About Me

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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.


Ben is at the University of Connecticut in the  Army Specialized Training Program.  He reveals to us the insecurity of an 18 year old who, in this letter to his sister, is bolstering his courage for another day.  Here, asking a girl to dance was more difficult for him perhaps than the courageous effort that earned him his Bronze Star.

November 14, 1943   
To sister, Ruth.
Saturday Night

Dear Ruth, 
The reason I addressed this letter to you was that the subject of it concerns you more than anyone else.  First I want to state that I’m just a coward, one of the worst.  I’d always suspected it but now I know it to be true.

I’m writing this letter in bed, because I can’t wait until morning to get it off my mind.  I went to Willimantic today, took my pants in to be tailored & went inquiring about  radium hands for my watch.  Then I met the parents of the fellow that sleeps over me and had supper with them.  (chicken, incidentally).  I then proceeded to the show.

After the show, I went to the Y -- which is now the U.S.O.  It’s one of the most hospitable that I’ve been in.  Friendly atmosphere, movies on sports, coffee and cupcakes, pool, and --- dancing.  That’s why I’m writing this letter.  I almost feel ashamed to tell you about this.  I know I can dance, because I danced with you in New York, but I just didn’t have the courage to ask a girl to dance with me.  I wanted to; and I would make up my mind that I was going to.  Then just at the moment, I couldn’t do it.

I don’t know what it is.  Maybe I’m self conscious cause I don’t know so many steps.  But anyway I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just a coward.  And I’ve also come to the conclusion, & this is most important, that it won’t happen next Saturday night, not if I can help it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have told you all this, but I had to get it off my mind. Now don’t send me a letter bawling me out.

The weather here has been very changeable.  Yesterday it was cold.  Today it was warm.  Then it tried desperately to snow & now it’s getting cold again. Well, I guess I’ll get some shut eye.

Hopefully waiting for the salami (& maybe some hard rolls)


A Plot

Ben is at the University of Connecticut for A.S.T.P. school.  Student dorms left something to be desired in 1943.  Meeting girls on the train must have been fun for this 18 year old!

November 13, 1943
Storrs, CT
Dear Folks,
Just a brief note to let you know that I’m still around, physically at least. The night before last, it really got cold up here.  My room is situated on the North side of the building and we get all the benefits of the gale that blows through.  Even with all my blankets, I was cold.  I’m finally going into Willimantic to have my pants tailored, today.  Probably take in a show, too. 

We had a swell time on the train coming back.  We met a bunch of girls going back to a girl’s academy near Boston.  We were hoping Hartford would never come, but it finally did & we had to leave them.  They were hatching up some plot for not going to school.  They were going to telephone & say they missed the train & as a result, stay in Hartford overnight.

Boy, I’d like to drive over Clarissa Street now.  Must be wonderful.  Well, it’s time for class ---- so


Deep End

Ben is at  A.S.T.P. school    He writes about his near death experience in the pool without apparent anger toward the person who pushed him in.  Please click Ben’s name at the end of this letter to transfer over to the website page to listen to Florence’s unedited recording about another swimming experience.

University of Connecticut
November 5, 1943    

Dear Folks,
Well, yesterday I took over my new job as Platoon Leader.  As I’ve told you before, we have the Cadet system up here, whereby a Company Commander, First Sergeant, four Platoon Leaders, four Platoon Sergeants, & Squad Leaders are picked from the ranks.  I happened to be picked for one of the Platoon Leader jobs.  It isn’t much of a job.  I’m in charge of two sections (1 platoon) at every formation for two weeks.  Mostly it’s just marching them over to mess.  I didn’t like the idea before I started, but I don’t mind now.  My voice isn’t too adapted to giving commands though, it’s a little high.  I might have to take charge of two platoons for the parade on Saturday but I hope not.  I’d probably goof off.

Those fellows that I told you shipped out, didn’t do too bad at Fort Bragg.  They were all made Cadre & raised to Corporals.  Maybe I would have been better off if I’d gone with them.  They’re also getting 9 day furloughs.  I’m thinking of trying to get in the Air Corps.  I’d like to get in the Ground Crew, but that’s closed.  So I’d have to be accepted for an Air Cadet & then flunk out so I’d be sent to the Ground Crew.

I’ve heard from a pretty good source that they aren’t going to ship out anybody until after the furlough.  So it looks as if I’ll be home on Christmas day & then the following week for my furlough which starts the first of the year.  But don’t count on it too heavily.  You know how the Army works.  When you send the laundry back, tell me how long it takes & possibly what days to send it home.  I’ll probably have enough to send out when the other comes back.

I just got back from Physical Training & a close escape with death.  We have a new system whereby after about 40 minutes of exercise that takes everything out of you, we either take tumbling, boxing, or swimming, changing around every time, with a free period once a week, when we can do what we want.  Well today, we went swimming.  As I walked into the pool, one of the fellows, not knowing that I can’t swim, pushed me into the water, in the deep end.  I thought it was the end.  I held my nose & breath so I wouldn’t swallow water & I tried to kick my way to the top after hitting bottom.  But I didn’t rise.  Oh, the thoughts that went through my head.  I had a dream about three years ago, about that happening to me, and I thought this was it.  Finally they pulled me out.  I guess that theory of sink or swim didn’t work with me.  That’s about all for now.



