Smitty ~ Letter X

11th Airborne preparing to jump. (soldier turned around appears to be Smitty)

11th Airborne preparing to jump. (soldier turned around appears to be Smitty)

In Dobodura, New Guinea, the 457th began to notice severe shortages in their sugar supply.  As it turned out, there was a major boot-legging operation in progress.  With the absence of alcohol, the men felt ‘necessity would be the mother of invention’, but they were caught with their stills in production.  The makeshift liquor companies were immediately put out of business.

My father had other ideas.  Smitty’s ingenuity was unfailing.  He used to tell me, “If you think hard enough, there’s a solution to every problem.”  After years of having tended bar, this was going to  be right up Smitty’s alley.

Letter # 10 has been previously published by “Whistling Shade” magazine in 2007.  I submitted it during their war story inquiry.

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Letter X                                          “Jungle Juice”                                  Monday 7/17/44

Dear Mom,  The title of this letter, at first glance, will no doubt puzzle you, but I suspect at the end you will know more than you do now.  Before going any farther with this, allow me to explain the whys and wherefores of its origin and purpose.

The Army has been telling us, for some time now, that any day (they mean year), they are going to issue us hot, dry soldiers some beer.  They haven’t told us the percentages yet, but never fear, it will be 3.2.  In the meantime, we’re here in New Guinea patiently awaiting the day.  We know, because our eyes and nostrils do not lie, that there is good whiskey slyly floating about.  Try as we may to lay hold of some, as yet, none have succeeded. 

There is an old saying, told to me by a much older and wiser veteran of this man’s army that goes: “Take something away from a soldier and he will, in time, make or find a better substitute.”  Hence and forever after – Jungle Juice.

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To begin the making of this liquor substitute, one must first overcome a few minor details in order to secure the necessary equipment and ingredients.  First:  You may try to cultivate the friendship of the mess sergeant.  This is easily accomplished if one is well endowed with currency.  Second:  You may try getting on guard duty and taking a chance of getting the job of protecting the mess hall. (The odds against this working out is ten to one against you.)  This is the hard way of acquiring the friendship of the mess sergeant and we will continue.  With your new buddy’s help, you now have in your proud and cherished possession a quantity of raisins, dried prunes or apricots and some sugar.  (Very rarely will one come up with any yeast, so we will forget it.)

Now, we need something to put all this stuff into.  To make matters worse, it cannot be metal and it must be waterproof.  A nail barrel will do the trick, if we soak it in water, thereby allowing the wood to swell.  You could go to the supply sergeant and get a saw, hammer, nails and boards, but in taking this route, you risk your supplier discovering your idea and you will have to pay him off with the promise that, when finished, he will receive a share.  Not only is this undesirable, but now you will have to sit out in the hot sun and build a cask.  My first suggestion of a nail barrel will not only save you labor, but also add an extra drink of this wonderful alcoholic beverage.

Now, we are ready to begin.  Into the empty cask, put your fruit and sugar, making certain to add water.  With your hands, (clean ones are advisable) stir everything around while crushing some of the fruit with your fists.  This is what’s called the “rapid juice extraction process.”  When finished, cover the cask with a clean piece of linen long enough to drape over the side.  Here, you can also use a G.I. handkerchief or undershirt.  (This is just a sanitary precaution and it in no way affects the product.)

Now, dig yourself a hole (under your bunk preferably) large enough to receive the cask and conceal it.  This is a necessary precaution as the manufacture of Jungle Juice is frowned upon by the Army and especially you C.O. or Inspection Officer.  The finding of such might cause embarrassment.  This way it will only be found if someone should trip you C.O. and he inadvertently falls face down on the spot.

All you have to do at this point is use some self-control and patiently wait out the next two or three weeks as the fruit, sugar and water do their stuff.  We all know from experience that you will only sit out two weeks, so let’s get on with the last step.  Surely you have kept busy locating empty bottles and cleaning them, so dig up the cask.hootch-2bbottles-640x560

To accomplish the final phase, it is wise to get your mattress cover and put it over a clean, steel helmet.  You will find that the Army had supplied you with a damn good filter.  The whole parts stay on top and the liquid freely pours through, without blemish to the helmet.  Pour the juice into the bottles and seal with candle wax, making them air tight.  Here is the most difficult step because by this time, not only your curiosity, but your craving for a taste is so high — you’re almost completely out of control.  But, you must put your contraband away for one more week.

