On this Memorial Day, it seems fitting to share letters from soldiers serving in wartime, though thankfully, neither of these particular soldiers was called to make the ultimate sacrifice. The first soldier was my great-uncle Paul Hoffman. Born May 31, 1920 in Fairbury, Illinois, he enlisted in the Army on January 8, 1942 in Peoria. His enlistment record indicates Uncle Paul was 5’6″ and weighed 137 pounds. He served until October 12, 1945.
During his time in the Army, Uncle Paul wrote with some regularity to his older brother, my grandfather Joe. The letters follow Uncle Paul’s military experience from training stateside, to his experiences while stationed in Africa. Often the letters will provide color to family history events occurring at the time – in one, he references his mother’s decision to quit farming and auction off her farm property; in another he asks after Joe’s new baby, my mother.
Postmarked U.S. Army Postal Service, Feb. 6, 1943, A.P.O., Addressed Mr. Joe Hoffman, 303 N.E. Failing St., Portland, Oregon U.S.A., Return address Cpl Paul J. Hoffman 16052536, 817 Q.M. Co. “Trk”, 8th Air Depot Group A.P.O. 625, c/o Postmaster, Miami, Fla. [upper right corner:] Free [stamped across envelope:] U.S. Army Censor Lt. QMC [signature:] J. A. Mahhan
Feb, 3. 43
Will try to answear your letter I sure was glad to hear from you, I’ve been feeling fine, except I’ve had a tooth ache, so I went up yesterday an had it pulled, an its plenty sore.
Were still having hot weather we should be getting used to it by this time, I sure miss all that snow.
Well I’ve got 13 months in the Army now, an some times it seems like 5 years, but I’m getting along O.K.
I still haven’t gotten my xmas packages, the only one I got was the one from Sam & Norma, but the rest may get here some day, I hope.
I got a letter from Ralph yesterday, he said Loren is in Africa too, I sure would like to run in to him some time.
I heard about the sale at home I was kinda surprised. I sure hope it was a good one.
Well Joe I don’t know any thing new so will close.
Postmarked U.S. Army Postal Service, May 18, 1943, A.P.O., Addressed Mr. Joe Hoffman, Kuna, Idaho, U.S.A., return address Cpl. Paul J. Hoffman, 16052536, 275T [?] Q.M. Truck Co., 8th A.D.G.—A.P.O. 625, c/o P.M. Miami, Florida, [stamped on envelope:] Passed by US Army Examiner 23013
Dear Joe & Velma,
Well try to answer your letter this eve. It seems like I never can get caught up on letter writing, an how I hate to write. There isn’t any thing to write.
So you bought a farm, how do you like to be a farmer? I think it’s a pretty good place to be now days. How’s the baby doing? I sure would like to see her. If I don’t get home soon I suppose she will be a big girl.
Had a letter from Wayne a few weeks ago, saying he’s expecting to be a daddy in July, he sure surprised me.
I don’t know if I’ve told you or not that I had to quit driving, on account of my back & kidneys, so now I’m dispatching trucks. I was in the hospital for a couple weeks for my kidneys, but am feeling much better.
I wrote home to Herman & told him to try to sell the motor cycle, so don’t know yet if he sold it or not, I sure hated to sell. But I figure I can double my money by selling it now.
Well were still having as hot weather as ever, I’m sure getting sick & tired of hot weather all the time, But I suppose I shouldn’t complain, after all we have a nice camp, an also have some swell fellows in this co.
Well I can’t think of any news so will have to close, hoping to hear from you soon,
Lot of Love
The second soldier is my dad, who served in the Army between April 1966 and January 1968. Not exactly a willing participant, he nevertheless served when called upon to do so, and both he and my mom wrote numerous letters home from Texas and Georgia. Presented with orders for Vietnam, Dad was not required to go as his brother Bill was already serving there at the time. Mom kept up most of the correspondence home, but Dad wrote a few letters himself; the first letter below was to his sister-in-law Carla, who had recently turned 12, and the second to the entire family.
Postmarked Mineral Wells, Texas, May 5, 1966; Addressed Miss Carla Hoffmann, 1916 Lansing, Caldwell, Idaho 83605; Return address Montgomery, 606 N.W. 9th St., Mineral Wells, Texas 76067; 5c postage; Written on envelope: Fairfax 5-3762
May 3, 1966
Well how are things with you. I suppose you’re real busy with school and everything. I don’t imagine you have much time to play around any.
