May 14 -21, 1944. "HOMES"
"A FAIR WIND AND THE HONEY LIGHTS OF HOME ARE ALL YOU SEEK."
Sometimes you’re just happy to have a place to call home. After re-learning how to dig a fox hole (see May 15 V-Mail) it probably makes you particularly happy, even if it’s a tent shared with a good friend. Sometimes it’s a “room of one’s own” where you feel like you belong. In May of 1944, neither Betty or Ang had great options. Living with her in-laws was probably pretty difficult for Betty, although she and Ang’s sister, Jen, got along quite well. I’m not sure there have ever been two sisters-in-law who loved each other more and could make each other laugh the way Jen and Betty could. Meanwhile, Ang devoted a page in his scrapbook to display his various “homes” on Corsica. His first room mate was Arne Bylund, of his “original crew.”
There are no flights recorded on his Form 5 so I believe he was mostly busy getting settled in with the other members of the 486th Bomb Squadron and working on setting up the tent with Arne. And training. There was always more training. He writes one more long letter about his visit in Africa with his friend, Bud. He mentions catching up on his letter writing, and he also mentions having a publicity photo taken. Here’s another early crossing of paths with his friend Tom Cahill. Ang doesn’t mention Tom, but Tom mentions Ang in a letter to his mother in July when he includes the publicity photo that Ang mentions to Betty! Sixty-plus years later, when I first began working on Honeylights, I searched for Cahills and eventually found Tom’s niece who had come into possession of Tom’s letters home!
Sunday May 14. To Mass, home & wrote letters. To Grams after dinner & downtown to movies. Home & bed by 10:30
May 15. Warm still. Really worked hard today. Cooled off in PM. met Jen and shopped. Washed hair and bed by 11:00.
[V-Mail. No envelope, but 5-24 noted at bottom, so it looks like Betty received it on 5-24.]
Well, Arne & I are finally all set up—tent etc. Its wonderful what a person can do with a few nails & some wood. Before we get thru—it will be just like home—or as close as we can get to it.
You may not know it, but your husband does have a few muscles. He can feel both of them aching like hell. I just finished digging a fox hole for myself. I’m not a professional yet—so it doesn’t look very pretty—but boy is it deep! I guess that’s what counts when you need it.
Arne has just finished building a closet for our clothes—real class. I guess that’s about it, sweets--
I love you.
May 16. Stormed during the night. Not too busy at office. To Grams for dinner and stayed all night.
May 17. Rained again last night. Very warm again—but turned cooler in P.M. To show downtown with Jen. Bed 11:30.
[V-Mail, postmark 5-27-44, no dateline, no date received]
Not much new today that I can talk about—more digging & more building. The tent really looks good & looks very comfortable. We just added a table to our collection (master carpenter Bylund)—all we need is a couple of easy chairs & we’re all fixed.
Say dear—if you could manage to pick up a small radio—please send it to me. The Germans put on a good program for us—the music is swell! Also, please send me about 3-4 electric light bulbs. Wrap them in a good sturdy box—maybe one of them will get here whole. We’ve got plenty of electricity—but no light bulbs—and I hate candles!
I guess that’s about all now darling.
I love you—Love, Ang
#1 Just a tent in the valley - very hot. So - - -.
#2 We built shack on hill. As a summer home it was wonderful - there was always a cool breeze. However, along came winter. The breeze was still there, but it became an icy blast, so - - -.
#3 We moved down in valley & built our home. We bought a radio - got air mattresses for our sacks - and even got a private generator for our electrical system.
May 18, 19, 20 blank [Betty’s diary]
[Letter, written with pencil on air mail stationary, postmark 5-19. Addressed to Chicago, and forwarded to 502 Westlake, Los Angeles. Note on envelope: “Recd 6-15”]
You’re about due for a nice long letter—so here goes. As usual I don’t know what to talk about—so I’ll talk about Bud and what we did while we were together.
As I’ve told you—he almost passed out when he first saw me—it sure was the last thing he ever expected (me too, for that matter). We stayed at their little villa that day and all of the next. The food and hospitality were wonderful. We just laid around and talked, and leisurely killed off about 6 bottle of vino (ugh).
