"God Bless, and Save America"
Soldier Letters During WW II
The Voice of G I Joe expressed to Canteen Volunteers around the United States
By Scott D. Trostel
© Copyright 2005, 2006 Scott D. Trostel
For additional information read the books: LIMA'S OPERATION KINDNESS, or
Those books include many letters from appreciate soldiers.
Redirect me to the railroad canteen web site by clicking here
Soldier Letters During WWII depicts a country's devotion to their GIs and the men's affection for the home front gestures in support of them. After soldiers passed through the Canteens many wrote letters, notes or cards expressing their grateful appreciation. Some wrote to, "The Canteen Ladies." Others obtained personal addresses of individual Canteen volunteers and wrote to them directly at home. Some of the ladies, in addition to their Canteen duties made a point of corresponding with the soldiers. Cards were exchanged at Easter, Christmas and other significant times. Soldiers sent photos of themselves and some continued the friendship for years afterwards. Letters have survived as witness to the sincere gratitude and appreciation of the soldiers for a sandwich, a cup of coffee or milk and a dessert on the station platform during those years of adversity.
TO THE BELLEFONTAINE, OHIO CANTEEN
Private Thomas French
Scott Field, Illinois
It is things like your Canteen and the hospitable attitude that surely inspires boys and makes them realize that those are the things we are fighting to protect and to preserve, this wonderful land of the free.
* * * *
Private John L. Cook
Jefferson Barracks, Missouri
Your Canteen service was greatly appreciated by all of us soldiers going and coming from furloughs. It certainly meant a great deal to have a place like that to get substantial sandwiches and cookies with coffee, all given in such a friendly spirit.
Such things help me to feel more confident and sure of myself as a soldier. One feels that the people are really behind the soldiers in every way. I only hope to prove myself worthy of such faith.
* * * *
Coming from overseas.
I enjoyed your hospitality very much! Everything was delicious and I thank you all for your generosity. It would make [me] and my buddies a great deal happier if we had a free canteen service in town.
Wishing you all the best of luck and success in your wonderful job.
I remain sincerely yours,
Pfc Joseph R. Maynard
* * * *
One of the best letters came pouring out from Private Leland Dowken at Camp Claibourne, Texas in his four page had written letter dated December 21, 1943.
My Dear Friends in Bellefontaine.
I am just a private here in Claiborne but several weeks ago, Dec. 5 to be exact I wan on furlough and I had to wait several hours for the train which took me on up to Michigan. When I got off the train in Bellefontaine, naturally the first place I looked for was a place to get something to eat and I stopped in at the canteen.
When I walked in I supposed I was going into a restaurant but I got a big surprise. When I got inside the first thing that met my eyes was one of the biggest displays of food I have ever seen and two of the friendliest ladies I have ever met.
They told me to eat anything I wanted and they told me to eat all I wanted but there were so many different things to eat that I didnít know what to eat first so I just ask for a cup of coffee and stood and drank the coffee and wondered what to eat first. Finally I decided to eat a sandwich and it was so delicious that I ended up eating three of them.
About that time a train pulled in and the ladies told me I better grab what I wanted to eat and get behind the counter because they said there would be a lot of soldiers come through the canteen after food. They were right.
As soon as the train stopped a whole bunch of soldiers came through the canteen and the ladies were so busy feeding them that I grabbed a pot of coffee and started serving the soldiers too. It was fun helping serve those soldiers and I really enjoyed it. As soon as those soldiers were gone the ladies started setting out food for the next bunch of soldiers.
I stood and talked with those ladies until it was nearly time for me to catch the train to go on up to Michigan. Besides giving me food they also gave me a little bible which I shall treasure as long as I live.
I didnít come through Bellefontaine when I came back to camp. I had a little different route which took me through Fostoria and Lima but I can promise you that when I come home again I am coming through Bellefontaine and I will be sure and stop at the Canteen. I want to thank every one of you for the friendliness you showed me when I was in Ohio, the people all treated me nice. When the war is over with and victory is won, I want to get better acquainted with the people of Ohio.
In closing I wish to say that I would be glad to hear from some of you and if you put this letter in the newspaper I would sure be glad if someone would send me a copy of that newspaper.