As the expected day approaches, I want to warn you to be on the lookout for newly acquired friends who start calling on you, regardless of the fact that they never came near you before.  Yes, you are suddenly becoming the most popular guy in camp.  When the hour approaches, marked as the time of reckoning, I would advise you to make up your mind that you are not going to finish it all in one sitting.  Actually, this precaution is really unnecessary, as the Jungle Juice will decide that for you.

I won’t describe the taste.  For some it is bitter and others say sweet.  No two batches are alike and in fact the Juice has no opposition.  Even its most adamant foes agree that for variety, the Juice has no equal.

This recipe is given free of charge.

I hope to hear your hiccupping in your next letter soon.  Your brewmeister son & never to be dry again,     Everett

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General Swing decided, after the stills were destroyed, to bring in ice cream machines and set up sports competitions.  Teams were made up for volleyball, softball and tackle football.  This proved not only to lift their spirits, but the activities kept them in top physical shape.

It always amazed me that such a letter as “Jungle Juice” made it through the censors without Smitty ever getting into trouble.  His little operation was never discovered.

Click on images to enlarge.

jumping school

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Military Humor –demotivational-poster-beer

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Farewell Salutes – 

Gilbert Berry – Northwood, OH; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Gerald Boutilier – St. Margaret’s Bay, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO, POW

Standing Guard

Standing Guard

Joseph Cox – Charlotte, NC; US Army, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Sgt. (Ret.28 years), Silver Star, Bronze Star

Alfred Doktor – Riverton, KS; US Army, Korea, E/187th RCT

Maurice Eatwell (102) – Greymouth, NZ; RNZ Army # 80776, WWII, 35th & 37th Field Batt.

Guy Luck – Cajun, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 457th Artillery/11th A/B Div.

Warren Mitchell – London, ENG; RAF, (beloved actor)

Thomas O’Grady – Newport News, VA; US Army, 503rd/11th Airborne Division

Melvin Smith – Waldwick, NJ; US Navy, WWII, submarine SSR 272 Red Fin

Leonard Sousa – Manchester, NH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Div.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on November 17, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, Letters home, SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 117 Comments.

  1. I just love his letters as it takes me far back to my days in officers training courses.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Supply and demand!!! I am certain he suddenly had friends coming out of the woodwork 😉 Loved reading this post…and love that people find ways where it may look like there are none!!
    Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day full of love and light! Thank you so much for the support you always show me, it is not unnoticed. Blessitude ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My Uncle John was an Army officer on Biak during the war . He had stories about the southern-raised sergeants making jungle juice . Great letter !

    Liked by 1 person

    • See, my dad wasn’t the only one getting thirsty, eh?!! Any stories about it to tell us, Dan?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well , Uncle John was known as the smartest of his siblings . He was an army officer before the Pearl Harbor attack . He was assigned to the Tan Foran (?) racetrack near San Francisco for guard duty when the local Japanese were rounded up for shipment to camps . John was an Army lawyer . On Biak , a small island in the Pacific near New Guinea , he somehow paired up with two “lifer” sergeants who cursed and swore like sailors and brewed their own booze , much to my uncle’s discomfort , due to a strict upbringing . My dad said used to say his brother left for Biak with black hair and came back with white hair . He stuck with the Army post war and was a reserve officer until old age . I don’t suppose he picked up any jungle juice recipes , though .

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sending home a recipe — now, that is unusual.
    If that was scrutinised at all, maybe it was let through in the hopes that it would be intercepted and convince the enemy that a hopelessly sloshed group of solders was all that would resist them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your dad was amazing and so hilarious! I think you may have gotten his wit 🙂 Cheers to a lovely Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That sounds like a rather nice cocktail. I once tasted ‘Atholl Brose’ in Egypt which should be made with cream, honey and whiskey. Ack – Lord knows what they made it out of!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is a great Smitty letter, GP! I know my Dad made moonshine after the war, and I suspect he may have made a little Jungle Juice during the war.

    I thought of the old series Sgt. Bilko, the Phil Silvers Show, when I read Smitty’s letter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your father was not only clever, but very patient! and an excellent story teller.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Irrelevant here, but possibly of interest—

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/16/british-second-world-war-ships-illegal-scavenging-java-sea

    —I have to go out now and haven’t read it yet, but I did read the article in the local newspaper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I heard about this happening, but had not read an article about it quite this detailed. Thank you for sending it.
      These actions are what should be called deplorable!! Those ships are tombs for military personnel , which means this is comparable to grave-robbing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not only rob the blessed grave—they take the whole damn’ thing with them.
        Sadly, the world does belong to the living, and soon even depth will be no protection (a la Titanic).