Anyway, all good things must come to a pass, so we had to head back to camp that night. Bud picked me up the next day and I spent the day at his camp. He conducted me on a cooks tour of the place, and---well I’ve already described his camp to you. At night I sat up in the projection booth with him and saw him run off the movie—quite interesting.
The next night he had a date and with the usual Roehm ideas—he insisted that I come along. I don’t know how the girl felt about it—but I don’t feel that she had a kick coming because she brought her brother along. The usual Roehm situation. One girl—one brother—one buddy (that’s me) and Roehm in the middle trying to make a good impression. What a life—he never changes does he?
Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. The girl was really very, very nice—that is for a French girl. She had studied English at school—and spoke it very well. When she made a mistake, Bud would correct her. That is, he did, until she started asking him questions about the past tense, passive verbs, etc—then he shut up—but fast! I asked her what “Ooh, la, la” meant. She thought it over very carefully, and said “I guess it means the same as the American “Get off my back.” Boy that floored me—these Frenchmen sure learn fast.
We went to the nicest place (and the only place) to eat in town. These Frenchmen may have trouble finding food to eat—but they always have vino. They load the table with vino for every course—and if you can find the food between the bottles, you’re pretty lucky. So, we ate—and then went to her house—sat around and listened to the radio while she and Bud danced. Then we went home.
Bud likes her quite a bit (“for a foreign girl”)—and I don’t blame him. She’s pert & pretty—talks well & has a sense of humor—in fact shes the closest to an American girl that can be found over here. That’s high praise--
Well, honey, that’s the full dope on Bud—I had to leave the day after and didn’t see him again. Maybe I’ll get over there again one of these days though—I hope!
I haven’t got anymore of your mail. Some of the boys coming from the last place said that I had a stack of it a mile high though—so one of these days it ought to catch up. I’m going to be a plenty busy, and happy man then.
Please excuse the pencil—but ink is pretty hard to get around here. I guess that’s about all I have now darling. I love you very, very much—Love, Ang
[V-Mail, 5-27-44 postmark]
I’m going to see if I can’t catch up on my letter writing today. I’ve just finished one to Bud—and now I’m tearing along on my second one. Yesterday I put out three—so I’m not doing so bad. Pat me on the back.
Yesterday they took some pictures of us for the home town papers—so maybe one of these months you’ll see your husbands face beaming out at you from one of the newspapers. Ah, this Air Corps—all this glamour & publicity!
We had chicken last night—and boy was it good. It sounds funny—me raving about chicken, but after all this “wholesome” Army food I’ve been eating—chicken is a real treat. However, don’t tell my mother, or she’ll pack a couple & send them on. Love, Ang
May 21. Up, & down to meet Mom. They were so tired. Ann and Bill over for a while. Sat up and talked half the night.
[See photo below. Henderson Women. Probably May 1944. Adele Henderson Hatch, Margaret Henderson Russell, Kay Henderson Affeldt, Anna Harrington Henderson (mother) and Ann Henderson Goodwin. At the time, of Anna's 12 children, there were also four living sons. Betty's mother, Margaret, visited from California. Ann, Margaret's youngest sister, was pregnant at the time. Ann & husband Bill visited Betty & Ang in Columbia in March 1944.]
[V-Mail, postmark 6-1-44, addressed to Chicago, forwarded to LA]
I know you’ll excuse me for not writing yesterday. I got ambitious and decided to get rid of my letter writing obligations. I wrote eight letters—imagine that! I don’t know whats come over me.
I still haven’t got any mail—and I’m slowly but surely working myself into a fury. Oh well, some day it will start coming in a steady stream and I’ll be happy again. I do wish it would hurry though.
I don’t feel much like writing today though—so I guess I’ll satisfy myself with this one. Its Sunday—and I’m restless. I even went to the chapel this morning—so you can see for yourself.
I love you sweets. Love, Ang
Ang and Betty were somewhat settled in to their situations at the end of April 1944. Betty, in Chicago, continued visiting friends and relatives. She found a job at F&G Life where she had worked before and would again when she got to L.A. Meanwhile, Ang logs 3 flights and then none after April 21. Then he starts looking for his best friend from Chicago, Bud Roehm. It seems unbelievable to me, and apparently to him as well, but he does find Bud and spends several days visiting him. Bud has been overseas since August of 1942, so this visit is good medicine for both of them. I will attempt to tell Bud’s story in a later post, but for now, I will let Ang’s letters to Betty tell the remarkable story of Ang and Bud in North Africa.
