for

[My mother’s handwriting continues the letter so Grandma must have dictated the rest for her to write.] 

My Dear Franz,

I took the picture of LaVerne (aka "Cookie") and you to Ebert’s [a photography studio] to have a print made to fit into your bible. As a matter of fact, on one side, the picture of LaVerne and you will be printed and on the other, the family group picture will be printed (two for the price of one).

Then if you like, you can send the group picture you now have on to Frank Von Arx, or home, whichever you prefer.

[Fred]  is very busy working overtime and Lil is kept going keeping Sam’s stomach from shrinking. (It looks like you will win that $5.00 bet from Lillian [This is obviously my mother's personal comment about a bet they must have made about who could lose more weight, Frank or Fred].

Franz, you don’t know how happy it made me to receive that lovely Valentine. I felt very blue and sad not having heard from you except for the telegram. So when I received the Valentine, I suddenly felt happy again for it seemed you were with me in spirit.

Below in my mother's handwriting, writing for Grandma:

[Lillian] and [Fred]  just dropped in now so [Lillian]  is finishing the letter for me so that you will have less trouble reading it.

Also, on the 11th I wrote you if you received the $20.00 money order and underwear I sent you immediately upon receipt of your telegram. Did you get this all right? As to the letters I wrote you in German, I hope sincerely they did not hurt your standing in any way.

Congratulations on becoming a flight leader; we are very proud of you and hope you keep right on going up the ladder. We are glad you plan to finish or complete the radio course before going to officers Training School. That, we are sure, is the best thing.

Sam started a long letter to you in German and was aboutt o mail it when he heard you would rather not receive anyt mail written in German, so he will write you soon in English, as you wish.

Both Father and I are working long, long hours each day as you well know is the case in this weather.

Are you in the same company with any of the boys you knew in civilian life? Also please let us know near what city Keesler Field is located.

We know you are busy, but if you knew how much cheer your letters would bring, you would write once a week.

Yesterday (Saturday) Lil ordered a box of cookies from Father and me to be sent you via Parcel Post as a Valentine Gift. Please let us know if you get this in good condition. We would gladly send you a package once a week if we were sure it reachs you o.k. Let us know.

[Then my grandmother’s handwriting again]:

Pleas wen you get [this letter], how many day it took to reach you?

A big hug and love from your Father and Mother
Will Gartz, who wrote
the P.S. (note oval photo behind
him: that's of Lisi's father and
brother, both called Sam

P.S. [Will’s (the oldest Gartz son) handwriting

Have you made any arrangements to take the $10,000 insurance policy available to service men? Let us know.

Note: Per Ken Burns’s documentary and book, “The War,” parents would receive $10,000 in the event their son were killed, and this must be the policy that provided that "benefit."

Note: the underlines, circles, and notes were mine to note important parts on xerox copies I made of the letters before I had a scanner. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In charge of 200 men...

Mississippi. See detail at right for
location of Keesler Field
Frank's Mom wrote a desperate plea to her son, Frank Ebner to send her "some lines," i.e., WRITE! Little did she know the responsibilities he had already taken on. Before he could have received her letter of February 11th (posted yesterday, click My troubled heart), he had already written this letter from Keesler Field, near Biloxi, Mississippi. The War Department started an Aviation Mechanics school at Keesler Field, which was activated in June, 1941. "The first shipment of recruits arrived at Keesler Field on August 21, 1941. Many stayed at Keesler to become airplane and engine mechanics, while others transferred to aerial gunner or aviation cadet schools." (Info from "Keesler Air Force Base," Wikipedia)

Ebner was so busy that he had lost track of the date, thinking it was still Feb. 11th. 

Based on his stationery, Ebner was in Aviation Mechanics School, probably part of basic training here at Keesler, as he had just been drafted on Jan. 23rd. 

location of Keesler
2-12-43 (Misdated on letter as 2-11-43) 

Dear Mom,

It’s 10:15 now and I’ve been on the run all day since 5:00 AM and am dead, but I’m only going to dash off a line or two. This is not such an easy job in charge of 200 men because they all have to know about this or that. I may be able to do my work if they day was 50 hours long.

Well, tomorrow is Lincoln’s Birthday  and a leader we will never forget. My letters have been irregular, but I’ve been busy; very busy and it’s not only my flight whose number is 750, but my old flight and 5 or 6 new flights who ask my instructions and whose requests I can’t refuse.

