4: “Well, you dumb sons of bitches…”


Dear Folks,

All safe and happy so far, by God! We’ve been on the go every minute–have had everything, but no physical and no shots as yet. Uniforms, haircuts–don’t even recognize myself! And a large issue of clothes, two rifles, Springfield and Garand, bayonet, hats, etc. And I have never had my stuff so neatly put away before in my life–every under drawer folded just so, and these Marine sargents [sic] are every damn thing they are cracked up to be–I haven’t incurred their wrath yet, but several around me have, and it sure puts the fear of God into me! His first words were “Well, you dumb sons of bitches, I’m your Jesus Christ now!”

Jack Stock of Yale Law is here, and Sabini–though I haven’t seen much of either of them, and nothing from Winnie.[2] Guess he didn’t make it somehow.

Our quarters here are just like gym lockers with double deckers set in between–fourth floor of an enormous building. I’m in an upper, damn it–damn it because the fella under me has some nervous disorder and twitched all night. This is only [a] light frame, and it felt like a rolling sea up here–but I know that by tonight I won’t notice it. We were up at 5:30, and by the time 8:00 rolled around I was ready for lunch–wonderful food so far, but maybe that won’t last.

Our uniforms are khaki, quite mundane looking, but lightweight, except for the shoes! –and our only fancy article–an exotic-looking tropical fibre helmet with the Marine emblem, can’t be worn off the post.

All my love,
P.F.C. Phil[3]

Editor’s Notes:
Phil received his long-awaited orders on July 6, 1942. He was allowed a few final days to put his affairs in order and say his goodbyes before boarding a southbound train; on July 20, he was officially “aboard” Marine Corps Base, Quantico as a member of Company K, Candidates’ Class, Marine Corps Schools. The senior NCO of the class was First Sergeant Robert A. Thompson, an august figure with eight years in the Corps, and it is probably he who gave the candidates their memorable welcome to their new reality. Thompson was ably assisted by a handful of corporals and privates first class, many of whom thoroughly enjoyed the chance to “correct” a gaggle of hapless college boys.

The indoctrination was similar to that which awaited countless “boots” at Parris Island and San Diego. After a hectic first day, Phil would have been happy to see any familiar face, but had no time to look up his buddies Stock or Sabini. He might have started getting to know some of the other candidates in his company–young men with names like Osgood, Shattuck, Stott, Swoyer–there was even another Wood, from South Carolina.

The next ten weeks would push all of them to the limits of their endurance.


[1] Recorded by GWW as July, 1942. Phil was assigned to active duty on 20 July, so this letter probably dates to Tuesday, 21 July. Written on Quantico stationery.
[2] Stock was slightly ahead of Phil at Yale, but still a close pal. John Anthony Sabini was Swarthmore ’44, Gretchen’s class. “Winnie” is unknown.
[3] Although every man enlisted in the Marines as a private, potential officers were enticed by a guaranteed promotion within 24 hours, as candidates carrying the rank of Private First Class.

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