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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.

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

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