I sure hope you had a happy birthday and really enjoyed yourself. Your sure getting to be an old girl now. You’ll be an Old Maid before you realize it.
Right now it’s just like I’m in school again except that we don’t get near enough sleep. I’m always just about falling asleep in class and one of these days I imagine I will. I know how you feel now when you don’t want to go to school but of course I don’t have much choice. It isn’t really too bad though it sure is a lot better than basic was any way. They holler at us a little more but they don’t ever do anything to us. We have so many studies to do that we wouldn’t have time to do any thing else any way. They do make us write military letters when we goof up but that’s about all. I’ve been pretty lucky about being hollered at but I suppose my day will come.
My brother Bill and his wife came by a few nights ago and I got a 6 hr. pass so we had a real nice visit. Their little baby is 6 mo. old and sure is cute. She smiles all the time and is real lively. They’ll be in Idaho in a few days so you may even happen to see them.
What you been doing lately on your time off. I imagine you get into all kinds of mischief! huh? Write us a line if you get a chance. Linda and I would sure appreciate it. And if you take some pictures with your camera be sure and send us some.
Say hello to everyone for me and wish your mother a happy Mother’s Day. Tell your Dad not to work to hard and be sure and tell Paula & Jay to write if they get a chance and we’ll try to do the same….
Gotta go now but I’ll try to write you once in awhile.
Your Sister & 2nd Brother,
Linda & Ted
[written small around edge of page:] P.S. What you reading this for any idiot knows that anyone who would write so small and crooked can’t be writing anything worth reading. Right? Right!!!
Monday March 6, 1967
Since it’s about time for your anniversary I thought I’d drop a line and wish you the very best. Sure wish we could be there to celebrate with you but I guess we’ll have to wait till next year. We sure missed the New Year’s party this year and everyone’s birthday’s too. Guess we’ll miss just about everything next year too, but then we hope to make up for it in ’68.
Stan & Clair called us last night and made us wish even more that we could be home. Linda will be home in June for the weddings but it’s rather doubtful if I’ll make it. I’m the low man on the totem pole and since a couple of the other instructors plan to take leave in June I just doubt if I’ll be fortunate enough to get the days I want. Linda and I will keep hoping but we’ll try not to get excited about both of us coming home. I probably won’t have any trouble getting leave later on but that won’t do much good then!
Guess I’ll be going to I.M.D. (Instructor’s Methods Division) at the end of this week or at the end of next week at the latest. I’m not looking forward to getting up in front of a lot of people but it sure beats going to Viet Nam. By the way has Jay been bothered any by the draft board? The draft situation seems to change every day and it’s rather hard to keep up with it. I hope for both his and Nancy’s sake that they just forget all about him. I know of one Electrical Engineer that was drafted but then a lot of them get out of it too. Let’s just hope that Jay is one of the “Lucky One’s.” It sounds like they’re going to start drafting all the 19 year olds so maybe they’ll just skip over Jay. We’ll both be wishing him the best of luck in that respect.
Sounds like that new truck is okay. I imagine you can put up with a little bit of a rough ride in order to get the larger box and heaver springs; not to mention the extra power and a “Custom Cab” no less! I’ll bet that pick-up really gets a good work out. The last few days have been perfect “camper weather” around here. The temperatures have been in the high 70’s and low 80’s with nary a cloud in the sky. A few weeks ago a fellow caught a 46 lb. trout up at Clark Hill Reservoir which is a very large body of water; I think it backs up about 20 miles. If you look at it on a map you can see that it’s quite big.
Susie is still as healthy as a horse; and almost as big. She weighs about 26 lbs but she’s not really fat, just husky! She is taller than most Dachshunds we’ve seen so we’re not convinced that she’s a full-blooded Dachshund. We’re going to kind of hate to take her home as she has so much freedom here and so many dogs play with. I guess she’ll just have to get used to what ever arrangements we make.
I imagine I’ve repeated some of Linda’s news but we really haven’t been doing much. I suppose everybody there is getting all excited about the weddings. Just about 3 months now & it’ll be time for the big events. Nancy seems to have her plans pretty well formulated and I imagine Paula has too. Linda and I both feel that Jay and Paula picked some really nice kids for their spouses (Boy that sounds old fashioned) and we’re sure that they will both be very happy and that is all a person can ask for.
Once again I want to wish both of you a Happy Anniversary and hope that this will be the last time we won’t be there in person to wish you the very best.
All our Love,
Linda and Ted
P.S. Tell everyone hi for us and tell that “old” Carla to write us a line when she gets a chance.