a man of letters (4) – the boys go to war


On June 27, 1943, Glenn delivered bad news to his parents.

“Dear Mama and Daddy,

I know how upset you are about my enlisting this summer, but I have to do what I feel is right for me. I’ve finished two years at Lamar College, so I’ll have a good start on my degree when I get home. I want to be the best teacher I can be – just like Mr. Wilcox and Miss Helen McCune and all the others in Richards.

But, I couldn’t stay in college with Ray and everybody else I know going off to fight the Nazis. Even Terrell has signed up for the Navy. Lucy is going to be awful lonesome without her two best guys taking care of her.

I promise you both that I’ll come home safe and sound, okay? Daddy, I’ll be able to make your birthday next month before I have to leave. I’m not sure what assignment I’ll have to start.

Your son,

Glenn

P.S. A funny thing happened when I went to enlist. The recruiter told me I was too skinny to be accepted into the Air Force. He told me to go home and eat as many bananas as I could and come back to weigh. I ate so many bananas I was sick, but I weighed just enough to get in.”

George Morris and his two sons plus one in Richards

(l. to r. ) George, Glenn, Ray, Terrell

Glenn, the self-proclaimed college man, was 18 years old – short and skinny –  when he stood in the summer heat in June of 1943 with hundreds of other Texans as the long lines inched toward the door of the recruiting center in Houston. His older brother Ray had joined the Air Force a few weeks earlier at this same site.

 Brothers Glenn and Ray

both chose to serve in the Army Air Corps in WWII

On July 19, 1943, Private G.L. Morris sent a post card from his first assignment in Laredo, Texas at gunnery school.

“Dear Folks, Mama, I got your cake yesterday and it must have been pretty good. I got 2 pieces of it before the hounds ate it. They seemed to really enjoy it. Love, Glenn”

My grandmother did the only thing she knew to do to help with the war effort. She baked a cake. (This was a great tradition she continued when I was in college.)

On December 11, 1943 a letter came from HEADQUARTERS, ARMY AIR FORCES CENTRAL FLYING TRAINING COMMAND OFFICE OF THE COMMANDING GENERAL

Mr. and Mrs. George Morris, Richards, Texas

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Morris,

In a memorandum which has come to my desk this morning, I note that your boy has been classified for training as a Navigator in the Army Air Forces.

In order to win this war, it is vital to have the best qualified young men in charge of navigating our bombardment airplanes. Upon them will depend in large measure the success of our entire war effort.

The position of Navigator calls for a high degree of intelligence, alertness and coolness. Not only the success of the mission, but the safety of his crew-mates, depends on the speed and skill with which he performs his calculations. Men who will make good material for training as Navigators are rare. The Classification Board believes that your boy has the necessary reliability, character and mathematical aptitude.

If he shows the progress we confidently expect of him, he will in all probability win his wings as a qualified Navigator. Considering the rigid requirements for this training, you have every reason to be proud of your boy today. I congratulate you and him.

Sincerely yours,

G.C. Brant

Major General, U. S. Army Commanding”

Private G. L. Morris

Wow. Clearly General Brant had found his calling after a lengthy career in other areas of military service. I don’t mean any disrespect, but what must he have written to the parents of the pilots…and I do wonder if my grandparents were consoled by his letter on such grand stationery when the fate of both their sons was somehow connected to the stars on his uniform.

Stay tuned for hot and heavy romance in Glenn’s letters to Selma beginning in January, 1944. Navigator training wasn’t nearly as fascinating as she was.

********************************

I am deeply disturbed by the images I saw this morning of the detention centers on the border towns in the Rio Grande Valley in my home state of Texas. Since I am lost in the 1940s these days, the pictures are reminiscent of the children being separated from their mothers and fathers in concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

I cannot believe this current policy is who we are as a nation. Neither Pretty nor I accept this inhumane treatment perpetrated in the name of the law of the land. Not our land. Not our laws.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his third inaugural address to Congress in January, 1941 outlined what he called the four essential human freedoms:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world…

Sometimes we fail to hear or heed these voices of freedom because to us the privilege of our freedom is such an old, old story.”

America has been the voice and example of freedom since 1776. We have fought wars to protect freedom, to offer opportunity and hope for those who have no hope. The huddled masses are knocking at our door again in 2018. Let them in.

 

 

 

 

 

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is an essayist with humorist tendencies who periodically indulges her desires to write outside her genre by trying to write fiction and poetry. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published four nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and a group of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike and Charly. Her Texas roots are never too far from her thoughts.
This entry was posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to a man of letters (4) – the boys go to war

  1. Luanne says:

    Reading about the bananas, I think I was reacting as a mother. That would have been a kick behind the knees after the blow of the enlistment. To think he was too “underweight.” He could have easily stayed home . . . . Question about the Air Force. Was it really the Air Force or was it the Army Air Corps? When I did a little dip in and out research on my FIL I read that the Air Force didn’t really come into being until 1947 and that they were technically in the army. Did you see any of that info?
    I hear you on the detention centers. It defies belief. I would sure like to visit one firsthand, but I highly doubt I would be let in. Are they letting reporters in? I heard they were and then I heard they weren’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, Luanne…the proper term was Army Air Corps until 1947. My dad and uncle always referred to it as the Air Force, but then they didn’t mention it much at all when I came along.
      I need to correct mine, though.
      I saw pictures taken by MSNBC reported in McAllen, Texas yesterday morning. Some are getting in. Defies belief is right.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I looked back at the post and changed my reference, but then I noticed Gen Brant called it the Army Air Force. Clearly no one was really up to speed on what to call themselves yet!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Luanne says:

        I’d always heard it as AF for WWII, too, but I guess that wasn’t the technical name at that point since it wasn’t its own branch. It did confuse us for quite awhile until I was writing that blog post about my FIL and looked it up haha.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the banana story.

    Liked by 1 person

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