TEN YEARS AGO this column used to be called 'Trans-Atlantic Commentary', and it was turned out for Mac's 'Oklahoma News', an interesting little privately-circulated maglet some of you may remember reading. Now Dan (Good Intentions) McPhail asks that I continue it along similar lines, but designed to suit his latest Journal. If you can take it, I'll keep giving it, buddies. Where we'll get to in our mental travels remains to be seen, for I've been around on three continents & oceans during my wartime travels and may be able to talk about places some of you are now stationed in.
THIS G.I. JOURNAL idea of Mac's is a fine idea - one of the finest gestures a civilian pal can offer to his buddies in the Armed Forces, and I feel very gratified that he has asked for a column from myself - the part that tickles me is that this will be read by some of his friends parked on atolls in the Pacific, as well as back-tracking to colleagues in the ETO, & being perused by G.I.s (and gals?) stationed in the US. I have the feeling that Mac has the basis for a world-wide news-sheet at least for the duration of the two wars.
WAS IT William Wordsworth who wrote the lovely lines "Oh to be in England now that April's here"? No matter, somebody did, and the lines bring a nostalgia to my mind as I realise that I am once again in the England of Spring, of fields of waving daffodils and crocus beds nestling beneath the banks of hedges, sheltering from the blustering winds of March & April. Of the song of the birds as they prepare for their summer idyll and of the lush greenness of the grassy meadowlands after the winter snows and rain. All those are part of the England I love - somewhere tucked away in your mind there is a picture of your own particular home & countryside, probably far different to the Spring of England, but Spring just the same.
THERE IS SOMETHING so very hopeful about Spring. It is the growing up of the year - the opening out of all the hopes & promises that the year holds forth - and on the crest of this year's Spring the tide of battle in Europe spreads all-engulfingly against the Nazis. As I write this (to be read so many months later by you guys way out on the borders of Japan) the Allied armies are sweeping into Germany on all sides. and for the first time in six long weary years of war, the people are talking of the coming victory. Never doubting that victory would one days be ours, although once all we had was faith and courage in the belief that God would aid the righteous (has that not been proven now?), the people have never before talked about victory & the nearness of the end of the European war such sureness and certainty.
AFTER FIVE and one half years of Service life the idea of the war suddenly ending (and it may well be over long before you read these lines), has come like a cold shower on a blistering hot day to myself, and where five odd years ago I was wondering and worrying over what my Army life would be like, I'm now wondering and worrying about how I will ever fit into civilian life once more. The thought is almost frightening, for I've grown to love the danger and excitement of my own particular job in this war, and the idea returning to the humdrum routine of snatching a living from the busy metropolis of London is almost appalling. You're going to find the difference too, Joe, when you get round to thinking along the same lines Or maybe you never quite fitted into this battle existence? If not, you have my sympathies, because unless you can adapt yourself to the vast change-over from a civilian to a professional killer, you can't have got the utmost atom of enjoyment out of Life.
DON'T THINK, G.I. Joe, sweating it out on a burning coral island, that I'm just a chair-borne philanthropist airing my views, because I have just about run the gamut of battle (with the exception of killing Japs - a task I would relish at much as a good rat hunt on a sunny summer afternoon), from the first sickening breath of Death on a battlefield, and of seeing the awful maimed wrecks that close-quarter fighting can do to men, to being lost behind enemy lines, blown up in a minefield, being a pin point target for enemy artillery, attacked at sea by U-boats & planes, and, of course, the commonplace practise of killing the enemy. No, at the moment I'm resting up after a long session of fighting, so I don't think you'll refuse me the rest.
ALL I WISH for you is that you too can get that well-earned rest back in that shady corner by the verandah, or out in the back-lot, watching the kids hammer a base ball round the vacant lot, or see the heat shimmer off Main Street on a blazing hot Western afternoon - or perhaps you're a city guy & like to doze off to sleep lulled by the ever-present murmur of a big city. Whichever it is, the sooner it comes the better pleased I'll be.
MAYBE I'll be dropping in on a few of you island-dwellers in the near future, - after all, it's our turn to play away from the home ground, so keep a lookout on the road to Tokyo - I've just dropped off the road to Berlin.
London, England - April
This was clearly written in April 1945 and was turned up by Greg in the course of searching his collection for copies of SANDS OF TIME. He writes that it was a "loose page, no sign of staples, internal evidence points to it being included in MAC'S G.I. JOURNAL, produced by Dan McPhail, 1944-45." It's included here for obvious reasons. I assume 'E.T.O.' in the title refers to 'European Theatre of Operations'.- Rob
In BFS BULLETIN #25 (26 March 1946), editor DRSmith was able to report:
"Recently demobbed fans include E. F. Russell, Les Johnson, E.J. Carnell."
Thus ended Ted's time in the military.