Wednesday. April 19. Downtown and had lunch with F&G girls. Glad to see them all again. Al called about dinnertime with news of Is!
Form 5. A-19, Administrative flight as navigator, B25-J, 3:50h
April 20. Rainy and dark again. To Grams all day and read. Also washed head. To Adams early. Wrote letters in evening. Late.
Form 5. A-20, Administrative flight as navigator, B25-J, 6:50h
4-20-44 In Africa
Well, how do you like getting your first “V” mail from your husband. Does it thrill you—or do you, as I do, feel that “its about time”.
I wish your mail would catch up with me. Its not that I’ve got the blues or anything like that—but it will be nice to get a letter from home. Its going to seem like the good? old days again. It will probably go on like that for a couple of months—then I’ll send you a cable and tell you to catch the first freighter over. We’ll set up house keeping in a pup tent—and live happily ever after. It seems silly, but the way you’ve been chasing after me around the country for the last year—I never know where I’m liable to find you.
I love you darling. Love, Ang
April 21. Downtown to see about a job - got a prospect. Shopped for shoes but no luck. Letter from Ang.
Form 5. A-21, Administrative flight as navigator, B25-J, 4:15h
April 22. Rainy again today. Job fell through. Jen and I downtown shopping and to movie. Out in evening with Columbia fellow.
April 23. Dark all day but warmer. Napped all day - late dinner. To Geo Corson’s in evening. Bed late again.
4-23-44 In Africa
I almost got to see Bud—But only almost. I’m only a few miles from him. That is, every one knows that his company is near here—but no one knows just where. I’ve been running all over the country side trying to find him—but haven’t had any luck as yet. I haven’t given up hope—but we have to leave pretty soon, and I don’t guess there is much chance. Oh well, that’s luck for you. So near and yet so far.
Please don’t mind this jumbled letter—the chase has got me a little excited. I certainly would like to see him again. Its been a mighty long time.
I hope you got home without any trouble. Please write and let me know how you are making out—financially and so forth.
I love you darling. Love, Ang
April 24. Drizzled again. Got a job - yip! Ran into Eddie Shapiro. Saw Mr. Shaw. Spent PM with Is. To Gram’s for dinner. Ironed & bathed.
April 25. Started work today - and really worked. Exhausted in evening. Wrote long letter to Ang and called Betty Hillis. Bed 11:00
[4/25/44-passed by examiner-on Air Mail stationary]
I owe you a nice long letter—so here goes. I haven’t got the hang of writing censored letters yet—so I imagine by the time the censor gets done with them, they look like confetti (if that’s the way its spelled). Knowing your tremendous curiosity—I imagine you are going crazy wondering what he cut out.
Its pretty hard to try and figure out what I can and can’t write. However, I remember Bud wrote and told us about his visit to the city of Algiers—if he can do, I guess I can too. We spent two days in the city—and it was really interesting—Casbash (I guess that’s the way its spelled) and all. I’ve never seen such a mixture of peoples, and near people in my life—Americans—British—French—Italians—Greeks—Arabs—Moslems—and God knows what else. Its really a very modern city in the center—but you have to walk but a very few blocks to see people living as they were hundreds of years ago. You know—long, flowing, filthy rags hanging on them—veils on the women and all the rest that goes with it. You’ve never seen filth such as they live in—I don’t think they ever wash their children—or themselves for that matter.
And now to get down to the subject of the French—the French women in particular. If anyone ever talks to me about French styles—I’m going to laugh in their face. A few of the women dress very nicely—but most of them—oh my God! At any rate—I don’t think there is an American girl—even Muriel Melvin—that can’t put them all to shame. As one of the fellows so nicely put it—all you can say for them is that they are very, very broad minded—much, much to broad for him—and us! I’ve never seen anything like it. Every sister is a business—every little brother is a business manager (I believe the profesional name is pimp)—and every doorway is a business shop. Boy, I guess our trouble is that we haven’t been out of the states long enough to appreciate that kind of stuff. Phew—I’m still blushing! We were in a mens washroom—doing as men will do—when one of the little doors at the end opened—and out walks a little French number. Without so much as a fliker of an eye—she strolled across the room—opened the door and walked out. I guess you couldn’t blame her though—there was a long line at the Ladies Room. As one of the fellows said—they sure are broad minded.
