The First Day of the Rest of His Life

Though none knew it at the time, Lester’s letter home on December 3, 1941 was written on the first day of his last year on earth. It was a routine letter, upbeat and chatty. Nobody suspected that in only a few days, life would change drastically for all of them, or that Lester had only 365 days to live.

December 3, 1941

Dear Folks:

I want to drop you a line to let you know that I am feeling fine.  I hope that dad & granddad are better by now.  I’m sorry that I can’t find much news to make my letters more interesting but we live very much of a routine life here, one day is just about the same as another.  Today we had another bag inspection & this time nearly everyone passed it.  Mr. Baker said it was the best bag layout any of his companies had ever had.  By the way, that picture of the “other boy” was Mr. Baker.  He is our commander or boss.  We all like him just fine.  He is going to sea when he gets through with us.

The U.S. Navy hospital ship USS Solace (AH-5) ...
The U.S. Navy hospital ship USS Solace (AH-5) circa 1941 in Hawaiian waters. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 27 October 1941 and handled hundreds of casualties on 7 December 1941 during the Japanese attack there. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new officer is working with Mr. Baker so as to be able to train recruits.  We call him Bakers’ shadow & “The Little Colonel”.  He is a mighty fine fellow too.  We joke & have a lot of fun with him.  He came into the navy as a petty officer, has been in five months & is drawing $110 per month.  Of course he had special training to do that.

I forgot to tell you in my other letters about Mr. Baker.  I sent you the little booklet about Navy life but I didn’t know what was in it as the envelopes were sealed when we got them.  You asked about the training here.  We drill with rifles nearly every day but it is all marching.  We haven’t fired a shot & won’t while we are here.  I don’t get along with the marching any too well.  It is hard for me to keep in step.

Postal card from the U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Ill. 1941
Postal card from the U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Ill. 1941

We won the red rooster flag this week.  It is a flag with a rooster emblem on it which is awarded on points won on drill.  There is a blue rooster for next week.  Our bag inspection, barracks & personal inspection count on it.  We are working for it.

Something To Crow About
Something To Crow About (Photo credit: cobalt123)

Does the climate agree with me?  Well, the last time I weighed I had gained about twelve or thirteen pounds.  The grass is still green here & we don’t wear coats or gloves except once in a while.  I’ll probably freeze when I come home.  It is damp & foggy a good share of the time.

Yes, we will have to pay our own expenses home but I will have enough money & there isn’t anything I need, thanks.

That sounds like a dirty deal about Lillian & her boy friends.  Did you go to her program?  Ernest is ready to mail a letter so I’ll close & let him take this one too.  Write again.

P.S. I got a letter from Wylie.                                                               Lester

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