        I read this morning about Islamics destroying further antiquities, and that’s the way of it—sacred to some is sacrilegious idolatry to others; but always victory goes to the stayer and might makes right.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The relics in the Middle East have no specific meaning to me, but I still find it wasteful and cruel to purposely destroy them. Antiquities that can never be replaced.
          These grave robbers, what are they going to do with the human remains? Do I really want to know?

          Like

          • They do it for the buck. Bucks are important, battlefields are not. Pragmatism beats sentiment, I guess.
            My wish is that any explosives still in those magazines have crystallised and will pop off at the slightest jolt. Sadly it doesn’t seem to have happened … I don’t think there’d be much left by now of any human remains—and if they were, they’d be shoved aside as inconvenient or sold in secret as souvenirs. And yes, there would be a market for them.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Just read the above article. I am sorry that happened. Those ships are tombs, and have been robbed.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I really enjoyed your father’s letter, GP, and hearing about the lengths they went to to make the Jungle Juice. Moving post, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A most interesting recipe!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Apologies, can’t resist:

    The train was quite crowded, and a U.S. Marine walked the entire length looking for a seat but the only seat left was taken by a well dressed, middle-aged, French woman’s poodle.

    The war-weary Marine asked, ‘Ma’am, may I have that seat?’

    The French woman just sniffed and said to no one in particular
    ‘Americans are so rude. My little Fifi is using that seat.’

    The Marine walked the entire train again, but the only seat left was under that dog.

    ‘Ma’am, may I sit down, please? I’m very tired …’

    She snorted, ‘Not only are you Americans rude, you are also arrogant!’

    This time the Marine didn’t say a word, he just picked up the little dog, tossed it out the train window and sat down.

    The woman shrieked, ‘Someone must defend my honour! This American should be put in his place!’

    An elderly English gentleman sitting nearby spoke up:

    ‘Sir, you Americans seem to have a penchant for always doing the wrong thing—you hold the fork in the wrong hand. You drive on the wrong side of the road. And now, sir, you’ve thrown the wrong bitch out of the window—’

    Like

  13. so wonderful
    some lived
    to pass on
    the recipe 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Love this story. My father made moonshine before he signed up for WWII. I enjoyed hearing his stories of how he made it. If he had the opportunity overseas, I am sure he may have made a few jars.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What amazes me most is not that they concocted such a brew, but that the letter made it through screening. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” was something my dad always said.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That must have been a popular saying with that generation, because I heard my parents say that too. (and quite a few others, haha). Hope you enjoyed dad’s humor here, it’s one of my favorite letters!

      Like

  16. I was astonished that this letter came through the censors too. When I was at University the medical centre would hand out a dirty brown tonic to any students who looked seedy to them – we called this Jungle Juice. My father had an illegal still in his cellar and made pure spirit from fruit and veg in the garden, which he flavoured with over-the-counter ingredients to make curaçao, crême de menthe etc. His cellar was regularly inspected by the police to make sure his guns were safely locked away… they never noticed the copper coil on their way past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great story, Hilary, thanks for sharing it with us. I suppose the police were only checking on the guns, so copper was overlooked, eh? Funny how these things happen some times. I’m curious. What did that brown tonic taste like, swamp water to get get that nickname? I know you didn’t look seedy, but maybe someone told you what it was like?

      Like

  17. I love sharing examples of authentic problem solving with my students, but I might have to save this one for high school. My youngers always consider ‘thinking hard’ as hard work, but it isn’t is it. It’s gratifying. And in this case, brought lots of smiles to lots of faces.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You just might have too many students trying this one out at home – not good.
      I hope you and your family have the best Thanksgiving ever!! (don’t forget to take plenty of pictures!!)

      Like

  18. That was all so interesting, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Unless Smitty left a stage out I think he would have produced a drink at about 12-15% Alcohol by volume. Of course you use the word ‘still’ so that’s a different story.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hehe, great post, making dodgy booze in times of war surely deserves a medal? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I remember the first time I was served a “schnapps” straight from the still. Made from cornstalks. All I could do was chuck it down in one swallow. It burnt every part of my digestive system. I learnt the hard way that putting an empty glass on the table meant you wanted a refill. After two glasses, I spent the rest of the night walking around with an empty glass in my hand. But I bet out in the privations they were suffering, they couldn’t get enough, no matter how rough. Not just for the alcohol, for everything that went along with it. The mateship, the comfort, the feeling of something they could take control of, etc, etc, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tried a little moonshine from Georgia once – yup – just once, so I can relate to that burning down the pipes you suffered! Thanks for coming by and reading one of my favorite Smitty letters!