Ben is at the University of Connecticut for A.S.T.P. school  which is the  (Army Specialized Training Program.)   Can you imagine him sending his laundry home?    Families did their share on the home front. Here Ben asks for his brother’s skates, and repeats the request over the next two months.  Finally he will show a degree of anger, a rarity for such a gentle person.

November 3, 1943    
Storrs, Connecticut

Dear Folks,
I haven’t received any word from you about the laundry, so I’m sending it on.  I hope you can take care of it.  I think I can last out until you send it back.  They have no facilities for washing anything like they did at Camp Croft, so I hope it doesn’t take too long.

Also, would you please send me Bob’s skates as soon as you can.  I don’t know where they are, but you’ll probably find them easy enough.  It’ll be something to do on Sunday and possibly for a little while on week nights.
Had a swell time over the weekend in Willi.  It’s getting a little colder up here now.  Hope it doesn’t get too cold.


"Section 8"

Ben is at the University of Connecticut for A.S.T.P. school  which is the  (Army Specialized Training Program.)  In 1943, the dormitories at UConn left a lot to be desired and the weather hit record low temperatures in that year.

October 27, 1943
Storrs, Connecticut
Hi Folks,

Just came back from chow and found seven letters waiting for me.  Here I’ve been complaining cause I’ve only been getting one or two a day & now I get seven.  But I take a look at the post marks and most of them were mailed between the 15th and 20th.  What a lousy system they’ve got here.  Only one mail call a day.  Now to answer a couple of your questions in those letters.  Send the Times Union and seeing as you can’t get regular shorts, get the V-type.  I’m feeling okay and I haven’t even had a cold since I’ve been here.

Monday night it started to drizzle & the wind started to blow and blow.  It seemed to increase by the hour until a gale was blowing & it got cold as hell.  By Tuesday it was really raining & colder yet.  You could hardly open the outside door, it was blowing so hard.  The rain kept up all night but stopped this morning.  It isn’t cold now either.  I only wore my O.D. shirt today.  My field jacket is being repaired by some women’s Church society up in the Community House.

All we are doing is studying & slowly going nuts.  We’re bucking for Section 8 (Instant Discharge) & I think we might get it.  Last night, the windy night, we were all studying at our desks which are in front of two windows.  It was sort of warm because the radiator is right in front of us.  One of the two fellows on the left opened the window a little.  I don’t know why, but me and another fellow objected, probably just to break the monotony.  So he then proceeds to open the window wide, top & bottom.  We do the same.  Then someone opens the door to create a draft.  Then pretty soon, someone goes out & opens the hall window until a gale is blowing through the room.  And there we were, sitting in our underwear.

Other fellows going down the hall were complaining about the freezing wind & wondering what the hell was going on, but no one would give in, until one of the other fellows broke down after getting his overcoat & winter hat.  (P.S., we turned off the heat, too)  Do you think that qualifies us for Section 8.  If not there are plenty of other incidents.

Alfonse is still in Georgia.  From letters I get from fellows & girls that I graduated with, most of the grads are in the Air Force, Navy or A.A.A.,(Anti Aircraft Artillery)  but I haven’t  heard of anybody in the Infantry.  Tell Madeline I’m sorry I haven’t time to answer her card but it’s sorta impossible.  Besides I have seven letters to write to people that have congregated for the past two weeks.


Tough Courses

Ben is at the University of Connecticut.  We wonder if he had any science courses in high school.  In a prior letter he says some draftees with him at A.S.T.P. had already had some college courses.    Soon we learn that the A.S.T.P. program will be discontinued throughout the country. 

October 16, 1943
Storrs, Connecticut
Friday night
7:15 p.m.

Hi Folks,
There’s not as much to write about up here as there was at Camp Croft.  It’s just the same old grind day in and day out.  All we do is go to classes and study, just what I’m going to do when I finish this letter. 

I don’t mind telling you that most of the stuff is over my head.  It wasn’t too bad for the first couple of days, but now it’s completely over my head.  If they would give a little explanation before they started in, it wouldn’t be so bad.  But they don’t do it that way.  And for the fellows who have never had that particular subject, it’s just too bad.  And the books aren’t too easy either.

The teachers as a whole aren’t too bad, especially the Math and Chemistry, but our Physics teacher doesn’t know any more than some of the kids.  He’s a botany professor who gets all mixed up when doing problems on the board and as a result doesn’t do us any good.  Our English teacher piles on homework when she knows the other subjects are more important.  And in Military Science, we spent a couple of days rolling packs and pitching tents.  Seems silly.  We have about an hour to an hour & half of free time a day, which makes it kinda monotonous.

I don’t know what to tell you about the camera.  All I can say is that they don’t allow them in regular Army Camps.  Marion sent me an Eversharp pen today.  A gold-top one.  She really shouldn’t have done it cause it must be pretty expensive.  Well, I’ve got to get to my studies.