Not only the people in the womenís auxiliary but I wish everyone in Bellefontaine the Merriest Christmas you ever had and the happiest kind of New Year.
Pvt. Leland Dowken
* * * *
The war was over by the time the next letter was written.
I want to drop this little note of thanks to you for the wonderful lift you folks gave us in your town. You see we were all a bunch of green rookies, heading for God knows where, and we were all feeling pretty blue. Every click of the wheels of the Twentieth Century Limited were carrying us further and further from home. For many of us, the prospect of the first Sunday away from home in our lives was ahead of us. We were all New Englanders and the fields of Ohio looked mighty bleak to us. Then, the train pulled into Bellefontaine and the conductor told us we could get off and go to the canteen. Those sandwiches, that coffee and milk, those tomatoes and those home-made donuts sure hit the spot. But the best of all was the smiles you ladies bestowed upon us. They seemed to make us feel we were welcome and that somebody did care for us. All too soon, the train was speeding across the fields again and the little pause was only a happy memory. Believe it or not, that brief stop made us feel better for the rest of the trip.
From one G. I., thanks million.
Private Everett Besse
* * * *
One soldier wrote interesting poetry about his experiences at the Canteen.
A Canteen Free To Service Men And Women
I came on a Sunday, looked up at a sign that said "Canteen Free",
Laughed to myself, said, "that's not for me".
There' s a catch to it some place or another,
The only things free come from a wife or a mother.
Walked around It once or twice,
Looking and thinking, "looks sort of nice".
But where's the catch? Things like this canít be,
Not where everything is free.
Just think of it, something for nothing;
I only had three cents and a button.
Not very much, to myself, I said,
That sign just couldnít ring true in my head.
Then the door swung open and out walked a smile,
With cake in his hand and a smile stretched a mile.
He was choking and chewing and munching in anguish;
Cake in one hand and in the other a sandwich.
Had a dreamy look in his eyes, sort of lost,
I stepped up and asked, "how much did it cost"?
His mouth so full he couldnít speak,
If Iíd waited for him to clear it, Iíd have been there a week.
I walked around the place once more,
A little faster than before.
With a spurt of courage, vigor and vim,
Walked to the door, and took two steps in.
"Help yourself", some one said, "the plate is over there",
But I couldnít move, all I could do was stand and stare.
Four ladles, kind and sweet,
Completely surrounded by good things to eat.
Couldn't quite believe my eyes,
Blushed when they noticed my surprise.
"Iíll have some pie", I managed to choke,
"Help yourself", smiled one, "your armís not broke".
"Have another piece of cake or pie",
My morale jumped fourteen feet high.
Cakes and sandwiches from door to door,
Who could ask for more?
"Help yourself, help yourself", was all I could hear,
ĎTill I was full clear up to here.
Four gray haired ladies dressed In white,
Helping their country, with all their might.
Sailor, Soldier or Marine,
Was more than welcome in this Canteen.
To eat and drink, and all of it free,
For a sailor, a Marine, and even me.
"Goodbye" they laughed, drop us a line,
Then at last, I found the voice that was mine.
"This is swell" I said, "Iím just, a heel,"
But couldnít believe this place was real.
But I see it is now, and even more,
I can see what we are fighting for.
Boarded the train with a heart feeling gay,
Looked back In the distance as the town passed away.
Whatís the name of that town?, A girl behind me asked,
"I mean that small one we just passed". "Small, I said," do you realize,
The light of freedom shines in their eyes?
Never a service man passes through there,
And comes away with as much as a care.
Little; not that place,
Itís as big as this world, and as endless as space.
A symbol of our people, the Flag that we wave,
The land of the free, the home of the brave.
Next time you pass, stop and breath the air,
The breath of freedom comes from near there.
Never doubt, and manage a smile,
Iíll never forget it, Bellefontaine, Ohio.
I came on a Sunday to your Canteen.
A Red Head
* * * *
With the next letter a soldier had left a young wife who was expecting their first child in order to defend liberty and put himself in harmís way. It was written from his home at Adams Center, New York, November 4, 1942. The letter tells his story.
Iím writing this short letter in thanks for what your Canteen service has done for this soldier.
