Flea Market Love Letters
January 29, 1942.
Pvt. John H. Clarke
Platoon #132, Recruit Depot
Parris Island, S.C.
Betty I’m going to try to write you as often as I can but we don’t have one minute to rest from 4:30 A.M. until 9:30 at night. This is going to be a mixed up letter as I’m going to tell you whats going to happen + what has happened.
FIrst of all since last week all new men will have to learn to be as good as a marine in 10 yes, ten days as what they have been turning out in 6 weeks!!
If I knew we were going to be worked 1/10 millioneth as what we have been in 2 days and in the future I never would have joined the marine. When you hear about a U.S. Marine being the best and most efficient disciplined fighting man it is the truest saying ever said by any human being! And are they TOUGH OH! BOY and will I be in a military way! But if your a wise guy or a rowdy they have a way of making you a perfect gentlemen too. All of us will be real tough – or the toughest fighters as well as being real polished off duty.
Other men or new recruits were not issued uniforms or rifles (don’t dare call it is a gun or it means 4 hrs of Brig guard duty. It is a rifle from now on.) For 5 days. Our bunch got all these things the first day. That’s proof that we will see action sooner than we expected. Here is a list of the things we got today.
1 Winter Forest Green Overcoat
1 Uniform Forest Green suit type coat
2 prs sun tan pants
2 ponchos (“rain coats”)
1 Forest green overseas cap with emblem
1 sun tan overseas cap with emblem
1 2 piece grease monkey suit
1 sun helmet
3 undershirts – Gov
3 government shorts
2 Henry sweatshirts
2 Sun tan ties
2 belts khaki + Sam Brown
1 Army cot
2 Army blankets
2 Army sheets
2 Pairs of shoes (the feel like 5 tons after a days hike)
1 Sea bag (Everything has to be filed neatly in it and be kept locked. If you are called out again and given 40 seconds to get something – it has to be locked after you get what you want even if its in the bottom)
1 Laundry Bag
1 Duffle Bag
1 Knapsack ( Forks, knifes, first aid kit, gun parts, meat cans, snake bite serum, oil) etc.
1 30/30 Army Rifle Straps also
1 mean looking Bayonet (Which we are really taught how to use it!!!)
1 sewing kit
4 towels (lots of toothpaste, razors, comb, brush, shoe polish, clothes, shave cream, 8 bars of soap, tooth brush)
1 cartridge belt
1 Bayonet scabbered
1 gun cleaner
1 [unreadable] pail
1 paint brush
Also a few more little things I can’t think of now. But if we lose one article, at inspection we will get K.P. or the brig. The Army or Navy can’t even come near this outfit for discipline. I don’t mean maybe you have to be here to believe it.
I know how to march, drill and know ammunition in one day. In the army it takes you about a year to really even get the orders straight. We do or else! All the tough little so + so says in – How is H … do you think the marine got the names “Devil Dogs” + “Leatherneck”! We all know I never could have believed a guy could drill + run + leg a pack _ fall flat on your face, jump up + run again – fine + hike on the double all day long in the blasted hot sun down here – !
THe tough little top kicks + commanding officers are all southern men. No matter how good we drill he balls thru firing deuce of you. You can’t smile all day, smoke, or talk – and do they mean it! The only time you can feel at ease is at midnight and we are so gosh darn tired we flop off to sleep the instant we hit the cot.
If we make a little mistake in a drill the Corp says in a southern accent “Why that’s so G_ _ _ D_ _ _ _ simple a halfway smart _ _ so + so could get it without trying and a lot of other fancy words.
We are bunked in Mission hurts but out on the plains about 300 in a row in mud up to your ankles. You walk on duck boards. Your hut with 13 men to it has to be kept as clean as a whistle and your cot had to be just so a certain way – square corners + what not.
We get up tomorrow morning at 3:00 A.M. to go for a morning hike full pack!! Have breakfast at 5:30. Get a shot at 6:45. Drill all day and break rifles down and learn rules all the time. We will have to go to thru swamps like nothing up to our hips – look out for quick sand + cottonmouth snakes + fever, trench mouth + ptomaine poison. Sleep in woods eat + drink you feel like dying but you cant even get time to lay down and die.
But we will know how to be fighters + know how discipline, if we don’t we’ll be crazy. Please tell mom a few of these things because dear I’m too tired to write all of this.
We are training the Corporal says, to be able to shove off for parts unknown in 10 days. We can hardly believe it I have a swell buddy from N.H. with me. His name is Shea.
We haven’t even got time to think about getting homesick all we know is that we’re learning to be toughest fighting men going so that Corp says I can hear him in my sleep. —-
I hope + pray every night that I might be able to see you just once before going away to some place, the good lord only knows where.
I could write forever on what takes place during the day + evening but I’m going to fall in as I’m awfully blurry eyed now.
I love you and still am as tender in my heart about you even tho I think or rather I know I’ve changed in 2 days for being stern + serious + tough.
The good is swell, can’t talk while in mess.
Tatoo is now blowing 5 more men + Taps blow so I’ll say good night darling + please remember I never loved any girl or never will more than what I love you. I pray that I’ll be able to see you again. Will write soon again. Please excuse pencil.
Love and kisses,