      Like

  22. Smitty’s funniest letter to date, G! As they say, where there is a will there is a way. I absolutely love the way he buried the ‘product’ out of sight, under his bunk. Great post. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Are you concerned that someone shy of their legal drinking age might come across this recipe?

    Wait, what am I saying . . . they are probably already doing drugs and drinking the real stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to be concerned, but then I figured – what kid today is going to go through all that trouble to make it and THEN wait 2-3 weeks to drink it? 🙂 Cheers!! 🍸 🍸

      Like

  24. A delightful post and an equally delightful recipe for making an alcoholic beverage. You never know when you may need it. In the German army of the postwar era there was no prohibition and there was plenty of beer in the barracks.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. A great post. I enjoyed it very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Smiling the whole way through reading this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. GP, loved this Smitty letter. Glad to read it was published for more people to enjoy. The censor must have been on the winning results side, or just thought (laughing) it was the best letter he’d ever read and let it go through! Unique recipe! 💛 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    • If there was a recipe to be found or created – Smitty was the one for the job. Any time I was stuck for answer about something – Smitty was the one to go to!! Thanks for reading it, Christine!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Hard to say if that is Smitty—blew it up but the face is blobbed out a bit too much. You would recognise him from other cues, of course.

    Had my worries about those static lines, at first I thought they were wrapped around the pack (eek~!) but a closer look at a neater one further up the line said zig-zag (~!). Did these guys pack their own, or grab from a heap before boarding?

    Smitty’s recipe for jungle juice, he’s right—you could just about make it from old socks and a spud.
    Under the cot … boom-boom! Subtle aromas and flies? Brrrr … but no-one complains …

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Hopefully, some brave soul has tried out this recipe in modern times. And well done the Army. Soldiers will always prefer volleyball or ice cream to nasty old beer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Of course they would, John – or so every mother hopes! haha I’ve often wanted to try it, but never got around to it – now the idea of digging a hole that deep just doesn’t thrill me. (huff-puff).

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Good post and making alcohol

    Liked by 2 people

  31. A man who could write with such enthusiasm and humor under those circumstances deserved not to be censored. Perhaps the censor enjoyed the letter as much as i did.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. What a interesting story and shows what a person will do if they want something bad enough. Glad he didn’t get caught!

    Liked by 2 people

  33. As a former soldier myself, can´t compare me to what these guys went through though, but I do know that with this one he was “the man” of his company at the very least.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. You preempted my comment. I, too, was amazed that got through the censors 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Great stuff. In every theatre of operations the boys wanted their booze. (Sounds like a book in the making). The resourcefulness of the lads in such enterprises is amazing and varied.
    Bottoms up!

    Liked by 2 people

  36. What a great letter writer Smitty was! I felt like I was right next to him following step by step, and ready to share the first swigs. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Reblogged this on RalieTravels and commented:
    This is not a “travel” blog like my own, but it is still one of my favorites. In particular, I love it when GP Cox publishes letters from “Smitty.”

    Liked by 2 people

  38. That was exactly my thought: How did this letter pass muster with the censors…unless he shared some of the jungle juice with them, perhaps! And, of course, that depends on where the censors were in the letter chain.

    A fascinating look into the deprivations of the American fighting man in WWII! Thanks for sharing the letter, GP! I know they eventually did get beer, but no idea how long that took.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. How ingenious! And what a hysterical letter!! Your grandmother must have gotten some good chuckles out of this one—or maybe she worried that he’d get caught!

    Liked by 2 people

  40. I love these letters! And I am surprised this letter made it out intact. Hooray for Smitty 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  41. This put smiles on my face. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. I like to think that the censoring officers were being kind, and allowing some humour to slip thorough, that helped morale at home, no doubt. I think that you should now be the retired former head of the US Jungle Juice company though, having spent many comfortable years living off the proceeds of your dad’s recipe!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Maybe he paid off the censors with a bottle or two.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. silviadeangelis40d

    Sempre speciali i tuoi elaborati su fatti di guerra
    Un saluto,silvia

    Liked by 2 people

  45. I enjoyed this entry very much. It’s a good thing the soldiers were provided enough distraction of a positive nature to make them get away from the brewing. Were the men who got caught disciplined in any way?

    Liked by 2 people

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