About Me

My photo
In 1943 I was drafted into World War 11 right out of Madison High School, Rochester, NY. This is my story as told in the letters I wrote home. They’re all here, all 192 of them. Spend some time with me as I describe my experiences in basic training and then off to war. They were written in an attempt to help me feel close to my family and to let them know what was going on in my life. It’s the first time I was away from home and I have to confess that I was homesick. My folks were Esther and Jacob Kaplow. We were four children in this order: Arnette, Ruth, Bob, and myself.

Train to Camp Croft

Ben leaves Camp Upton Induction Center and is sent to Camp Croft, S.C. for basic training.

July 4th, 1943
Hello Everybody,

Boy, did I get a good night’s sleep last nite.  Best sleep I ever had.  I slept for 10 1/2 hrs.  But I guess I deserved it, because I’ve just traveled 21 hrs. on a day coach, not a pullman.  We started Friday nite & got into Camp Croft, S. Carolina in the afternoon.  
Camp Croft is an Infantry Training Replacement Center.  But this does not mean I’m in the Infantry.  I’m just getting my 13 weeks basic training here & then I’ll be shipped out again.  It’s located near a jerk town called Spartanburg.  It’s a very big camp, from what I’ve seen of it all ready.
Last nite we packed all our clothes & accessories in our locker.  I need hangers but first I’ll see if I can get them in the P.X.  If not I want about 10 wooden ones.  Also canvas slippers, & a package of jeep notes.  You don’t have to send this stuff rite away until I see about the hangers.  We also got our field equipment - Pup tent, pack, cartridge belt, & rifle.  The hardest part about dressing in the morning is putting on our leggings that lace up.  But I suppose we’ll be experts soon.  
I don’t like the chow system as well here as the one at Upton.  At Upton we had it cafeteria style with trays divided into sections.  Here everything is put on the table & passed around with one plate.  It’s a smaller mess hall & more crowded.
But to get back to the trip, I always said join the Army & see the country.  Who would have thought that I would ever see Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, & the red clay of Virginia & the Carolina’s.  I never knew Virginia was so big.  It must have taken us 10 hrs to cross it.  And who said there were no more frontiers.  You should see the wilderness of Virginia and the shacks that the people live in!  We also saw all the big plants of the Tobacco Companies, Lucky Strike, Old Gold, etc. 
They say the drilling here is going to be tough.  Our Sarge at Upton said Upton will seem like a Country Club.  I haven’t received any of your mail yet,  but it should reach me by Tues or Wed.  I may not write you every nite so I can catch up on my other mail.  The Sarge just taught us how to roll a pack.

Ben's family sent "Jeep Notes" with military cartoons to make writing home more fun!


July 3, 1943   Ben is at Camp Upton, Long Island, an induction center for new soldiers.  He’s waiting to be transferred to a permanent camp for basic training.  Perhaps there’s a touch of home sickness here.  Eventually, he will be going to Camp Croft, South Carolina.
Front of Picture Post Card:  “I could die dancing with you Amanda.”

July 2, 1943   
Friday  Morning

Well, it finally looks as if I’m going.  Not sure but hope so.  If you don’t hear from me, you’ll know why.  Why in hell don’t you write. 

K.P. not hard

To make a call home, soldiers had to stand in line for the call to be put through by an operator.  Many times Ben wouldn’t wait because the line was just too long.
Camp Upton
July 2, 1943 
Thurs Nite
I’m too tired to write much - I just had K-P again - 14 hrs of work.  I was in the cafeteria putting stuff on the boys’ trays.  Also scrubbing & cleaning.  I don’t mind the work, but it’s the hours that kill me.  I think I’ll go get a haircut now.  I was thinking of calling you up but the line was too long.  If I get the chance I might call about noon or 7:00 p.m. But don’t count on it cause I don’t want to disappoint you.