Don’t mind me though—It may sound like I’m bellyaching already—but I’m really not. I’m like a hick turned loose in New York. I’m been in so many places the last three weeks—and there are so many things to see in each of them—that I haven’t had time to really get lonesome or homesick. However, there are some American things that I miss like the devil already. Oh well, the war can’t last more than ten more years—what have I got to complain about.
I’ve given up hunting for Bud—my feet and the drivers gave out. However, I’ll ry again tomorrow if I get a chance.
I guess that’s about all my darling. All my love, sweets—and I sure am storing up a lot of it for you.
Give my love to everyone. I love you. Love, Ang
My, my—I sure throw that word around, don’t I?
4-25-44 North Africa
Dear Wife and Barlo:
Well it has happened..we have met each other. This is Bud that is writing now…Just after I had knocked myself out writing a letter to you. I hadn’t finished it for more than two hours when in walked Ang..Boy was I glad to see him. It seems he looked for me for two days before he found me. The funny part of it was I wasn’t more than 15 miles from [him] the whole time..I’ll let Ang write a few lines now….
Phew—I finally found him.
This is Bud again..Just to set your mind at ease, he looks like a million dollars, no foolin..I think he found a home here, of course our little place by the sea agrees with him no end. He had a nice meal last night, and a good nights sleep…(I had to sleep on the floor to accommodate him) but I loved it..ha ha..with a little luck we might see each other now and then..
This is me again. I sure am glad Buddy loves me and was glad to see me—that floor sure looked hard!
Hello again, we just had our picture taken..in about 29 months you should get a copy of it…Don't worry I won’t depend on Ang. I’ll mail it my self. Well Honey or should I say honey’s this is all for now. Ang of course will write himself later. All our Love, Bud.
April 26. Really like the job - not much - just routine. Did some telephoning and wrote letters.
[4-29-44—passed by examiner]
I found him—Bud, I mean. After searching for three days I finally got on his trail. I found his camp—and wouldn’t you know it—he was on a three day pass, his first in two years. I just about gave in then for good. However, as soon as the first-seargent found out who I was—he got a car and drove me out there. We pulled into the driveway—and when Bud came out—the first-seargent told him an officer wanted to see him. I got out and walked around the truck—man, I think I shocked 10 years out of Buddy’s life. He just stood there and gasped—and his eyes got bigger than his feet.
Gosh, I was so happy to see him—I didn’t know what to do—neither did he. This is silly, but we finally threw our arms around each other and danced around the lawn. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see anyone in my life. He was so happy to see someone from home—he almost went nuts.
The funny part was that he just finished writing a letter to us—and had just come down from upstairs where he’d been showing the landlady our pictures and telling her about me. The landlady came running down—more about that later—I’ll tell you in the next letter what a wonderful deal they have. Anyway, I was treated like a visiting king. I’ve got to rush now honey—I’ll give all details tomorrow. I just wanted you to know that I found him.
I love you—Love, Ang
April 27. Job is almost routine now. With Jen & [?] to see movie. Bot brown shoes. Bed at usual time.
Everything seems to be breaking my way. Thru circumstances, which you can probably guess, I’ve been able to stick around longer than expected. This is the 4th day I’ve spent with Bud—which certainly is a break. The poor kid really did need to see one of us from the States—he was really down in the dumps. I guess I was like a visit to the States for him—he’s as pleased as a baby with a new toy. Not that I’m not happy to see him—he’s a sight for sore eyes. Its just like the good old days—only a different place.
As soon as I get a little more time—I’ll tell you everything we have done together. Excuse the “V” mail—but I guess you can’t begrudge Buddy my time—can you?
I love you darling—Love, Ang
April 28. Worked about the same. Sick and that made it worse. To Gram's for dinner and evening. Home and bed by 11:00
April 29 (Saturday). Worked all day today. To confession and on to Adams. Wrote letters and gabbed. To bed rather late.
[letter, 5-1-44—passed by examiner]
Well, here come all the details about Bud. There are enough to fill a book—so I’ll probably have to send it in chapters. By the way, I’m still with him—and God willing—will be for several more days.
