The Navy Yard in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pa

Aug 17  11:30 AM   1942

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Dear Folks.

Well, here I am in Philadelphia, safe and sound.  We had a nice trip back though the Pullman cars we had were terribly dirty.  We had a steamer the first part of the trip and the soot and cinders were terrible.  We were just black all over and couldn’t keep clean.  Somewhere in Pennsylvania they switched to an electric engine and we had a clean ride the rest of the way.  I’ll tell you right now that I don’t know how long I will be here, maybe a week and perhaps two months.  I will go on a destroyer, the Gherardi.  Some of the fellows say that she is still under construction and hasn’t been commissioned yet.  That may be right and maybe it isn’t. I don’t know yet.  One of my buddies is to be on the same ship and I met another boy who is to be aboard with us. He is a very nice fellow.

One of Lester's shipmates.
One of Lester’s shipmates.

 

I’ll let you know as soon as I learn anything definite.  There were six of us Diesel boys in this draft and the other four are leaving right away.  If they put me on KP duty, I’ll be wishing they would ship me out.

We left the Lakes about seven o’clock Thursday evening and got here at five Friday evening.  We didn’t get out of Chicago until dark so I didn’t see any of the country between there and eastern Ohio.  Ate breakfast just west of Alliance, Ohio.  The country around there is very poor and the farm buildings are in bad shape.  I didn’t have a map so don’t know just how we went but I think that Pennsylvania joins Ohio.  Anyway, all the country west of Pittsburg is very poor. You don’t see any very good farms until you reach Harrisburg.  Of course it would be good with a name like that!

I didn’t like Pittsburg very well either, too smoky and dirty because of so many factories.  We saw tugs pushing some barges up and down the river.  We also saw some ships being built along the river.  From Harrisburg on east there was considerable farming, mostly corn with quite a bit of tobacco.  We saw them cutting tobacco in one field.  They were using one mule to pull the box-like cart on which they hung the leaves.  It seemed that all the farms were small with very few fences and not much livestock.  The soil was red but most of the crops were pretty good.  I liked the country east of Harrisburg.

I haven’t seen Philadelphia except as we came thru it last evening but I liked it very well.  Nearly all of it is quite old.  Most of the boys have gone out on liberty to see the town but I wanted to get some letters written. This is the first chance I have had.  Maybe I’ll go out tomorrow.  We can go out any time we rate liberty as we have liberty cards and don’t have to check in and out as we have been doing.  If we don’t rate liberty, we have to muster three times each day so they can put us on work parties.  Today after dinner they sent us to work.  There was a little trash in a pile on the deck so I swept it into a dust pan and emptied it. That was all I did on my work party.

We have been plenty busy though.  We had cards that had to be signed by about a dozen different people before we could go on liberty tonight.  We had a gas drill with tear gas.  We put on our masks, went into the gas chamber, opened the mask a little to sniff the gas then took the mask off and stumbled outside.  Then we all had a good cry.  That stuff isn’t dangerous but it sure does burn for awhile and makes you cry like everything.  We had to scrub our hammocks and turn them in as we sleep in bunks here.  There was a lot of other stuff such as being assigned to our ships, etc.

I’m up in the attic of the main building, on the fourth deck.  We don’t have any tables to use for writing so I’m lying in my bunk to write.  It is sure hot up here but maybe it will cool off enough I can sleep.  There are a couple of fans in the next room but they don’t do much good in here.  We have met some of the boys who were with us three or four months ago.  Some of them have been to sea and are back here.

We have lockers here to keep our clothes in instead of our sea bags. They are sure lots nicer as we won’t always have to be digging clear to the bottom of a bag every time we want something.  We have to scrub our clothes on tables and benches outside and have only cold water for it which makes it rather bad.  I scrubbed my clothes this evening so I won’t have anything to do tomorrow.

I’m going to write to Josephine but it is going to be just the same as this so don’t go comparing notes on me.  My address is at the top of the first page.  There isn’t any barracks or anything as we go to the post office for our mail.

Love to all

Lester

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