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Letter, 5 June 1945,
Rufus Morgan, China, to Guy Lipscomb
Letter, 5 June 1945, from "Rough House" [Rufus Morgan], China, to Guy [Lipscomb], details this former University of South Carolina student's World War II adventures throughout the United States and across the Indian and Asian continents.
In a ten-page, highly detailed letter Morgan reveals that he had taken a surveyor's test and been assigned to the engineers at Geiger Field near Spokane, Wash. He completed basic, advanced, and operational training and construction foreman school before shipping out from southern California. Crossing the equator twice en route to India, Morgan then journeyed by train across India and Assam. His first job in Burma was to set up air corps headquarters in a town devastated by siege. In early 1945, the engineers moved on to another town and began anew the task of rebuilding. While at the second location, renowned soprano Lily Pons and her husband, pianist and conductor Andre Kostelanetz, appeared in concert.
Morgan and entourage crossed into China via truck caravan. "We camped out each night," he recalled, "and had a mixture of tiresome concentrated rations, but three nights we were surprised and overjoyed to stop near hostels which are built and operated by the Chinese for such convoys. There we were able to get two hot meals and some welcome showers? there, as here, we get fresh meat (beef, chicken, lots of pork), fresh eggs, and fresh vegetables! What a difference these make. The showers are fed by a human `gook pipeline': coolies draw muddy, smelly water from shallow wells and carry it in wooden buckets up a flight of stairs to oil drums on a platform by the roof. There are stoves under some drums? charcoal is used as fuel in most places, and wood and lumber are very scarce all over these areas."
"It was not until we approached a large city at the end of the first leg of our journey that we first saw a ricksha or a sedan chair," the letter continues. "We had three days for resting at a hostel near this city? there I had my first bout (in China) with dysentary....We were given exchange for rupees turned in in Burma as well as a month's pay in that foreign green stuff, good old U.S. currency, and then had our first passes overseas (in eight months) to see the city. What a place that was! The street lights hardly glowed orange and women and pimps plied their trade in the darkened main streets, while many of our boys were picked up in side streets and alleys, out of bounds, following them, etc. Vendors cluttered the sidewalks with wares and tables, getting light from the tiny steady flames of brass carbide lamps....There were few cars in towns, and those mostly G.I. We had lunch at the fine Red Cross club one day, and that's the only real safe place to eat in town? later we hazarded a steak and fair bottle of rum elsewhere. There were no nice shops (to us) in town, and prices were sky high, yet we believe them when they say you can buy almost anything if you have enough money in the right place, from a new Buick to an alarm clock."
"We don't have such a bad deal here," Morgan concluded, with a softball league, post office, movies three nights a week, and showers fed by clean, trucked in water.
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