1100 Recruits Today

We begin to see Ben’s sense of humor when he writes, “ Boy I get such a kick out of saluting the officers, They haven’t taught us how to salute but I get a thrill or rather a kick of making them salute us back."
June 30, 1943
 Wed Nite
Hi Civilians,

How’s the world treating you? Are you still bothered by ration trouble? You are? Well join the Army. Boy, did we have a swell dinner today. It was super. But that was the only meal since I’ve been here that they wouldn’t give us second helpings. Expecting more recruits, so they said. About 1100 came in today, so I should go soon. Practically all the fellows that I came with have left already. Perhaps, you’re wondering why I’m so interested on leaving this camp. When I’m at permanent camp I get Sundays off and every nite. Here, we are on call at any time.
 Boy I get such a kick out of saluting the officers, They haven’t taught us how to salute but I get a thrill or rather a kick of making them salute us back. I was going to the U.S.O. dance tonite. I’m even all dressed up, the first time I have been. But I just found out I have to have a ticket to get in and they’re all given out. And the line to get into the show is a mile long. “Bombardier” was playing - “Five Graves to Cairo” is playing more - So I might go down to the P.X. again after I finish this. I had an easy job today boy. I was sent down to another P.X., the one where the warehouse that supplies the other P.X.’s is located. All I did most of the time was sit on my fanny. I just unloaded a truck of cigarettes, candy, matches, and loaded two small trucks.
The rest of the time, I sat out back in the shade. I seem to be getting all the easy jobs. You should see all the Nestle Bars and Gum they got. Maybe I should send some home to you! Incidentally you should see the two WAC’s (Women’s Army Corps) I was working with! Surprised? Maybe I forgot to tell you that there’s a WAC camp right next to us. It’s the funniest thing to see them driving big (great big) trucks around while we had to shell peas in the kitchen.
 I also swept all the office and overheard an officer dictate a letter going to Rochester. You should see the beautiful civilian gals working in that office. WOW. Especially the two that were in the Canteen. I actually enjoyed my job today. Who wouldn’t? While I was at the Canteen, a prisoner escaped from the prison down the road. All of a sudden there was a lot of shouting and running MPs with the siren in the background. They finally caught him. They’ll probably make him eat every bit of food from all 3 meals. That’s about the worst. Don’t forget to write. (Regards to everybody. I don’t feel like writing to anybody.)
Private Ben

Prisoners drafted.

This is Ben’s 4th letter home describing his experiences at Camp Upton. He says, “Now, don’t get the idea that I’m homesick just cause I write you every night, because I’m not. I just thought you’d like to know what’s happening to me.” He claims that he’s not homesick but he probably is.
            Camp Upton, Long Island, NY

 June 29, 1943
 Tues Nite
 Hi Everybody,
Well, as usual, I’m tired tonight, but who wouldn’t be, especially after 14 hours on K.P. (Kitchen Patrol). Yep, they woke us up at 3:45 a.m. Monday night & marched us down to the mess hall. But I had an easy job. I was in the washing room & my job was to empty the bowls & cups, put them in a rack & shove them on to another guy who put them through the sterilizer. We would only be busy during meals & loafed most of the rest of the time except when we had to scrub the walls & scrub the floors (about 15 to 20 times)

I find that the Corporals are toughest of the lot. Always yelling & giving orders. But we had one swell corporal who told us confidentially to take it easy, don’t rush & don’t kill yourself. During a lull period, he took about 12 of us out to sweep the walk around mess hall. It was the funniest thing to see. We were all in a row, each sweeping what the fellow ahead had already swept. About every 30 seconds, we would stop & talk until we would see a non-com & then we would start again. When we went around once, we started back the way we had come. Then we started sweeping dirt up on the sidewalk for the fellow behind to sweep.

The only thing wrong with K.P. was that we were on our feet all day, even when we were loafing. If the Sarge finds you sitting down, he gives you a hard job. One kid, the kid who was put in charge of our group coming from Rochester started shooting off his mouth. He got 7 days K.P. You know, it’s funny the people you meet in the Army. Hawaiians, Philippines, Chinese, etc. In the group that I was working with was a Spaniard & 4 fellows who have served time in Prison. One fellow told me he had tried to escape but someone squealed & he was caught. Then he beat up the stool pigeon. It was funny when they were discussing which prisons were best.

I finally got to the P.X. (Post Exchange) tonight. It’s swell. Everything is cheaper than hell. I suddenly remember today that I have lost contact with the world. That I haven’t heard a radio or read a paper, so I bought one tonight. Then I found out that I don’t give a damn what’s going on in the world (excuse the language, but you should hear the way it’s thrown around camp.)

Maybe you would be interested in the way they make the food. They have great big bowls. When they make salad, they dip the salad dressing out with their bare hands & mix it up with their arms. I don’t think the food is very sanitary. One day I found a piece of gum in my bread pudding.

