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.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Zero-Dark-thirty-five below

Frank Gartz left Keesler Field in Mississippi and arrived on February 27th, 1943, at the Army Technical School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for an 18-week stay. His long days of classes, studying, and drilling in a frigid wind will toughen him up. Here's a good description of the town and the first serious courses for an airman in training. He probably wrote this letter before receiving the one his mother wrote to him on March 3rd too, so I'm posting this a little after the date it was written.


Dear Mom:

I had to write tonight because soon I’ll be going nuts studying lots of dashes and electron theory. I just made up my bunk and came back to the day room to write this letter. Soon I’ll have to turn in because it’s after 9 now and I’ll have to get up at 4:30.

Today we went to school (6:50 A.M.) and got through at 2:30. From 3:00 to 5:00 we went for a walk and covered about 7 miles. From about 6:30 to 8:00 I have been studying and now writing letters. At Keesler* I wrote and told you I didn’t have much time to myself. Here the situation is more acute. I have less time and more things to do. I’ll write as often as I can which will be 2 times a week or at least once.

I received your $20.00 and have arranged to have my picture taken as soon as I get to town. [Fred's] letter hasn’t as yet reached me but I know it will soon be here. I received a letter from Duck** today and promptly answered it, my first letter to Harvey since I’ve come in the army.

How is Dad and Will? Tell him I’ll write him soon in code to give him and myself some practice. I bought an extra book today called “The Radio Amateur’s Handbook” $1.00.
This book I hope will give me the needed extra help. So far everything is OK in schoool. Now I’ll try to give you a description of the field.

I can do it in a short sentence, but I won’t. It’s on flat ground which hasn’t an ounce of life on it. It’s dusty and very windy and very, very cold. A mild day is 0∘or two below. A cold day is between -15 and -35 degrees below, but today was nice-only 15∘above. This weather as today was very nice. The wind blows up to 50 and 60 miles per hour. Today only 20 mph. The sun even came out in the late afternoon. When the sun sinks, it throws a red carpet over Sioux Falls and the tall church and water tower throw weird shadows over the town on the hill.

I’m with a fellow from Texas who is one swell guy. He is married and is trying to get a call through to his wife. He is a good conversationalist and has almost got me believing that I want my home in Texas when I get out of the army.

Again I’m going to try to send my watch home. It’s losing time something awful. I’ll have to send home my garrison hat ‘cause they’re not allowed on the field. The rules down here are very strict and sometimes unfair, but that’s the army. This will be my home for 18 weeks or so and I had better make the best of it.

Send me some candy (chocolates) if you would. A package would lease the boys very much. A fellow got a cake and some fudge [and] in about 3 minutes they were all gone. The squadron is restricted at the present from leaving the post, so town will be passed up till Restriction is lifted.

In my barracks all the members are sergeants except the 8 men of whom I’m one who came in last Saturday.*** All the men have passed their aerial gunnery school requirements and now have to take Radio Operator and mechanics courses before they go overseas. Well, I’ll have to turn in now so till I write again,

your son,

*Keesler Field In Mississippi, where he was stationed just prior to Sioux Falls, S.D.
** [Harvey Duck--see previous post, 3/3/43 letter from Frank’s mom].
***The previous Saturday was February 27th, so that’s when he arrived in Sioux Falls

Original below
again, markings are mine on a xerox copy, easier to scan.


Marian Kurz said...

many years ago a friend's fiance was stationed in Alaska; she sent him Bermuda shorts for his birthday...too bad she didn't know your uncle. Goodness how cold; wonder if they had sufficient warm clothing.

Linda Gartz said...

Always a joy to see your comments, Marian! Yes, Bermuda shorts -- not welcome in Sioux City, SD!