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CLARENCE "JOE" HAMM
Joe Hamm's wife, like so many others, kept her the letters written home by her husband during the war.  Some of them are reproduced below and appear just as he typed them, except for the omission of a paragraph that would be embarrassing to the subject or their family.
France 10 June 1944
We've been having very nice weather here and the country is quite similar to Ireland and England except for the lack of any hills to speak of---it's a rolling country something like the country up around Richlands [New Jersey]. We've been pretty busy here and I couldn't begin now to tell you what that little word busy takes in. I can say one thing, darling---the guy that said war is hell certainly could have elaborated no end without exaggerating a damned bit.

France 12 June 1944
You know honey, today has been so nice as far as the weather is concerned that it's hard to believe there are men being killed a short way off. I'd give all the Francs I own rite [sic] now to be able to hear a news broadcast or read some newspapers and see just how this war's going over here. We have no way of fully realizing how troops are doing all over the continent and are more or less in the dark.

France 15 June 1944
I see by the latest news that the invasion has been going better than they figured which I was glad to hear---being without news of any kind is more annoying than you'd think---like being stuck off in some hole with no means of communicating with ye olde outside world. Say baby, since the last note I've had a chance to sample a few of the various French cognacs, wines and ciders and though they aren't bad---they aren't too good either but then I never did care too much for anything stronger than beer you know, so my taste is probably along the mild line. I haven't been in exactly the same position as the message center in the picture I sent you way back there with Wills1 shown in the prone position but we have had several nice setups in barns and houses that weren't too bad. I've managed to pick up a few little odds and ends I'll send you some time as souvenirs of this damned place, although I'd just as soon forget the whole thing and come home to my darling. I'm writing this letter on a Feb. 22 issue of the Nat. Geographic so you can see I will keep my literary mind active as hell while I'm here in this beautiful chateau which isn't as beautiful as the pictures would have you believe. Tell everyone I'm doing fine, and eating plenty and getting my exercise regularly. The weather is nice and the French are treating us very well.

France 17 June 1944
I'm still eating pretty regular honey and getting a hunk of sleep here and there but the worst thing about it all is the fact that my boots and clothes have remained on my feet and back since we started from the airport and when we do get a chance to wash up a bit it doesn't feel right to put the same stinkin' shirt back on. My hair is like an old door mat from wearing this steel all the time and not having a chance to wash my head. Baby, you'd be surprised how different things are here on the spot that you see or have seen in newsreels. I've seen a thousand and one pictures of planes bombing and strafing troops and towns but it has an entirely different effect on you when you're down looking up. We've also been thru several towns that the Germans were shelled out of and you wouldn't believe the thoroughness of our artillery and bombers. They don't miss a house or building in laying down their barrage. Each and every store etc. is just a shell when they get thru with it. We're getting the Stars and Stripes pretty regularly now and the news comes in daily so we're up on things to a certain extent but it still isn't anything like sitting back in a nasty old armchair reading the Gazette and figuring the enemys next move like the old days. Say honey, Mann and I picked up a Nazi flag apiece the other day and we'll try to send them home later on--they're pretty things---all red with a black swastika on a white circle.

France 19 June 1944
Yesterday we got our first mail and I hit the jackpot for seventeen big letters. Honey I noticed in the last letters that you had a peculiar feeling of something about to happen and I'm wondering if you had that feeling the times I've laid in a ditch or trench or on the open ground. I've laid on my face quite a number of times while enemy artillery has been falling all around me---not knowing where the next shell would fall and each time all I could do was think of you darling and say your name over and over. I tried to pray but couldn't actually---I guess in a way I was praying when I laid there thinking of us and wondering if the next barrage would get to me or not. I've never been so scared in all my life as I have been a few times here---not anytime in jump school or any other place---when you're being shelled from the air by planes or blasted by artillery it's something you can't fight---just lie there wondering whether it'll get you or not. It's alrite [sic] when you're being fired on by a sniper or rifleman because then you can fire back on equal terms. Of course after a few days, when our artillery came in and opened up we stopped getting shelled like we had been the first few days. You know baby I told you about seeing Tull? That was funny---our plane jumped and before I'd hardly had time to see where the enemy were firing from---the air was like the fourth of July, filled with varicolored tracers---when I hit the water. We had jumped in an area flooded by the Jerry and I was in marshy water up to my neck struggling to get out of my chute which the water had tightened up so I couldn't unfasten it. I was helpless and felt any minute I'd be jumped on by Jerry and his pals. I swore a thousand swears for not having that quick release harness.

After struggling until I was fagged out I finally managed to get my knife out and cut the harness off. All my equipment was soaked until it was twice as heavy as it ordinarily would be and this made it a fight to make my way to dry land. After awhile I found a couple of the fellows and we began looking for the rest of the guys so we could get organized and this was when I ran into Tull who had also jumped in the same area and was looking for the rest of the 507th. We saw each other several times after that in the ensuing days of either ferreting out the Bosche or keeping out of his way. It was only a few hours after dragging myself out of that damned marsh that I aimed at my first German and saw him go sailing from his motorcycle as a machine gun opened fire on him. Since then we've seen many a dead one and possibly more live ones since they waste no time in giving up if they think they're the least bit outnumbered or out-fought. You'd be surprised at how happy most of them are when they're taken prisoner and how willing they are to give any information that might help us. The few pure German soldiers that are scattered thru out their troops are more or less inclined to fight to a finish but even they won't stick it out when they're outnumbered.