I don’t think it’s entirely the governments fault that there is a waste of food at Camp. They have signs up telling you not to take what you don’t want. And they have such a big variety that you can let a couple of courses go by & still fill up. But it’s deceiving, you think you can eat it all, but you find that you can’t, I know, it’s happened to me. And if there are any leftovers, they use them over. I think that the men would eat their share if the food tasted better (sorry, but I ran out of ink, but to continue). Since I’ve been here, they had coffee, cocoa, & Iced tea & they all tasted lousy - also egg plant, some tomato crap & other stuff. I must admit however that some of the food is delicious, especially the desserts, & we get a fairly decent meal, most of the time. They had Virginia Baked Ham today but I didn’t eat any. That & Bacon is probably the only meat that I haven’t eaten.

My sunburn is getting better now. The fellows had me worried for a while. They said that if a sunburn is bad enough they put you in the hospital & don’t pay you for the time you’re in. But I’m not worried about it now. This morning, my stomach didn’t feel too good so I asked the Mess Sarge for a BiCarb & that fixed me up fine.

Well, it’s getting close to 11:00 now, so I better get to bed. Now, don’t get the idea that I’m homesick just cause I write you every night, because I’m not. I just thought you’d like to know what’s happening to me. Don’t forget to write to me. It will reach me if I move on & I hope I move out tomorrow.



Eat meat & butter!

Ben describes his experiences of settling in on his second day at the Army’s Reception Center. The excitement prevents him from sleeping even though he’s tired. He’s looking forward to going to permanent camp. Envelope Addressed from Camp Upton, Long Island, N.Y.

June 27, 1943
Monday Night
Boy, I’m tired but I can’t sleep. It’s my own fault too. I was goldbricking today. I had easy jobs all day. In the morning, all I had to do was help clean up barracks - move all the beds all around a few times - sweep - clean every nook & cranny - cleaner than home ever was - blankets folded a certain way - duffle bags put just rite.

In the afternoon we went to the Officer’s club where they're building a tennis court. In 3 hrs I dug 3 post holes & took a sun bath the remainder of the time. I fell asleep & have I got a case of sunburn. Everything went pretty well today. Wasn’t as sweaty although the sun was out all day. Boy if Grandma could see the food I eat - meat & butter.

Couldn’t get in U.S.O. tonight - Officer’s dance. Most of the bunch that came down with me pulled out today. I got hopes to go Tuesday. Disregard first letter & write me - Didn't go on K.P. (Kitchen Patrol) - next barrack did. I think it’s our turn tonight.

Finally got my equipment arranged - Winter in one duffle bag & other equipment in other bag. Wish I had a smaller furlough bag but I guess this will be alright. - P.X. (Post Exchange) was closed all day so haven’t spent a single cent in camp - except New York City. Swell bunch of fellows here - make friends with everybody - but non-coms are tough as hell. Give my best to everybody & write me & hope that I leave for Permanent Camp tomorrow.

IQ tests, Got shots

Ben arrived in Camp Upton, Long Island, NY yesterday. This is his first letter home describing all his experiences as a new soldier. With all the excitement of being away from home for the first time, he marvels, “I’m not even homesick.”

Page 1: Sunday Night


June 27, 1943


Excuse the pencil but my pen is somewhere in the jumble of clothes in my two duffle bags. Boy has it been hot today. In fact, it was a very hectic day. You probably received my card telling about the grueling train ride where we all looked like miners. We got into New York City & were switched all over N.Y. - underground. Ate in Childs - Took Pennsylvania Railroad to Camp Upton - which took a few hours. Got into camp about 11:00. Got into bed about 12:00. Had about 5 hrs sleep. Then had breakfast -

Page 2: Then we were on the go from about 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. - We took our I.Q. tests the first thing. We were so g-- d--- dirty & sweaty & sleepy but I still got 120 on it, I think, if I interpreted the card right. You need 115 to qualify for O.C.S. (Officer Candidate School) Then we were issued 2 bags of uniforms & equipment. What a job. My shirts are too big but the jacket seems all right. Everybody is crazy about the “zoot suit” fatigue suits. They’re light green, & the hats!!!!

