Tag Archives: johnnie gannon

Letters from Johnnie: Letter Five — the last one

Final letter from Johnnie (as far as I know – there may have been more that were lost). I don’t know if Mom ever wrote back to him after this. After we looked at some of them together all she said was, “Maybe he took one look at me and said, ‘She’s just a kid!'”

I have a different theory. I think Mom had begun writing to Dad* by now and saw his photo and fell in love. Dad was a handsome young man. Perhaps they’d met and she abandoned writing to Johnnie.

Poor Johnnie.

So many mysteries. Maybe the great and powerful Internet can solve some. Wouldn’t it be fun if he ended up settling in Bethesda? I hope he followed his dreams.

I’m going to miss Johnnie — and wonder what Mom’s life would have been like with him instead of my father. Of course I am glad she met and married my dad because if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here. And also, he was a great guy.

8 March ‘52

Dear Pat,

It’s true, I have moved around an awful lot, and from the looks of things I’ll be moving for a year longer. The government seems to be on the verge of extending my enlistment for another year. That means I’ll be wearing a hash mark and good conduct medal. I’ll get some laboratory schooling on the East coast out of it.

The days are passing but not fast enough. Only 25 days to go and I’ll be on my way home. One other corpsman and I are the only ones from the KMC’s going home and we are happy.
For three days it has been cold – and we were told by the Koreans that winter is over. Well, at least it isn’t forty below now.

Had to get a new issue of clothes today – my old ones were too small. I just turned 21 and am still growing. Happy am I.

It’s pretty late now Pat and I’m really tired. They kept me busy all last night so I’m turning in early tonight. Best regards to the folks and write again soon.

Johnnie

*The story goes that my mom’s parents were friends of my dad’s sister and brother-in-law and my dad’s sister and brother-in-law asked if Mom would like to write to Dad. She did and he wrote back (mom has a large scrapbook full of his letters) and the rest is history.

img068

img069

Letters from Johnnie: Letter Four

Here is Johnnie’s 4th letter to Mom. He definitely sounds a little down which is probably because of the war and what was going on at the time — intense fighting and the raid on his bunker. However, he did ask Mom if she was writing to any other servicemen — so he might have been a little jealous about something — maybe something she said in a letter? I’m not sure when she began writing to my Dad — but it could have been around this time.

Interesting how he mentioned motion pictures in the letter. His father worked in the motion picture industry in Chicago according to Family Search.

17 February ‘52

Dear Pat,

Due to circumstances beyond my control it was impossible for me to write any sooner. The Reds have been keeping our group on our toes almost continually for many days and today was the fist letup. I’ve had to tramp over too many hills the past week and had none of my personal gear at my disposal. Thus, this being my first opportunity, I am using it to fulfill the promise (belated) that was made in my last letter.

As I compose this poor excuse for a letter I’m indulging in a cup of hot soup that one of the marines in my immediate company received through the mail. It is a very welcome appetizer due to the cold weather we are enduring. Seems these eves are getting colder instead of warmer. Spring will soon be here and it’s still snowing.

A big group of corpsmen left Korea today for the U.S.. As far as I can figure there are about 130 corpsmen in Korea that have been here for a longer time than I. March 25 (or April 25) cannot come too soon – that being the date I figure to leave here forever (I hope).

Had a unique experience today that saddened me immensely. Upon returning from one of our patrols I found that the Reds had made a probing attack on our position and destroyed my bunker. (bunker – a hole in the side of a hill used as a home). Wait till they get back and find we did the same to their positions. I’m now living with a lieutenant (from Chicago) and find my sorrow slowly changing to glee. He is a swell guy (and has a much warmer bunker than my old one ever was.) Such are fortunes of war.

This is flashy paper, is it not? One of the Marines presented me with a pack in lieu of the one I had that was destroyed. Alas! So many souvenirs I had in the old bunker are gone. I’ll have to start over collecting some.

Golly – this soup is delicious – and almost second best to home cooking. But then, so many little things are appreciated in time of war.

I wish there were something more pleasant for me to write of outside of the war – but then, I’m like a bus driver trying to talk of the making of motion pictures. It doesn’t work.

You put up admirably well with me. You are to be commended for that. Tell me, do you write to any other guys in service? You don’t have to answer that.

I had a beautiful view of the heavens last night and the beauty of the stars was simply breathtaking. Are you at all interested in astronomy? I know little of astral conceptions, but being a nature lover – the heavens and the high seas are always magnificent examples of the works of God. I find music and song in both no matter what the conditions. Sometimes the joy of life is exemplified, and at times sorrow of living. maybe I’m a little nuts, think so?

Had one of those embarrassing and unusual occurrences in talking to a KMC in Korean lingo. He is the hardest worker I have seen here and I told him today that he deserved to rest for the rest of his life. Instead it came out “I think that he deserved to test his best wife.” He didn’t know what to say and I had to start over and then correct myself. Tone of voice has a great deal of importance in oriental lingo, and it’s hard to master. I believe I never shall, either. Maybe I better learn French and worry only about words, and not tones and accents. One word can mean many different things here just by changing tone or accent. And often it proves embarrassing (as my case)

In spite of the five (count ’em) pages I have said very little and can think of nothing of interest (barring war) to talk of so I shall close. I hope to receive a letter from you in the next batch. No mail has arrived in our sector for six days now – I’m due.

Don’t work too hard at your job and write soon. Regards to the folks.

“Johnnie”

img062

img063

img064

img065

img066

Letters from Johnnie: Letter One

In 1951 my 15 year-old mother sent a copy of John Dickson Carr’s “The Three Coffins” to  the US troops in Korea. On the inside cover of the book she included her name and address.  She has only a vague memory of sending the book and doesn’t know why she put her contact information in it.

In October of that year she received a letter from a member of the US Navy Hospital Corps who received the book. She wrote back and they exchanged a few more letters over the next year.

While this was probably a common occurrence – after all, she ended up marrying a sailor whom she met through the mail—I was struck by the quality of the Corpsman’s writing.

Here’s the first letter:

21 October, ‘51

Dear Pat,

Unfortunately we are not acquainted. For a brief rundown, here is why I am writing you. I don’t know where it begins, actually, as far as you’re concerned; but as near as I can figure your name and address was in a pocketbook entitled “The Three Coffins.” Somehow the Marine Corps got the book to Korea and it was passed from Marine to Marine to be read (in as much as reading material is scarce here.) Yesterday a Marine that had been hit by shrapnel was brought to me for medical treatment. Where I fit in comes now. I’m a Navy Hospital Corpsman on duty with the Marine Corps in Korea. (The Marines have no Medical corps of their own so the Navy trains corpsmen to fight with and treat wounded Marines.)

Anyway, he had finished reading it and gave it to me. Your name and address were on the inside flap. Ordinarily, I would have paid no attention to it, but being  from Chicago I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to inform you your book came a long way and helped a good many men since it left the league at Park Ridge. The Marine and myself on behalf of those who had it before us, send our thanks. If you care to write and possibly hear of the Orient as I have seen it in the last few months, write and let me know.

I can’t tell whether you are a boy or girl (though I think the latter.) Being interested in human psychology, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to clear a mystery. Will be waiting to hear from you.

“Johnnie” Gannon
(HN-USN)

page 1
Letter 1 page 2