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.

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.


Jacqi Stevens said...

Can't believe the outrageous escapades Frank's buddy was up to! Glad Frank didn't look up to him so much that he tried pulling the same sorts of stunts!

I was surprised at the length of the letter, too. My Frank's first letters from training were so brief. Seemed nearly perfunctory. I guess we have to remember these were 18 year olds--in my father-in-law's case, a 17 year old. How abruptly their playfulness must have come to a halt, once they got past the "school" phase and into the real turmoil.

Frank Von Arx said...

Good luck Linda on this endeavor. If you have cause to reference me later, use Frank Ebner Von Arx rather than just the E.. I have always been proud that my dad, Frank Ernest, named me after his best friend, Frank Ebner Gartz. How could I not, when his mother, your grandmother, would take such delight each rare time she would see me.

Chris Perrino said...

What a wonderful thing! Uncle Frank died when I was young - so it is great to learn more of him - from him. Especially interesting to me as an Air Force Veteran to read of his Basic escapades- OH MY! Also was struck by the letter length - a testiment to how close the Franks were - wanting to tell all. Thanks so much for sharing these! Look forward to more!
Chris P. (youngest of Lee and June Arquette: June, nee VonArx, Frank's oldest sister.)

Linda Gartz said...

I love the tone of this letter––Frank V.A.'s personality really comes through. I agree on the length. These fellows really took the time to write and give us a good idea of what was going on in their lives and how they felt about it. Not superficial, but more conversational -- as if they were just sitting down and catching up. Thanks for all comments.