Page 3: They’re perfect. Then we had the needle. - They call it the “hook” out here. My arm didn’t hurt before but it’s beginning to throb now. At first the army shoes were comfortable but my feet are tired now although the veteran of our barracks (9 days in Camp) told us we wouldn’t trade them after a while. We finally got a shower this evening & got the soot out of our hair. Everything is rush-rush out here with strict

Page 4: rules for everything. Right now I’m writing in the writing room off the barracks because it’s lights out for the sleeping rooms. I’m going to be pretty brief because the Corp told us he was going to wake some of us up at 3:15 for K.P. (Kitchen Patrol). I’m sending home the Insurance & Bond forms - just keep them for safety. I didn’t have time to read the back of the Insurance paper but from what the man told us -

Page 5: the rates will go up after the war but still way below civilian insurance. In from 1 to 5 yrs. we will have to renew our clauses & change it to 20 yr. paid up life or 30 yr. & there’s one other alternative but I forgot it. Tell Bob to wear old clothes - something light weight that won’t stick when sweaty - not white for heavens sake. You should have seen the shirts on that trip,

Page 6: we looked like hell. The army gives you as personal equipment besides your other equipment - a plastic razor, toothbrush, shaving brush. I think I’ll send home Louie’s gift & put the stuff in the one that wraps around the waist - When I get settled at a camp maybe you can send that small toothbrush holder. I think I’ll like some slippers like Bob’s too. If I haven’t gotten a plastic dog tag holder by that time - you can send one.

Page 7: I’m undecided whether to keep my big bag or not - maybe when I arrange the jumble in my duffle bag & find room - I’ll send it home - But it won’t be any good home so I might as well keep it.

We are always sweating out here no matter what uniform we wear - we can wear fatigues all the time - Our undershirts are soaked - Even our bills in the money belts are all wet. - Don’t write to me at this camp because they told us they won’t allow it. You know, I wasn’t

Page 8: nervous or tense at any time during the trip. In fact, right now I’m not even homesick - Maybe you’ll resent that but this is a good experience - have a lot of fun. The food is damn good, too. Imagine!!! I ate butter, milk & meat at the same meal!!!! I wouldn’t touch the bacon though. I’ll say one thing. They sure fill you up. You’re not even hungry when you go to Mess. Well, I’m getting tired, so I’ll say goodbye & I’ll drop a line when possible.


Private Ben

Postcard, Camp Upton

A gentle person, Ben’s letters to his folks were carefully written with descriptions of his experiences. His concern was to avoid worrying them, so he includes some humor as he keeps them informed. And he definitely shows his appreciation for all the letters and packages sent to him by family and friends.
The viewer will see Ben’s growth from an innocent, young Jewish boy who begins basic training to become a soldier, and who, as time passes, will be exposed to the atrocities of war. So many soldiers had the same experiences, but Ben chronicled his.
June 26, 1943 Ben is at Camp Upton, Long Island, an induction center for new soldiers. He will be transferred to a permanent camp for basic training.

This card is the beginning of Ben’s many informative letters to his family. http://www.benkaplow.com

Front of Picture Post Card: “They sure make you feel at home here!”
Ben, writes on the front, “Like Hell!”

Back of Post Card - Addressed to Ben’s mother

June 26, 1943
Hi Everybody,
Arrived in New York after a train ride that was really funny - We all looked like miners out of the mines.

Intro to Florence

Dear Reader,

This is the beginning of a blog to honor my husband, Pfc Benjamin Kaplow, who died on March 23, 2007. It will include transcriptions of all his letters mailed to and saved by his family. I shall forever regret that they were never read by me in our 53 years of marriage. Yet, now I am able to go back to a time in Ben's life, long before I knew him, to meet this 18 year old and learn why he captured my heart. Ben and I were always a team. Even now, he as a young soldier of 18 years stays by my side into this period of my life of 75 years. Apart? Not really!

So for over two years I, along with the help of many volunteers, created Ben's web site. Because I couldn't choose which letters to omit, plus I added photos, videos, and historical links, as well as the readings done by students at Brighton High School and the University of Rochester, both in Rochester, NY, the site has become huge. Hence, the reason for this blog.

Those who prefer the letter transcriptions may read them here. And a visit to the pages of the web site for its historical information is available, too.

Don't hesitate to comment on how I'm doing. The web site was a demanding learning curve for me. Now with the blog, I'm venturing into some new curves while you will be adventuring with Ben at his web site or this blog.