Letter from John (Jack) W. Moses to Virginia Manning regarding his experience fighting in France, 22 December 1944
John (Jack) W. Moses wrote this letter while convalescing in England to Virginia Manning in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In the letter, he briefly discusses his enlistment and eventual landing at the Western Front in France. Although he does not go into detail, he describes combat as a “nightmare of horror, misery, and suffering.” He recounts how he was unexpectedly wounded by a shell in which “a piece of shrapnel from it entered my left hip, fracturing the pelvic bone.” He goes on to explain his experiences being evacuated while wounded. His letter provides glimpses into the medical side of World War II as well as the process of evacuation. He describes to Virginia the pastoral beauty of France despite being ravaged by war. He closes his letter with a fond recollection of their first meeting and his hope to see her once the war ends. At the time this letter was written, by the close of 1944, the Allied powers enjoyed multiple victories on several fronts against the Axis powers. The tide of war had definitely changed.
John W. Moses to Virginia Manning, 22 December 1944. William Sinkler Manning Papers. Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
December 22, 1944
I’ll bet you’re surprised to get a letter from me, aren’t you? I’ve often though about writing you, so now that I have a lot of time on my hands I decided to do it.
A great deal has happened to me since I saw you that delightful Sunday afternoon. To begin with, I joined the 100th Division at Fort Bragg and stayed with them in N.C. till the last part of September when we left there to come overseas. We went first to a camp “somewhere on the east coast” where we stayed long enough for me to pay my second visit to New York, which I enjoyed very much. Our division then took an ocean voyage to France, where our troubles really began. Two weeks after we landed we went into combat. I won’t say much about combat except that it’s a nightmare of horror, misery, and suffering.
One afternoon, as I was improving my
foxhole and getting it ready to spend the night in, a shell burst near me and a piece of shrapnel from it entered my left hip, fracturing the pelvic bone. By the way, that’s why my handwriting is so poor, as I’ve been flat on my back ever since and I have to write in this position. Also, please pardon the stationery as it’s all I can get.
I was hit on November 19 and such is the process of evacuation that I’ve been in eight hospitals and aid stations since then. In the third station they removed the shrapnel and sent me to a general hospital, where after about a week, they sewed me up. I stayed there about two weeks and a half until the doctor thought I was healed enough to take the stitches out. He took ‘em out and next day started me on my trip, through many more evacuation hospitals, which finally ended me up here in England. I rode on so many ambulances, trains, planes and stretchers that, by the time I got here, it was necessary to sew me
up again. This was a disappointment, ‘cause I had seen the old holes where they sewed me the first time and wondered what they’d use this time. I’m getting along O.K. now though and each day the pain is less and less. Hope to get up in a couple of weeks or so. For the first eleven days, and for three days this week, they gave me penicillin shots in the arm. The first series, during the first eleven days, these shots were spaced every three hours, day and night, and how I hate needles!
Looking over this letter, I find I’ve spent too much time and space talking about all that stuff. I’m sorry. I’ll try to talk about more pleasant things.
The service in our good army hospital is wonderful. Our nurses are true “angels of mercy.” The services of the Red Cross are wonderful too. They furnish us with candy, gum, stationery, cigarettes (I don’t smoke) and all manner of other things.
I’m glad they sent me to England to convalesce. France is interesting but it’s in such a sad state now that it depresses me when I think of it. It’s by far the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen though. One of our boys said “the whole country looks like a golf course or a country club,” and so it does. Even in fall and winter the farms are a beautiful green. Most of the forests and woods are planted by man and the trees seem to be mostly evergreens—firs, cedars, etc. Of course, all the cities appear very “ancient” to us and are entirely different from ours at home. I was disappointed in Paris and Marseille. I guess I like modern things.
The food they serve here is swell especially after having been in combat.
Some of the boys in our ward will be going back to the U.S. soon. If the doctors decide it will take more than four months to get well they’ll send you home. I guess I just missed going
I often think of that nice Sunday afternoon I spent with you. I wish I could have met you sooner than I did, because the whole time I was at Camp Croft I wanted to know someone like you. Of course, my life at that particular camp was such that I don’t know when I could have seen you. That was my first training cycle there, and there were still about eight weeks to go before it ended. If I had been there to begin another cycle it would have been easy, since it would have just been a repetition of the same things over again. It used to make me mad though—there I was, just back from overseas, it was summertime, and I wanted to enjoy being back, but that darnded ole’ Camp Croft would keep me in every night, getting ready for the next day. Oh well, I never was or never will be happy as long as I’m in the army. Wish you could have seen me as a civilian. What a life that is!
Sure wish this war would hurry and end. When I get back I’d like to go back to Spartanburg for a while. May I come and see you?
I hope you have a swell Christmas. Please give my regards to your family and I wish you’d phone Mrs. Williams and tell her “hey” for me.
P.S. Lt. McNulty wants to know if you know Helen Vogel in Spartanburg. He says tell her hello if you do.
Standard 5-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the economic boom-and-bust in America in the 1920s and 1930s, its resultant political instability, and the subsequent worldwide response.
Indicator 5-4.4 Explain the principal events related to the United States’ involvement in World War II--including the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the invasion in Normandy, Pacific island hopping, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and the role of key figures in this involvement such as Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Adolf Hitler.
Standard 7-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and effects of world conflicts in the early twentieth century.
Indicators 7-5.5 Explain the causes, key events, and outcomes of World War II, including the German, Italian, and Japanese drives for empire; the role of appeasement and isolationism in Europe and the United States; the major turning points of the war and the principal theaters of conflict; the importance of geographic factors; the roles of political leaders; and the human costs and impact of the war both on civilizations and on soldiers.
Standard 7-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of international developments in the post–World War II world, including the impact of the Cold War on the world.
Indicator 7-6.1 Summarize the political and economic transformation of Western and Eastern Europe after World War II, including the significance of the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Nations, the Warsaw Pact, and the European Economic Community (EEC).
Standard GS-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the effects of economic, geographic, and political interactions that took place throughout the world during the early twentieth century.
Indicator GS-5.4 Explain the causes, key events, and outcomes of World War II, including the German, Italian, and Japanese drives for empire; the role of appeasement and isolationism in Europe and the United States; the major turning points of the War and the principal theaters of conflict; the importance of geographic factors during the War; and the political leaders during the time.
Standard USHC-8: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of World War II on United States’ foreign and domestic policies.
Indicator USHC-8.2 Summarize and illustrate on a time line the major events and leaders of World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge and the major battles at Midway, Normandy, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa; the turning points of the war for the Allies; the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and the roles of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Charles de Gaulle.