I had been traveling for one night and a day, when the train stopped at Bellefontaine, Ohio. I got off to stretch my legs and came into your Canteen. You gave me sandwiches and coffee. I really had money to buy my own meals but havenít eaten because I was worrying about things at home so much I had lost my appetite.
I was on my way home on an emergency furlough, to see my wife, she was in the hospital recovering from giving birth to a baby girl. She was really doing fine but I worried as the baby didnít come through and I was afraid for my wife.
Your cheerful conversation really sent me on my way in really a different frame of mind.
Again I thank you.
S/Sgt. Donald E. Burdick
* * * *
The Merchant Marines even stopped as evidence of the next letter, written January 28, 1943.
"The Railway Veterans"
I know you do not know me personally and I donít think you can recognize me as we of the Merchant Marines are very seldom known are spoke of as this service was just recently sprung up since the war began.
I will say that before this war is over with we not only will be known as the Merchant Marines but as the fighting Merchant Marines.
Iím home on a leave and on my way home we that is all the service men [hear we] can get free lunch at the Railway Veterans.
I didnít have much money with me at the time and I was hungry. To me those sandwiches, coffee, cakes and apples was a meal I enjoyed very much. It makes me proud and also glad to know we in the service are remembered and thought of. It gives me great courage and [makes me] more determined to fight our enemy when I think you folks back home did all in your power to make us feel at home when we come to the Railway Veterans to eat.
I donít know how to thank you women for being so nice to me while I ate there Sunday but I will show my appreciation by fighting back the enemy with everything I got in me.
To the women of the Railway Veterans and other women who service us in other free canteen services that give up their time to serve us men, I salute you all for being so nice to me.
Keep up the good work and keep us fighting till victory is won. Again I salute you women.
Just a Sailor
* * * *
From Camp Atterbury, Indiana comes a letter from a soldier whose wife was expecting their first child. It was written from Camp on Easter Sunday, April 25, 1943.
To the Sweetest People I Know:
Iím writing this letter to show my appreciation for the wonderful treatment that has been bestowed upon the soldiers, sailors and marines that have been so graciously treated by the No. 3 Auxiliary of the Railway Veterans.
One day as I passed through the "Free Canteen Service," I was asked to write and state where I am and how I liked it. Well, Iím in Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and in the Field Artillery. I like it alright, but as everyone can truthfully say, there is no place like home.
The main reason of this letter is to thank each and every one of you for going through the trouble of making the boys in the service of the U.S.A. right at home.
I feel very safe to say that I for one, am happy to see that the people on the outside, or home front are really behind us. Thatís the kind of spirit that boosts the morale of many of us. I am only one in several million, but I know that most of us have a sunny future ahead of us.
I have stopped at the Service Menís Canteen several times and I certainly enjoyed the wonderful food that was given to us. I figure that I owe you folks a letter, so I had to write.
I am a married man, and my wife and I are expecting our baby in July. Why Iím telling you all about myself, is beyond me, it may not interest you.
I really have a lot to fight for, and Iíll back myself when I say that Iím going to do my best to make it hot for our enemies. They took me away from a wonderful life, I had everything I needed and cared for, but it was too good to be true. So Mr. Hitler and his associates will pay, and the sooner it is, the better Iíll feel.
Iím not much of a letter writer, but I know enough to write a letter of thanks when the occasion calls for it.
I hope you understand this letter, it is nothing to brag about, so excuse the scribbling etc.
Army life is full of incredible boredom, but it has its high points, such as the thrill of fighting for your loved ones, knowing that after victory for us, things will again be as they once were.
Once again Iíll express my gratitude to you all, and I sincerely hope that I be with you again soon,
* * * *
From Headquarters IV Corps, Office of the Corps Chaplain at Leesville, Louisiana came a letter dated September 23, 1942.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I know this will come as a surprise to No #3 Auxiliary of the Railway Veterans, which treated us soldiers on our way home for furlough last August.
I was one of those that was fortunate enough to taste your kindness of sandwiches, coffee, milk, cookies and what not, when the train I was on made a stop at Bellefontaine, in order to have soldiers enjoy the free canteen service that was stationed there at the time.