France 22 June 1944
Honey I wish I could say I was fighting this war sitting on my can at home. I've kicked that can a thousand times for not letting them take me instead of going to them. You surely hit the nail on the head when you said I had filled out. You should see me---summer underwear, long Johns, OD's, French workmans jacket, field jacket and jump suit---yessir I've really filled out---and as for looks oh baby how you lied---dirty as anything could be, I haven't had a shower since the weeks before DDay---my hair is down my back and they're calling me Ish [meaning unknown] cause I look just like him, the way my helmet has matted my hair down in front and flat on top. I'll say one thing honey if you can love me like I am now you'll always love me cause I shouldn't ever be any worse. Incidentally this writing paper is a captured notebook that one of the better type supermen gave us. I've got a few coins both French and German and a coupla insignias from a German Lt's coat and hat that I'll enclose.

France 23 June 1944
(Answer to letter written on DDay)
I was somewhere in France alright honey---calling to you while the shells flew and I chewed the weeds trying to get closer to good ma earth. At about 230am I went out the door and started struggling in the water and believe me honey that m/t [sic, unknown meaning] was working over time trying to contact you for sympathy and companionship while I was alone. Did you see those tracers coming at us from all directions as we came down? Quite a change ever the usual jump.

France 25 June 1944 Sunday
It's really a beautiful day here and for the moment it's very quiet with only the far away putt putt of a piper cub spotting enemy installations. The cub and everything rite now could very easily be home and the little seaplane messing around if you keep your eyes closed and think real hard. If you'll look on your map at St. Marie Eglise and note the railroad west of there you'll have the approximate spot I hit in. All the area was flooded by the Germans in preparation [sic] for our jump. The day after the jump the group that we'd gathered together started down that rr [railroad] and turned west at the first road and it was here that I told you I saw that Jerry motorcyclist bite the dust. We fought our way south to Chef DuPont during the three days following the jump and I wrote you from there while we took a days rest. We went deeper into the south by way of Beuzeville La Bastille where the engineers put a bridge in at night for us to cross. After seeing things like those combat Engrs. and QM truck companies every branch of the service takes on an air of importance---there's no bragging about we're the best or they're the better---it's one for all now---everyone pats the other guy on the back and gives him credit for everything he does. Something must have happened along the line because we didn't get to write that last minute letter saying we were going into battle---we can write only of things after they are 14 days old---why I don't know. At any rate you know I'm ok so that's all that really matter---to both of us.

France 27 June 1944
Honey I want you to have Harry get me an automatic pistol as soon as possible preferably a 45 so I can get GI ammo for it but at any rate I want one good side arm of some kind before our next operation. Have Harry do it as soon as possible and don't hesitate to give him enough money cause I don't want to go thru that feeling of helplessness while trying to get a rifle untangled from my maze of equipment.

France 29 June 1944
Etienville was the town which our airforce and artillery blasted into a ghost town---a complete ruin when we went thru---not one building of any size shape or form did I see which hadn't been sullied by the fingers of our fire. I'll take part of that back as I did see a Chic Sale3 which to all appearances was unscathed. You mentioned Capt Snow in your last letter---he's now a Co. Comm. in the 1st Bn. and Lt Tracey is our Commo. We got Capt. Abe back as Co. Comm. a few days after the jumps as Capt Driggers has an arm shot up so everyone's happy again. We miss Capt Snow but Lt Tracey and Capt Abe'11 see that these eggheads around here give us a fair deal.

[paragraph censored]

I feel much better already-wonderful what expression of ones personal feelings will do to bolster one. Like being able to tell the boss off without losing your job---almost. Tell everyone I'm having a wonderful time and wish they were here---instead of me.

- - - ENDS - - -

JUMPMASTER FOOTNOTES:

1 - Probably John H. Wills, also of Hq Hq

2 - Charles Chic Sale was a famous comedian in vaudeville and the movies. In 1929 he published a small book, The Specialist ISBN 0-285-63226-4 which was just earthy enough to be a hugely popular "underground" success, and just tactfully worded enough to not risk being banned. Its entire premise centered on sales of outhouses, touting the advantages of one kind or another, and labeling them in "technical" terms such as "one-holers", "two-holers", etc.[48] See The Specialist by Charles (Chic) Sale (as told in 1929). Over a million copies were sold. In 1931 his monolog "I'm a Specialist" was made into a hit record (Victor 22859) by popular recording artist Frank Crumit (music by Nels Bitterman). As memorialized in the "Outhouse Wall of Fame",[49] the term "Chic Sale" became a rural slang synonym for privies, an appropriation of Mr. Sale's name that he personally considered unfortunate. Id.

Source: Wikipedia
 

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