Letter XI “Java at 2100”

503rd Regiment at Noemfoer, 2 July 1944

Off New Guinea, the resistance on Biak and Noemfoor Islands was crushed as 2,000 paratroopers of the 503rd jumped and the land forces of the 158th RCT overtook the airfields.  Operation Cyclone was a success.  The 503rd A/B would soon be incorporated into the 11th Airborne Division.

In a radio broadcast by Pres. Roosevelt, he made clear the final decision that troops would be attacking the Philippine Islands and not Formosa.  Now the Japanese were also aware.  It was seen by White House observers that FDR had timed the invasion to make headlines for the end of his re-election campaign.

Smitty near Lae, New Guinea in front of his tent

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Letter XI                            Java at 2100                                       Thursday 8/10/44

Dear Mom,  Java at 2100 is nothing more or less than a good old-fashioned gabfest or the same as women folk back home call a “Koffee Klotch.”

There are a few differences though that need a little explaining.  At home, the girls gather and talk, generally about the one who isn’t present; including in this conversation, her husband and his family, also hers and then down the line to her most distant relatives.  Also, they will gab for hours about the gossip of the neighborhood and of course add a little more to it.  At times, arguments amongst themselves will ensue and that ends the present meeting and the next few to come.

With us there are a few differences and variations, such as: we don’t care whether the person being talked about is present or not; although his absence is preferred and appreciated.  Of course we have our little gossip circles, but they mostly run toward the rumor side and therefore no one puts much stock in them.  Invariably we always talk of home, such as what we did before the President greeted us, also what we intend to do when we get back.  This home talk most always leads into a lively debate as to whose state, city or county is the best.  Arguing that topic is just like arguing religion; no one is ever impressed or convinced.

The officers are always good for a good 20 to 30 minute razing, with no one pulling their punches.  At times though you must be careful, as there might be someone present who is bucking like the devil and the talk will go back.  Never is there a good word said in the officers’ defense and I doubt if there ever will be.

a sample koffee klotch

Another colorful period is spent when someone brings up non-coms.  What is said at this time is unprintable.  Surprise to say that if I was visited by the seven plagues, I wouldn’t be as bad off as the non-coms, if even half the things wished upon him should ever befall him.  I sometimes wonder if ever in their own conceited way they know just how the private feels toward them.

At home, the girls are all gathered around strictly  talking, but here again we vary.  Some may be playing cards with every now and then some player adding his say, much to the consternation and anguish of the others.  Over in another corner are the die-hards who always listen for rumors and continue on talking about the latest one long after the others have dropped it.

All this time the water is being boiled outside in a large five gallon can.  Every now and then, someone will go out to see if it is time to add the coffee.  When once the coffee is added, there comes over the tent a lull and then everyone shuffles out to get his cup, which he will dip into the can of coffee before coming back in.  Conversation for a while is a combination of talk, loud sips and the blowing of the hot Java.  We manage also to provide milk and sugar and at times, crackers.  The last is generally present only around paydays.

I don’t know whether it is the effects of the hot coffee upon the vocal chords or not, but always right after the coffee, some would-be Crosby or Sinatra starts singing some old favorite and that is when music conquers over all.  They say music has its charms, but after listening to it here — I have my doubts.

Some nights the conversations are really good and so is the coffee, on those occasions, talking lasts after taps has blown and then you are sure to hear the mournful wail of the company charge of quarters meekly saying, “Aw fellas, put out the lights.”  Never has it happened that the request was heeded and I doubt if it ever will be.  It isn’t long after though that the first sergeant comes barging in bellowing, “Get those blankety-blank lights out and get the H–l to bed!”  Lights immediately go out and good-nights can be heard throughout the company area as Koffee Klotches all over break up.

Peace and quiet prevails until all one can hear is the not too soft patter of feet heading out to the place where, at some time or another, we all must frequent.  Bits of conversation can be heard drifting through the night, but generally isn’t worth listening to, as it is only the rumor mongers at work again in their office.

Before I close this chapter, allow me to say that the evening coffee, sugar and milk are all donated cheerfully by the fellow most unfortunate enough to have had K.P. the day before.

Having nothing more to gab about and also having to pay a visit down to the end of the company street, I’ll close before I have to make a run for it.

Gabbingly yours,  Everett  (The Donator of This Evening’s Coffee)

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

William Billeaux – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, 2-Bronze Stars

Eric Carter (101) – Worcestershire, ENG; RAF, WWII, ETO + CBI, pilot

Courtney (Anderson) Couch – Lane County, OR; US Army  /  Sheriff’s deputy

George Gonzalez – Brooklyn, NY; US Army  /  Pentagon Police Force

Harold W. Hayden – Norwood, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc., Co A/1/6/2nd Marine Division, KIA (Betio, Tarawa Atoll)

Tresse Z. King – Raeford, NC; US Air Force, Kuwait, Chief Master Sgt.