You'll never know, what you did for us in Bellefontaine, what it meant to us, as we soldiers are more or less under the impression that civilians are pushing us around quite a bit, it's true in some part of the country, but, you certainly made us feel otherwise with your kindness and sweets that greeted us in Bellefontaine. The women in attendance were all kind and very charming, their food, PERFECT !!!! What you did that day in Bellefontaine stayed with me, including all other soldiers on the train at the time, once the train pulled out, you should have been around to hear the compliments they were dishing out in favor of No #3 Auxiliary of the Railway Veterans . . . . myself, I just sat in my seat and couldn't get over such thoughtfulness, I said a silent prayer for all concerned and wished the rest of the world were as kind as the ones I had the pleasure to come in contact with at Bellefontaine.
I meant to write sooner to thank you for it all, but, since I came back in Camp from furlough, I have been very busy, and as it is now, we're out in the woods of Louisiana for a two month's maneuvers, which will most likely end in Europe . . . . as far as Iím concerned, the sooner the better, somebody has to finish what the Japs started and it's up to guys like me to do it, and see, that we make this land of America, of freedom and liberty, a safe and decent place for deceit people like the ones I met at Bellefontaine to live in . . . . so when I do get across the ocean, my thoughts will come back to Bellefontaine, and when I really get hungry, I'll think of all those sweets that we were fed there once.
Once more, thanks a million to every one concerned, a kind thought from you people wouldn't hurt me I'm sure, and hoping to come back again in this beautiful country, and on my way back home, if ever, I 'II take a look at Bellefontaine and think of it's decent people . . . . in the meantime, let's hope for a quick victory, and three cheers for No #3 Auxiliary of the Railway Veterans of Bellefontaine,
With kindest regards to all concerned, I am,
Sgt. Roger G. Bellemare
* * * *
To the Junior Canteen Girls, January 1945.
In the not to distant past a troop train passed through your small but swell town. I am not at liberty to say when or where we came or to where we went. I believe that our intentions are apparently obvious. I do not doubt that most of us will never see that town again but then we still owe you an obligation that can be only partially paid for in words. The intentions can never be rewarded although I know that the physical effort was fully compensated for by the smiles and the thank youís of each and every one of us.
"To us you are a symbol of all the other girls and women who will be waiting for all the boys that do come back. We know that when you give a soldier food, cigarettes and magazines you do it because you feel you are each helping out that certain fellow you are waiting for. Unfortunately he cannot thank you so that leaves the job up to the rest of us who may be able to find a little time to do so.
"Do not forget that we like above anything else to hear from you, and you, and you. Write often as you can and as much as you can and we will do our best to keep up our end despite other pressing business.
"Sincerely Dick Bowers"
* * * *
To the Junior Canteen Girls, January 1945.
March 5, 1945
Somewhere in Germany
My Dear Young Ladies:
Late last Christmas Eve, a troop train rumbled across the U.S. enroute from Texas to a P.O.E. The men were in their bunks but most of them were awake thinking of their loved ones and the Christmas Eves of years gone by. Being away that far from home on this particular night was pretty rough and the menís spirits were naturally very low. On top of it all, they had been traveling across the nation that whole day and no one had so much as wished them a ĎMerry Christmas.í
Then an event happened that none of the men will ever forget. The train rolled into a town and baskets of neatly wrapped gifts were brought on board. The shout of "Merry Christmas" was heard in the still night. This event made all the men feel pretty good. They knew then that someone appreciated what they were doing.
You girls caused those men to fall asleep happy. For this we thank you with all our hearts. That welcome you gave us was a grand thing. Your gifts carried sentiment that was worth more than all the money in the world. Thanks again and may God bless all of you.
Edward J. Krenek
Co. B 661 T. D. Bn. (Tank Destroyer Battalion)
c/o PM, New York, N.Y.
* * * *
To the Marion, Ohio Canteen Ladies
Roy Will Douthitt
* * * *
At Springfield, Ohio the railroad women operated a canteen.
To the canteen at Dennison, Ohio
A letter came from Rose Rayl of Kokomo, Ind., who had five sons in the service:
© Copyright 2005, 2006 Scott D. Trostel
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