Tag Archives: Letters from Johnnie

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.

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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”

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Letters from Johnnie: Letter Three

So Mom continued writing to Johnnie and he continued to write back. This one was signed “Love Johnnie”.

This one is the longest, by far, and the newsiest. It also contains connections that make me feel that I was meant to read these — and perhaps Indigo Bunting was meant to read them too.

Johnnie mentions Bethesda, Maryland in this letter — the town I now call home. He tells my mom that everyone should see the Nation’s Capital and its buildings and monuments. She has — several times. He also mentions a publishing company in Elgin which very likely was affiliated with the reason IB spent a year in Elgin in the 1980s which is partly why she and I connected.

7 February

Dear Pat,

I like the idea of you writing as soon as you hear from me. Maybe I’ll have to take time out to write you more often. That way I’ll receive more letters from you. I’m using my head now.

Do me a favor and don’t cut your hair. I like to see a girl with long hair, and from the picture I like yours as it is or longer.

When you write, just ramble on about nothing or try to imagine you know me fairly well. The letters are the best when they take my mind off Korea, and yours have done just that. It isn’t nice to be seeing killing and all fighting, then have to think about it too. It’s bad enough I have to study wounds and the treatments in my spare time, without thinking about it too.

Just keep your letters as nice as they have been and I’ll be a happy guy.

I’m glad you find my letters satisfactory and interesting. That’s a high compliment as far as I am concerned.

Don’t you go working too hard. You may have been waiting for a long time for the day you start, but you have all your life to work and you’ll get tired of it. I had my first job when I was eight and have been working ever since at a grocery store, bowling alley, another store, a dental laboratory and then a pharmacy. It has been interesting but I sure looked to0 [sic] vacations and days off. You will, too. You may think $ .75 is not too much, but it is. My job, the first, paid $2.00 a week. But then, that was in ’39. before the raise in prices. I guess it isn’t too much for today.

I have been through your home (Elgin) numerous times. At the pharmacy we had an elderly pharmacist by the name of Otto Bruder. His brother has a book publishing company in Elgin.

You don’t know much about me, do you? How will it be if I give you a short rundown of my life> Here goes:

I was born in Chicago (south side) and lived all my life in the area south of the stock yards. Graduated from St. Finbar grammar school. Lived on the south west side all through high school at St. Patrick’s Academy. Was in the glee club for three years (pres. for 2) I’m a baritone. Was sports reporter for three and editor for two years on the school paper. Did a littler boxing and played some basketball and baseball.

Was a student at the Art Institute for over a year and wrote with the sports division of the City News Bureau of Chicago newspapers. Had loads of fun and did lots of work, had a fairly high average in high school. Like most of all, math and chemistry. I’m a wanderer and like to travel and see new places, I’m crazy about baseball and basketball and have played both at Great Lakes, Bethesda, Maryland (outside Washington, D.C.) Camp Lejune, North Carolina and Camp Pendleton, Calif. My main ambitions in life are to be a better than average pianist (tho I can’t play a note now) and baseball player, and get a degree as a research chemist or professor of mathematics. Interesting?

The most interesting part of my life was spent near Washington, D.C. at the Naval Hospital at Bethesda. I went to medical school and worked on contagious wards, cardiac (heart diseases) ward, the nursery and pediatrics, and in general medicine. The best job was the honor of working for high government officials as Vice President A. Barkley, Admiral King and Admiral Leahy and other high dignitaries. I had the privilege of meeting General MacArthur and going to congressional sessions and Senatorial  luncheons. It was wonderful to meet the people that run the gov’t and our country. My hopes are to return there for the summer.

I believe everyone should at some time visit the Capital and see the White House,  Capitol Hill, Washington Monument, Lincoln & Jefferson Memorial and other places of interest.

Places as New York, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Gettysburg, and many other cities on the coast were great places of interest for me. Maybe someday I’ll get to tell you of them.

Know me any better now? Will write more later. You answer this – another will follow in two days.

Love,

Johnnie

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Letter 3 page 1