I think that tomorrow I may get a pass into town. I’ve got my fingers crossed because I’ve wanted to see Biloxi ever since I reached my destination at Keesler. I made a mistake on the date for today is the 12th, but one day is like another, even Sunday. I’m getting sleepy and I still have to wash up so God bless you all and write soon even if I can’t write often. I received my first letter from “Cookie” today since I’ve been in the service.



P.S. Still address my flight as 684 and all in the same in the address. How about that picture of “Cookie.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

My troubled heart

Elisabeth (Lisi) Gartz, Jan. 1943
Ebner's mother was undoubtedly finding that writing her son in English was so difficult, she fell back to writing to him in German. Below is a translation into English of what she wrote, but she'd soon find she had no easy way out of her struggle with English. After Ebner received this letter, he requested that no one in the family write future letters to him in German. It was, after all, the language of the enemy. 

(To see my father's own run-in with anti-German sentiment during the war see the posts: War and BigotryAn FBI investigation, and Anti-American Hobbies,

Translated from the original German, edited for length and interest. Original at end.

Feb. 11-43

Lieber Ebner…

Dear Ebner,

I have to ask whether you have received the money that on January 31 you asked me to send. I sent you the money on the same day––20 dollars––with a letter from me and also from Bill [brother Will]. On Feb. 1, 1943, I sent you the underwear about which you asked. Now 11 long days and nights and I wait to at least hear whether you received everything. Are you sick or haven’t you received it?

On Feb. 3rd Will sent you a letter with a few lines from me. Haven’t you received that either, or what’s going on? I have the receipt from the money order, so I can get the money back.
Your two girls, LaVerne* and Shirley ask about you on the telephone––not once but several times, twice a week up to now. What do you think I should tell them with my heavy heart. Not once a word [from you]. So I ask you, if it’s not possible to write a lot, just write a few words how it’s going for you.

I only wish for a few words. From Frank [ probably Von Arx] I received a long letter. It made me very happy, but I would much prefer a letter from you. Papa had the flu.

With a thousand Greetings and kisses from us,

Ma and Pa

Don’t let me worry or be troubled in my heart any longer.

* "LaVerne" is the birth name of Ebner's high school sweetheart, whom everyone called "Cookie."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Slow Starvation?

Elsie and Bert Von Arx, parents of
Ebner's best friend, Frank Von Arx.
Ebner's best buddy, Frank Von Arx, wrote him on Feb. 2, 1943. Seventy years ago today, Von Arx's mom took  her turn filling Ebner in on the home front. She reports her mother is dying. I've edited the letter for clarity and length. Original at end. 

Chicago, Ill
Feb. 8, 1943

Dear Frank:

How nice it is to hear from our second son Frank. Well. It looks like you are in the Air Corps also, so I take it from the heading of your letter. Also that your pal Johnny is with you. Knowing someone does make a difference when away from home, not that it would take Frank Gartz very long to pick out a few buddies.

Received three letters from Frank V.A. today, after telling us a week ago not to send anymore mail as they would be on the move. Imagine his disgust in still being stranded and with nothing but repetition of maneuvers and marking time. 

The third letter of course was an S.O.S. For funds. Nothing to do and no money would wear on anybody’s nerves. So pronto things will be straightened by air mail unless he gets the sudden request to move on.

Was out today for our an hour’s fresh air after ten days of imprisonment. Mother is right down in bed now and can’t be left at all alone––must be fed, if [I] succeed in so doing, and all other necessary duties of nursing. Thought she would leave us last week, but somehow rallied back a little again, but it just can’t be very long with no food to speak of (Imagine that, Frank, slow starvation?)

Mr. V.A. Is very busy. Do you know him ever to be otherwise?  Being property man for the OCD he is presently in the throws of giving out some 700 fire extinguishers to block captains in this territory. Those are assembled at the fire barns at Wilcox [Avenue] South. 

The girls are both busy with work, school, bowling, and what not. Not much time left over. All are out tonight. I’m just alone with Grandma who is sleeping in a steady stupor so it is very lonesome.

Haven't’ seen many of the church people as I have not attended lately. Just Ruth has been holding up the family good name.

Your letter was addressed to Mr.[Von Arx] but I took the liberty to open it. Therefore the early answer from me.