George Miller – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, Vietnam

Frank A. Norris – Quinlan, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, TSgt., pilot-engineer, 345/98/9th Air Force, KIA (Ploesti, ROM)

Rex Prisbrey – Washington, UT; US Army Air Corps, CBI

Daniel Sullivan – Groton, CT; US Army, WWII, ETO, radar operator

Royal L. Waltz – Cambria, CA; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc., Co A/1/18/2 Marine Division, KIA (Betio, Tarawa Atoll)

Byron S. Wise –  Newalla, OK; US Army, Co. B/88th Artillery, 11th Airborne Division

Dale W. Wright – Flint, MI; US Army, Korea, Cpl., Co C/1/32/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin Reservoir, NK)

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About GP

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

Posted on August 9, 2021, in Letters home, SMITTY, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 124 Comments.

  1. ARMY people sacrifice so many things for family and country Even my Dad was in Airforce as Warrant Officer. I really appreciate you All🙏👍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love these letters and war must always bring together folk who would never have met otherwise. I guess distance lends more charm and loyalty to one ‘s own home town!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a treasure these Letters are.
    That you have passed on to us.
    So much is lost.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s such a great story. What a great letter!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The subjects of the Koffee Klotch haven’t changed in all these years! My pals and I follow the same order of merit.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I hope you also write about current events like what happened and what is happening in Afghanistan.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Right now, I am receiving military alerts much similar to what is showing on the internet, so I have no ‘insider’ information on this travesty. In my opinion, the evacuation should have been 2 weeks ago, like the other countries involved.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love to read the letter you father write at his mother.
    He takes time to tell her about the life there.
    Talking witn others and drinking Coffee.
    He was the son a mother want to have.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This has to be my favorite letter to date.Smitty really was a keen observer of people, and funny as could be. His kind of understated humor probably made him a favorite of the Koffee Klatch, and I’ll bet he was smart enough never to pass on unsubstantiated rumors, or to criticize the non-com standing right behind him!

    Liked by 4 people

    • You’re right. I do know that he took people as they were, not by the insignia on their lapels. Thanks, Linda. Tomorrow’s letter maybe rather long, but I think you’ll really get a kick of it as well!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a lovely, heartwarming and funny letter from Smitty, GP!
    Obviously, we all love Kaffeklatsch as well as your awesome cartoons! 🙂
    Warm greetings across the pond Xx

    Liked by 3 people

  10. GP, thanks for sharing another wonderful letter. I got a kick out of the coffee part. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Great letter- story…koffee “kluckers”. A hen party!. I could can see them dipping their mugs in that vat of coffee. I could not have imagined what it was like. mom told me they made coffee from roasted peas during the war days. Mothers of invention!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. With regard to ‘The 503rd A/B would soon be incorporated into the 11th Airborne Division’, was incorporation of one unit into another regular? Was it frequent? And most important, who was keeping track of all these changes?

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, it was not regular practice during the war. After WWII and into the Cold War, units were disbanded and/or incorporated into other ones. The Pentagon keeps tracks of every move.
      Thank you for your interest, Gregory.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Have you seen the new military vehicles? They are so cool!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Interesting and fun, G, providing a glimpse of the lighter side of war. Your dad writes delightful letters. I assume being on KP meant that you were able to ‘borrow’ the coffee, cream and sugar. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Those were the days of honesty, friendship and of course, coffee.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I had an uncle in the Army on Biak same time . They say he had black hair before that duty and came back with white hair . Your Dad’s letters are so light-hearted and well -written and keep the home folks’ minds away from the nasty parts of his duty . Amazing skill to accomplish that !

    Liked by 3 people

    • Your uncle went through some very harrowing combat, my heart goes out to him, but thank God he came home!!
      Thanks for reading Dad’s letter, Dan. I wish he had let me publish these when he was alive!!

      Liked by 3 people

  17. What a delightful description of an evening in camp. Can only imagine some of the things they would have said about the officers. But it gave them a chance to vent their feelings over a hot cup of coffee. Liked the early mention of FDR timing the invasion at the time of election. They still do things like that!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Some people think of FDR as an idol – I am NOT one of those people!
      Thank you for stopping by to read the letter, Bev, it is greatly appreciated!

