This is part of a series that over two years will follow the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. I did this five years ago in the series Following the 10th Armored, but I have been doing more research and expanding the ideas. The beginning posts will set the stage for the events of 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europe as part of the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.
- January 1, 1943
— Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
As the new year begins Beula and Bill are home alone. Buddy has been in Georgia at Fort Benning since August. There, the newly formed and activated 10th Armored Division and its many battalions and companies are beginning the arduous task of building a world-class army after years of minimal development. I am going to post more about that task in some future posts. At this point I will focus more on this last full year of “peace” for the home front in Jersey Shore, PA. Over this and the next few posts, by the way, I am going to catch the dates of posts and the story up to the calendar. While there will be side stories, background, and updates, by next week we will be in the 75th Anniversary mode of these events that shattered an old world and defined the new one for three-quarters of a century.
For many, and Buddy was no exception, 1943 was a year of coming and going. In general life was still moving in a relatively normal fashion back home. Beula would regularly note in her diary about Carl or Ruth and their travels in and out of town. She continued her visits to the “club”, which is never named, the weather, her trips to the store, or just visiting with friends. She noted one day that she had to go to the “schoolhouse” to get her ration book and in another that her brother Henry brought a can of lard. There were the three to four times each week when letters were written, sent, or received.
In January, she noted on the 14th that it was “10 weeks ago today since father broke his arm” in the accident at work and, on the same day a letter from Harold that he might be home soon. He had been away since August 6. Two weeks later he called from Atlanta that he was traveling and her response was, “Gee, I am nervous." Perhaps there were still memories and concerns from the months prior to his being called back up when one thing after another kept happening. It would not be a surprise if she was wondering what this visit would bring. Had he changed? Would he go back to his reckless ways?”
He was delayed in Washington but made it home on January 30. In his two weeks at home there is little mention of him except for one entry halfway through when he went “out and did not come home.” He returned to Georgia the middle of February and called about six weeks later. “Gee, I was glad to hear from him and to hear everything was O.K.”
A second furlough happened in May. Dad arrived home on May 18 for a ten-day stay. Again, in the middle of the leave, one incident- “Harold went away. I don't know where he went. Gee it is lonesome.” On May 27 he left to return to Georgia. “I did not go to the station with him.Gee I miss him.” Then a few days later, she "wrote to Buddy. It is awful lonesome.”
On his return to Georgia the 10th Armored and his 80th Medical Battalion packed up and went to maneuvers in Tennessee. From June 21 to September 3, just shy of three months, they participated in a major training event. It was still a year away from their overseas deployment but it was a significant training which I have found mentioned in other sources from other Divisions. This was part of the intense development of a world-class military that would be heading overseas into war. I will talk more about this growth and development in a later post.
During the maneuvers there were still the letters. Mail was able to find them, as was promised in the newspaper, The Tiger's Tale, that the 10th Armored produced in Georgia. Beula, conscious of dates, noted in her diary on August 6 that is was “one year since Buddy left.” Then with maneuvers over the 10th moved to a new home near Augusta, Georgia, at Camp Gordon, where they would be for the next year. With the move complete Dad had another two-week leave in September and then again in November when he was home for fifteen days.
With that year we catch up to the calendar. He arrived home on November 16, 1943 for that 4th leave of the year, seventy-five years ago this week.
Through all of this I continue to wonder what was going on in both their lives. Beula was, at this point, an obviously lonesome person. What the causes were, was it medically related, was it her age and medical history catching up to her, was it the tension Harold had brought into her life? We will never know. In any case, from this point on, in a clear and obvious change of language, Harold becomes, more often than not, “Buddy.” It was a more endearing, even intimate reference.
Buddy was Beula’s baby, her youngest child.
He is getting ready for war.