These are letters Dad wrote in May 1942, 1943, 1944, and July 1945. He was proud to serve his country and work hard with other men. He couldn't tell his family very much about what was going on around him, and after the war he never talked very much about it. His letters reveal how much he loved them and looked forward to coming back home. When the 850th Engineers Aviation Battalion started having reunions, you could tell how much he valued them and the time they shared together. I know very little about his time with the "Negro" 1864th Engineer Aviation Battalion.
Postmark May 22, 1942
Batry. A, 26th F.A. 9th Div.
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
It looks now like I won’t get home in June for the deer season. There are about 15 or 20 men who haven’t had furloughs yet ahead of me. Most of these were to have left this week but their furloughs have been canceled. We are due to leave for Virginia sometime before long; don’t know just when yet. It’s been put off so many times, I don’t think anyone knows just when we will leave. We’ll be up there for about 15 days. So it will be some time in July before I’ll even have a chance to put in for another furlough. I saw two deer this morning almost in camp. Both of them were does.
I don’t know if I’ve written any of you or not, but I have some German prisoners here now. They were taken off a sub. somewhere off the coast. I don’t know if it’s a military secret or not. Haven’t seen anything in the papers about it.
We’ve been put on a gas ration too. Are only allowed one gallon a day per truck, so we haven’t been riding very much. We’ve traveled just as much but do it on foot now. We can leave camp at eight in the morning and do fifteen miles before twelve o’clock. The call this a mechanized army but if you don’t have good feet you won’t last long.
If it looks as if Stuart is going to be called, try to talk him into getting something before he is drafted. I wrote him a few days ago not to wait until the last few days before he starts looking around. I certainly hope he doesn’t have to go; but if he does he can do better than be drafted into a regular army outfit.
Lt. Ernest P Davis, Jr.
850th Engr. Avn. Bn. (Stanstead Airdrome)
APO #517 New York, NY
27 May 1943
It took about 15 days for your and Momma's letters to reach me. I don't know if its any faster or not but it does take less shipping space coming over and gives me enough room for what I need.
We are all learning to drive on the wrong side of the road and count English money. Tell Dad I took the Battalion's money in to the town this week to get it changed. One of the many bags the finance officer gave me was an Atlantic National Bank bag. It was like seeing someone from home. One of the Sergeants who waited on me worked in a bank in Atlanta and knew Uncle Billy.
I tried to send some flowers on Mothers Day but we couldn't use the telegraph office that day.
It's getting late; and my paper has just about run out so good night.
850th Engineer Avitation Battalion
23 May 1944
I don’t think it would be giving away any military secrets to say that we are on the firing range today. Came out this morning but don’t commence firing until tomorrow. There’s very little to do for the balance of the afternoon except sleep; which Lt. Smith, my tent mate is doing, while I’m using his paper and envelopes.
It’s bright and sunny this afternoon. Some of the men have taken their shirts off. I’m sitting with my back against a stone wall looking out across an open field. The rifles on the firing line are making quite a noise and Smith is snoring so it’s not as quiet as it might be. Most of the men would rather be out here, even when they have to sleep on the ground, than in the camp and I know I would.
You should see our mess truck. It’s arranged so the cook can cook right in the truck even in convoy. The cabinets and cupboards are built into the side. The three gasoline ranges have fit right across the front end. We’ve raised the top so that a man is able to stand up without bumping his head. Everything is very compact but we have no trouble feeding two hundred men. One of the cooks told me at noon that he would rather cook in the truck than in the kitchens back in camp.
Received a letter from you yesterday which had taken about fifteen days to come across. There was one last week which had been written since the one which I received yesterday.
I can think of nothing else for now so goodbye and love to all of you.
1864th Engineer Aviation Battalion
July 3, 1945
It’s almost too hot to sleep tonight. If it were allowed I’d take a blanket out on deck and sleep there but since the ship has to be kept blacked out we have to stay below deck after dark.
I’m writing this in the ward room where it’s not much cooler but with the fans going it’s better than the top bunk in our compartment.
We have picked up and dropped off mail once since we left the States. This will have to wait until we reach our final destination; which is still over a week away. I’ve never realized how much water there is on this side of the world.
There has been little to do on board ship but eat and sleep for the past two weeks. Even though that gets tiresome it’s going to be hard to get back to work again.
The first day or two out we had a bunch of sick Negroes. They are over it now and will be as glad as I will to get their feet on land again.
Barbara had a lovely wedding I know. Wish I could have been there. Send me her address when you write again.
Has anyone heard from Howard and James Clark lately? They should be getting home before long. Had a letter form an officer in the 850th not long ago and they were stationed near Nuremberg and had been assigned to the Occupational Air Force. So he didn’t think they would get home before next year anyway.
Love to all,