      Like

  18. Yep. That certainly sounds a lot like places I have been in except for one small detail; the Cpls and L/Cpls would have been in on the gabfest and in my experience the Sgts where the most admired of all. As an officer I always thought of the Sergeant as the one man in the company who everyone respected.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. This was a very entertaining letter! Your dad certainly knew human nature. The letter begs to be read aloud to one’s friends and relations.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Thanks for providing this entertaining look at camp life. I hope the coffee was local. They grow some really good coffee in that part of the world.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Ha! What an interesting and fun letter! Smitty’s wonderful sense of humor shines through. 🙂 I hope somehow he knows how much joy he is bringing all of us through you! 🙂
    Coffee and coffee gathering/conversations can warm the body, heart, and soul.
    Love his “Gabblingly yours” sign-off/complimentary close. 🙂 That made me snort-laugh! 😀 (When letter writing was more of a thing I sent people gabby letters. 😀 The word verbose was often used to describe my talking and writing. 😮 😛 )
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  22. I like the idea that they would be willing to gossip and rag on a person even if they are present. This would not happen in a woman’s circle, at least not the womens that I know haha

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Thanks, GP for giving us another of Smitty’s great letters.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Another wonderful letter….history as it happened!

    Liked by 3 people

  25. A very interesting and revealing look at soldier life.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. I love reading this soldiers’ version of “Koffee klatch.” It passes the time, enjoying the comradeship of their fellow soldiers. I wonder if they ever tasted “Barako”, the Philippine coffee from Batangas. It’s quite good and has a strong flavor.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. A wonderful letter, GP. I often wonder how folks can drink coffee at night and still go to sleep. Must be youth. Thanks again for sharing your priceless letters.

    Liked by 4 people

  28. I liked his doubts as to the charms of music!
    By the sound of the views on NCOs, he would have enjoyed the ditty ‘Kiss me goodnight sergeant major’!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. I see the similarities! The way he describes this ‘gabfest’ is almost appealing, innit?

    Liked by 3 people

  30. That letter was delightful to read! Do I dare say it sounds as if Roosevelt put his interests above the troops, and put them in harms way? You can delete my observation if you wish, GP. Best to you, and keep your dad’s wonderful letters coming.

    Liked by 3 people

  31. I really liked how he related it to something his family could understand, the ladies’ coffee mornings. That makes it so much easier for them (and me) to picture the soldiers sitting around gossiping and complaining. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 4 people

  32. Lovingthe letter series GP, your Dad sounds a lovely man.

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Dear GP,
    indeed, we liked reading your Dad’s letter as well. It shows how important and therapeutic communication is.
    Thank you very much for sharing.
    Keep well. Wishing our dear friend an easy and wonderful week
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Fab Four of Cley,
      As always I look forward to you opinions on my posts. I want to do my father and his unit proud – as proud as I am of all of them!
      Thank you and stay well,
      GP

      Liked by 1 person

  34. I love, love, love the letter and am a huge fan of these letters from those away from home to those they love. p.s. coffee is a universal need and connection

    Liked by 2 people

  35. GP, I enjoy reading your blog a great deal. They remind me of my Great Grandfather’s letters, must be a 100 of them in my hope chest. They are so precious to me as I’m sure your Father’s are to you as well. Thank you for sharing these memories!

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Loved the letter, GP. Smitty sure had a way with words. On the USS Midway Museum, many of the flight rooms have been refurbished by various groups (often an association of one of the squadrons who used it while deployed on the Midway). I heard one guest say that it looked authentic. except that all of the coffee cups from the coffee mess were clean. Back in the day they were never washed–just rinsed out and hung back up. Have you heard of the Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, TX ? https://ci.lubbock.tx.us/departments/silent-wings-museum. It is a museum dedicated to the Glider pilots of WWII.

    Liked by 4 people

  37. What a delightful letter! (Shared on LinkedIn and Twitter)

    Liked by 5 people

  38. People do like to talk, even in adverse circumstances.

    Liked by 3 people

  39. Coffee is always the best. Lol You can’t stick to English Teatime. Strategically, the timing would not be a good one, as it is well known. 😉 Thanks for sharing another impressive letter from your fathers, G.P. Wars and upcoming elections. These relationships should also be examined, more closely. Have a nice week! Enjoy the spirit of FL! 🙂 xx Michael

    Liked by 4 people

  40. I can imagine this story being written today, Smitty captured a timeless quality of human nature, including the politician breaking news for political gain. It’s been 75 years and not much has changed. I truly enjoy the personal stories you’ve been sharing. I imagine my dad in that crowd. He wasn’t much on gossip, but coffee was always around and he was quite good at cards.

    PS, love the cartoons today. Have a great week, GP.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I am very happy you’ve been liking reading Dad’s letters. I think Smitty was a good example of that generation and a few people have said they could visualize their father or grandfather with him.
      Always pleased to hear I gave you a chuckle!!

      Liked by 1 person

  41. I like this homey glimpse into the comradery of the personnel.

    Liked by 4 people

  42. Thank yu for sharing.

    Like

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