Letters from War – From the training camps of Mississippi in the summer of 1943

This is part of our “Letters from War” series documenting the World War II letters of Irvin Schwartz of Pine Grove, PA. The letters were all published in the West Schuylkill Press-Herald between 1943 and 1945. 

Read the previous letter here

Amid the brutal summer heat of central Mississippi, Private Irvin Schwartz penned a letter home to the editor and printer of the West Schuylkill Press-Herald in July 1943.

Irvin Schwartz Military
Pvt. Irvin Schwartz in 1943

The letter details the situation at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, what training was like in the Southern heat, and noted the many folks at home in Pine Grove and on the front lines to which the ambitious writer needed to write letters.

Camp Shelby, Miss.

July 1, 1943

Dear Miss Bashore:

At this writing the Anti-Tank Company to which I belong is located on the Jefferson Davis Rifle Range, located approximately eleven miles from Shelby.

We hiked from camp to the range last Wednesday, so we’re here for over a week. Bivouac life is O.K., but it doesn’t compare with the “city” life we have experienced in camp. We have fired the —- caliber —- rifle, the ——, and the —— Anti-Tank Gun, (names of weapons omitted through voluntary censorship). Lt. Woodrow Parker, our company commander, was very well pleased with our Anti-Tank Company results, and he commended us highly.

An example of the M1 57mm anti-tank gun that Schwartz and his comrades would use during World War II.

We leave for camp tomorrow morning, Friday, July 2, and upon arrival at camp, we will participate in a large July 4th parade, wherein there will be thousands of Shelby soldiers, mostly from the –th Division in charge of General Bolte. There will also be numerous service bands and drum corps. We will have completed six weeks of our basic training on Monday. [Note – General Charles Bolte commanded the 69th Division in training at Camp Shelby. Schwartz and his comrades trained with this unit before being detached as replacements to the 1st Division later in 1943]

General Charles Bolt

I am glad to say that I like all the commissioned and non-commissioned officers here. They’re swell. My fellow soldiers, mostly citizens of good old Pennsylvania, a few from Ohio, Maryland, New York and New Jersey, are likewise. This camp is marvelous, having for its soldiers numerous service clubs, sports arenas, P-X’s, baseball parks, theatres, etc. Last, but not least, the meals are swell, especially when you’re in the Infantry!

No, it isn’t easy going in any Infantry. I don’t mind hiking these small stretches of ten, fifteen, or twenty miles day and night, but you can imagine what it is to march this stretch with a heavy helmet on your top, a pair of “two-ton” shoes, full field pack (in which there are too many things to describe), your gas mask, rifle, and only eight or ten similar articles, all of which your feet must transport.

US Army soldiers training in 1942

At present the temperature is approximately 123, but this month and throughout August it reaches 135.

Hattiesburg, a city of 25,000, and the home of Southern Mississippi College, is also the home of Camp Shelby. It is located eleven miles from here. The place is attractive and is the scene of about 25 soldiers to on civilian on a Saturday and Sunday. The city is on the same order as Lebanon and Pottsville, but the waitresses behind the counters are all southern gals and customers are 90 percent, or more, servicemen.

Hattiesburg WW2 Building
War bond poster on Kennington’s Department Store in Jackson, Mississippi. (Mississippi State Archives)

We read mostly newspapers from Hattiesburg, also from New Orleans. Colored newspaper boys patrol the entire Shelby area morning, afternoon, and evening.

I see Bill Kimmel of my hometown often. He lives but four blocks from my hutment. However, Charles Christ, Earl Huber, Floyd Huber, Joseph Hartranft, and Dave Wise are not located in my immediate vicinity. All these Pine Grove boys came to Shelby with me and I have seen only Wise since then. Neither have I seen Zimmerman or Kintzel. I reckon these boys are also kept very busy and don’t have too much opportunity to wander around.

They sure do keep us busy and I’m only praying for one free day to devote the full 24 hours to letter writing. If I could write fifty letters or more in five minutes’ time, I’d feel a least bit better.

But I promise all my friends back in and around Pine Grove that I will eventually catch up on my letters. In the meantime, write as many times as possible. I’m not speaking for myself, but each and every man in the service everywhere. Personally, I believe that those long-awaited messages from what was once our home, will aid us greatly in defeating the enemy. You at home don’t realize what mail means to us.

I have spent over two months in the service and I should have written many more letters than I have thus far. However, I am not forgetting persons such as Bruce Henninger, Irvin Strouphauer, Clark Sattizahn, Horace Reber, Joel Reber, Bill Knapp, Ezra Binkley, Alvin Hummel, Carmine Pepe, Bruce Christ, Sol Moyer, Bill Daubert, Harper Updegrave, John Goodman, William Kimmel, Cletus Miller, Stanley Achenbach, Elmer Koch, Jim Spittler, George Derfler, Claude Aungst, John Matternas, Joseph Frank, Bill Plappert, Al Koenig, Russell Whetstone, Charles Hein, Sterling Schaeffer, and John Barto. All I can say is, I owe them letters and they have them coming. Miss Bashore, I could add at least forty names to the above list.

Thinking of letters again, I read “The ‘real’ Letter From Home” just before I started the first paragraph of this letter – which was quite a long while ago – sometime this A.M. I was amazed to see that Pine Grove is finally getting a supervised playground with an able instructor like Coach Pepe.

I can simply say only this – thank you for the Press Herald. What it means to me weekly I cannot explain. The words, “Letter From Home” don’t describe it in detail. I’m sure we servicemen will show what we get out of your paper each week by winning this present day conflict.

In closing, I wish to say two more things only. First, I will send you photos of Camp Shelby and Hattiesburg as soon as possible, and second, Private William Bush of Tremont is located near the Anti-Tank area and I see him a great deal.

Now, all the luck and success to you, Miss Miller, Mr. Reber, and the entire West Schuylkill Press and Pine Grove Herald staff.

Just, So Long,

Pvt. Irvin Schwartz

Featured Image: A postcard from Camp Shelby and Private Irvin Schwartz

This is part of a series titled: “Letters from War.” Read more of the letters written by Irvin Schwartz during World War II

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