Albert Maxey Papers, 1942-1943
| Manuscripts Gifts 2009 | Front Page 2009 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2009
Fifty-three manuscripts, 4 October 1942Ė10 January 1943, letters and postcards sent by Private Albert Maxey to his parents, Mr. & Mrs. Eugene Maxey, offer a glimpse of the World War II military experiences of a young man from Glen Lyon, a northeastern Pennsylvania coal mining town, while enrolled in basic training and radio school at Camp Croft (Spartanburg, S.C.). | Manuscripts Gifts 2009 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
During basic training Maxey was assigned to Co. B, Thirty-second Infantry Training Battalion. Before reaching South Carolina, however, he penned a letter from New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, complaining to the folks at home of the food and about vaccinations that had left his arms sore. He expected to be shipped out soon and seemed optimistic that he would like the military.
Two days latter, 6 October 1942, he wrote for the first time from Camp Croft. "Well here I am way down South. I rode on the train for 27 hours. Iím the only boy from Glen Lyon here....I really donít know what branch of service Iím in but I believe it is the infantry. I will be here at least 8 weeks....Please donít worry about me because I really like it here....The food here is pretty darn good compared to New Cumberland....So far I really do like the army only the toughest 8 weeks of my life are just ahead of me."
Maxeyís letters from Camp Croft tell of the daily training regimen, food, and pastime activities about camp and in Spartanburg. He and other raw recruits were quarantined during their first week, and before they could leave camp they had to memorize the eleven articles of war, their serial number, and their rifle and bayonet number. His almost daily letters suggest that Albert excelled at the physical training - grenade and bayonet practice, hikes with backpack and rifle, and target practice - although it seems he had difficulty convincing his mother that he had gained weight since joining the military and actually was thriving on the exercise and rations. They also reflect a source of potential dissension with his mother, his ongoing relationship with a girlfriend who is never identified by name. On 14 October 1942 he wrote of his fears that his girlfriend may have taken a "4F" boyfriend during his absence, especially since he had yet to hear from her. But those fears were alleviated within several days when he boasted four days later of having received a box of homemade fudge from her. There are repeated requests for his folks to pass along his picture to her, and there is some discussion of his desire to marry after the war ends. "Why do you think Iím crazy for going with her," he asked his mother in a letter of 8 December 1942. "I guess when the folks get older they think a fellow is crazy for going with a girl. But when they were young they were just as bad."
Connections with the Polish community of the Glen Lyon area are immediately apparent in the letters. "I certainly would appreciate a couple perogi," he wrote on 16 October 1942, and there are frequent references to persons with Polish or other eastern European surnames as well as to St. Adalbert, Glen Lyonís Roman Catholic church whose membership was largely of Polish extraction. Albert was quick to reassure his mother that he was going to Mass and had sent home his rosary quite by accident when he left New Cumberland. Other letters promise her that he was not smoking but rather was selling the cigarettes that are mentioned periodically among the items he received in care packages and was awarded as prizes in contests at training camp. Similarly, on 3 November 1942, he wrote, "Donít worry about me drinking or going out with girls. I would never think of doing such a thing."
The Pennsylvanian apparently enjoyed life at Camp Croft, even though he did write several times that he hoped he would be assigned to a Northern camp once he finished his basic training and radio operator course. His letter of 21 October 1942 briefly mentions the airplanes that were seen frequently in the area since there were glider schools nearby. Letters of 31 October and 4 November 1942 comment on his proficiency as a sharpshooter. The earlier of the two notes that Maxey had come out third in his company, winning a medal with a score of 176 out of 200 - "If I would of made but two points higher I would of got a 3 day furlough and my transportation paid to and fro to Penna." - while the latter tells of his having been awarded a check by the colonel when his platoon was recognized for marksmanship scores. "I certainly am getting in shape here," he went on to say, "and I like it very much. The hours may be long, but I feel swell and I sleep like a log."
Once basic training ended, Albert Maxey began a separate period of training at Camp Croftís radio school where he was part of Co. B, Twenty-sixth Battalion. His first letter from radio school is dated 22 November 1942 but classes did not start until the following day. The first day of instruction was devoted to "dot & dash code," and he admitted, "boy it certainly is tough." Maxey seemed up to the challenge and on 25 November wrote, "Radio work is very interesting and although I will have to do a lot of night studying Iím sure Iíll be repayed for it. The only boys who are allowed to take up a radio course are the fellows who have a high I.Q. score on our test and how we made out in the radio test we had."
Camp Croft was home away from home to Albert Maxey not only for the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Yearís holidays, perhaps the first ones ever spent away from Glen Lyon, but for an even more important occasion, his twenty-first birthday on 12 December 1942. "Today I am a man," he wrote in a letter to his folks the following day. Once he finished radio school training, the young man awaited news of his transfer to another permanent camp, and during that time he was restricted and was not able to leave camp, write letters, or make or receive telephone calls. His final letter is dated 10 January 1943 and notes that it was being written and mailed surreptitiously.
The correspondence of Albert Maxey is augmented by three letters, 30 September and 18 and 24 October 43, written on stationery from Shaw Field (Sumter, S.C.) and also addressed to Eugene Maxey. While they are signed by a writer who identifies himself only as Ray, the return address on the envelopes indicates that they are from Airman First Class R.E. Schraeder, a member of a neighbor family in Glen Lyon. Ray Schraederís letters mention Albert, with whom he corresponded regularly and others who figure in Albertís letters but they provide no further evidence of Maxeyís wartime activities after leaving Camp Croft. Perhaps the most compelling comment in Schraederís letters is a single line in his 30 September dispatch - "Working in the mines is as dangerous as fighting in this war only the people donít realize it as such."