[I] suppose you are getting your dose of shots and drilling etc. Never mind boy. You can take them and show ‘em all up. What say you?

Best wishes to you for your health, happiness, and good luck for a speedy return home to family and friends and in the meantime, may God bless you and keep you from all harm.

Sincere love,

Mrs. E. Von Arx
4431 Wilcox Street


© Copyright Linda Gartz - No part of this blog (photos, letters or letter quotes, written work, etc.) may be used without the express permission of Linda Gartz or a link back to this blog.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"One instructor we tied in a bed!"

Frank Von Arx, DOB 3/1/1924
Photo courtesy of son, Frank E. Von Arx
Frank Von Arx was my Uncle Frank Ebner's best friend. Ebner's brother, Bill, mentioned in his 1/31/1943, letter ("Unlimited Opportunities")  that the Von Arx family was asking about Ebner. Here's a letter from Frank Von Arx to my uncle.

Frank Von Arx was two months older than Ebner, He enlisted and took the train to Camp Grant on 12/12/1943, for basic training,  same place Ebner would go in January. Most of Ebner's friends were training for the war, bonding a generation in shared experiences.

These two Franks must have been a handful for their moms, full of hijinks and high spirits. This is actually the 2nd letter I have from Frank Von Arx, The first was written before Ebner was drafted. I'll publish it at a later time. 

February 2, 1943

Dear Frank,

Boy you sure had me excited. Two shipments in over the weekend and both times I nearly broke my neck getting over here to find out if they were from Camp Grant.

I just got your letter and a couple of us guys snuck into supper a little before time so now I’ll have more time to write. I’m glad to hear you got into the Air Corps, both you and Johnnie are together. What is Johnnie’s classification? Radio operator isn’t bad at all––but how did you do for aerial gunner? That is one thing I wish I could be.

What do you have to wear the leggings for Frank? The barracks sound alright. You should try to keep hotel rooms clean like we do. (Joke) Our room never passes inspection––not once in 18 days of basic.

Now that you are in the army, Frank, I can gripe a little to you and you’ll understand because they may be the same things that bother you. We really are training in a hole. The red tape is really thick. Fatigue hats always rim down. Shirts always in. Only G.I. belts. Inspection every morning. Walk on one side of the road. Every little things we do is by “Order of Colonel Kimberly”––who is our big chief.

You probably feel the same way, but I guess I’ve gotten under the influence of our Flight. We’re the best outfit on the beach––the captains and Lieutenants have drilled us themselves and they didn’t have any criticism. But we play around all the time. We always talk back to our instructor when he says some command. I don’t know why, but I guess there are just that sort of guys in our Flight. He always gets so sore at us, he drilled us one whole morning––4 hours––without stopping once. We threw him in the drink and then got K.P. One instructor we tied in a bed and the poor guy was missing for three hours.

We really have had a lot of fun and now that we are in advanced training it really is good.

Most of the guys in our flight have been sent to schools already and that is what we are waiting for––our shipping orders. We moved from our hotels today and now bunk in former bathing houses on the beach. They must have been former resort cabins and hur [whore] houses in the good old days because that is about all they’re good for. Sand blows in and you can’t keep ‘em clean. Four bunks in a 6’ by 15’ room. Really a crowd.

It’s tough you guys being restricted to camp. We have got it nicer that way. There are girls––but they are scarce, but that is better than none.

Wish you guys would have gotten down here. My roomie was A.W.O.L. for three days, just roaming around Florida enjoying himself. The guy came back and was shipped out today. Boy was he lucky he didn’t get the guardhouse. Spent $30––all of his pay.

We have had so much drilling and P.T. that we are sick of it and can hardly wait until we get sent to school. But just the same I really like this army––I hope you do as much. It would be nice if we ever got close enough to see each other. I’d like to see you guys in a uniform! Ha ha ha!

Oh, ya––we got paid last week. I got $25––but some of the guys got as much as $50. P.S. I’m broke already.

Well, Frank, I’m sure glad to know where you’re at anyways. You probably will have plenty of writing to do, all you want, so write when you want to and let me know how you are doing––but don’t force yourself.

Always your pal –– Frank


© Copyright Linda Gartz - No part of this blog (photos, letters or letter quotes, written work, etc.) may be used without the express permission of Linda Gartz or a link back to this blog. Thank you.