As I’ve said before, he really looks good—has put on about 15 pounds of muscle—and looks better than I have ever seen him look before. He ought to kill the girls that have given him the go-bye when he gets back to the states.
He is still a buck seargent—but seems very satisfied with it—or at least with his job. If anybody tells you that the army does not put its men in the jobs best fitted for them—you can tell them they are crazy—and cite Bud as an example. He is now Special Service N.C.O.—which means he does what he always has done before he came in the Army—and so perfectly. He has charge of entertainment and amusement in his company. He selects the movies that are to be shown—and runs them off four nights a week. He’s really good in the projection room. He arranges the dances and parties and digs up dates for the men in his company—and also hires the orchestra. Can you imagine anything more natural for Bud?
He has the company area looking like a summer resort—Badminton & Tennis courts—Horse shoe stakes—everything but a swimming pool—and he says that’s next. He has loudspeakers all over—which blare forth popular music all day long. He even has a record of Gerry & Jane, who (listen to this) sing a song which Jane wrote & composed. How do you like that? Its not bad, either—in fact, its pretty good! I guess surprises never cease—do they?
All in all—if he had a set up like this in the states—I think he would be the happiest man in the U.S. Army. There is something about being on foreign soil that gets him down—as it would anybody that hadn’t had a leave at home in over 2 ½ years. Poor kid, he really gets the blues sometimes. I sure am glad I got to see him for awhile—it really was good for him. His tent mate says that he hasn’t seen him looking so happy and well in over a year. I guess war is really hell—especially after the first year.
Getting back to info about him. As I told you before—I found him at a little place they had rented. Its just one room—but they have it fixed up beautifully. Those boys are geniuses—they can fix or repair anything. They built themselves four bunks—and all kinds of gadgets—such as bed lamps—indirect lighting and so forth. It really is nice.
Its right on the beach—and they have, practically—a private beach. To top it all off, there is a Wac camp a little way from there—so I guess they always have a few bathing beauties around.
Their landlady is a wonderful cook—and does very well by them—and me too! Ah yes, the landlady—I must tell you about her. She married an American soldier in the last war—but I guess he went back to the states after a few years. At any rate—deserted or not—she is crazy about Americans, and does she take care of the boys! I’m telling you—her cooking can’t be beat. To add to all that—she has a cute little French maid that all the boys are after. Paradise—eh what? And for all that, she will only accept four hundred francs (eighty bucks) a month—and that’s to pay the maid for cleaning up. You can guess who found that set-up—yep, Bud!
And now a little about the boys that are in it with him. See if you don’t agree that our Buddy is the greatest little organizer that ever lived. First there is Jack—the first seargent—he gets all their passes for them when they want to go out there. The second member is the transportation N.C.O.—he arranges the transportation. And last but not (definitely not) least—the mess sergeant. Guess what he contributes. Boy, what a life—and what a man our Buddy is!
Bud just called—and said he got a letter from you. He got a big kick out of the part where you told him I was on my way somewheres overseas. boy, it killed him—as he said—if you only knew! Life is sure full of surprises!
I sure wish I was there to see your face when you find out that I found him.
I guess that’s about all for now darling--
I love you very much—Love, Ang
Well, still with Bud—although I didn’t see him today. He has to work sometimes, even if I don’t. I will see him tomorrow though.
I saw Bing Crosby in “Going My Way”—and its one picture you don’t want to miss. Its really good. He plays the part of a Catholic priest—imagine!
I’ve sort of just been laying around today—and its put my mind in kind of a stupor—can’t seem to think of anything to write about. However, Adams is always trying—so here goes! All I can think of is that I love you—I love you—I love you—I love you—I love you—I love you—I love you—and I’m beginning to miss you like the devil. See what a day of rest does!
Hello Hon: (Again)
Just in case, (Gosh the censor sure is going to think this is silly) my other letter of this date doesn’t convince you--
I love you very, very much!
All my love (and all my apologies for this letter) Ang
April 30. Rainy in AM but cleared up. To Aunt Kays for afternoon and stayed the night. Talked and talked. Bed very late.
Joni Adams Sesma, daughter of Angelo and Elizabeth Adams. Ang served on Corsica with the 57th Bomb Wing, 340th Bomb Group, 486th Bomb Squadron. April 1944-April 1945.