Keep Them Rolling: World War II letters from Louis Solberg

COLFAX — Louis Solberg, who passed away in 2008, grew up in Albertville, owned a farm north of Colfax and later on farmed on the Rusk Prairie. He and his wife, Alda, who passed away in 2006, operated the farm in the Town of Otter Creek during the 1940s and 1950s.

Here is Part 3 of Louis Solberg’s book, “Keep Them Rolling” (Company 314) (A World War II Story 1941-1945).

November 5 — I took Captain Hebble and a couple of women and a recruit from Co. F., a $21 a month man, to Columbus. His girlfriend and her aunt, both about the same age, came down from West Virginia to get his girl married to this guy. It seemed to be a case of “have to.” He didn’t have any money, and the girl didn’t either. The Captain took them down to the Chapel and got them $10 there. I don’t know who he got it from. The Chaplain was going to marry them for nothing.

We then took them to Columbus to get their suitcases from a hotel. Then to a hostess house where they were to stay for fifty cents a night. We then went to the Court House and got a marriage license. Under Georgia law, they would have to wait five days, but the Captain got by that, so they could get married that same night. I wonder how that marriage turned out. That was starting out on as little as one can.

November 6 — Drauden left for home on the “over twenty-eight release plan.” I took him to the bus stop. He made me promise to visit him sometime. We did on many occasions and enjoyed the visits very much. They were the perfect hosts. We stopped there again in 1981 after Floyd had departed from this world. To me, it will never be the same.

New job

November 14 — I lost my job driving the Command Car, due to the fact I had backed into the corner of a Jeep and had broken a reflector on it. It cost about 20 cents to replace.

They gave me a job of keeping the orderly room clean. Mopping the floor and shining the brass on the doors. Well, that was not my line, so I asked the First Sergeant to send me down to the warehouse. “He said, “Go back to the motor pool. They didn’t take your license.” I went down there and started to help a guy on a shed when someone came in and said, “You can go over to the warehouse.” They put me to work in the receiving department, and I started to check in parts. This kind of work was new to me but it made time pass.

December 4 — Lt. Nelson took me over to the heavy units warehouse where they kept all the repaired engines, axles, transmissions, transfer cases, differentials and springs. What a mess. A couple guys from Co. F were running it and nobody seemed to know anything about anything, least of all me. I didn’t know a transmission from a differential and all the axle assemblies were boxed up and crowded into a back room standing on end. Nobody even knew what they had there. About every day one of the officers would come in and want an inventory of what we had. Well, together with boxing up the axles and stuff going in and out, I don’t think we ever got to it. I stayed with it as long as we were in Fort Benning and learned what trucks were made out of and what every kind of truck they had. All of this stuff had to be properly identified with a part number, so if someone needed it we could give it to them. It was a lot of hard work. All this stuff had to be lifted on trucks and moved around by hand, as we didn’t have any equipment for lifting it.

December 5 — I bought my ticket to go home on Christmas furlough.

December 7, 1941

December 7, 1941 — A day I’ll remember if I live to be a hundred.

Everyone around here has been real busy all day and many nights until ten, since war has been declared. It seems everyone is anxious to get on with it.

December 27 — In Chicago on my way back to Fort Benning from a one-week furlough. It was nice being home, but I nearly froze when I went outside. It was a big change for this time of year. On the way home we went through Birmingham, Alabama, and we had to change trains there and wait quite a while for the next one. It seemed like everyone was riding the trains those days. Well, a bunch of us GI’s were waiting on the platform when Carlson took a lady by the arm and said in a loud voice, “Mothers and soldiers go first.”

There were getting to be quite a few civilians working at the Fort at this time. We had Sam and Judd, a couple of black men working with us at the heavy units warehouse. I used to visit with them when we would get a break. They are the only two black men I ever had anything much to do with.

December 31 — I was on K.P., a long day down here from five in the morning until ten at night. The Cooks worked one day and were off two and some of them were pretty miserable to work for.

Crackers

Bill Graham and I were working together down in the basement, putting supplies away, and ran into some hard crackers that looked like graham crackers but didn’t taste nearly as good. We each took a couple and were munching on them when the Mail Orderly came down with some letters for me. Behind him was Lt. Hutchinson. I held what I didn’t have in my mouth in my hand and covered it with my letter, so the Lt. didn’t see it. He walked by and found Bill in another room eating one of the crackers and said, “What are you eating?” Bill said, “Some crackers.” The Lt. said, “Where did you get them?” Hutch told him he would get him some extra duty for that, so Bill got an extra day on K.P. I gave the crackers I had to the Mail Orderly and told him to get them out of here and get rid of them. He took them and left, and I didn’t get caught.

I never knew anyone who liked Hutch, and I think most of the guys were happy when he left with a Cadre to start another company. We were just as happy not to be going with him.

RECLAMATION IS THE WAR CRY

J.S.A.

As a result of our reclamation work in the Motor Maintenance District, over $127,000 worth of unserviceable army vehicles have been turn into usable property during the last five months of 1941, Lt. John W. Hutchinson, salvage officer QMC, announced this week.

The total number of vehicles reclaimed during this period was 202, including 139 trucks and cars of all types and makes and 63 motorcycles.

In addition, there was a total of 395 tubes, 471 tires, and 686,484 pounds of scrap iron salvaged.

The reclaimed parts, Lt. Hutchinson explained, have been stored in the District warehouse from where they will be issued as the need arises. He added that the funds spent on reclamation saved many times that amount on new equipment.

However, we must get even bigger and better results during the coming year. With the war in full swing and a shortage of the new equipment even greater, stress must be placed on the word ‘reclamation.’ Every part, every vehicle within a possible and economical scope of repairs that falls into the hands of our skillful mechanics must be repaired and put into good use again. This is the promise and pledge of the personnel of this outfit for the duration of the war.

January 9, 1942 — We have been so busy. We work every day and nearly every night until 10 p.m. They surely got their money’s worth from us.

58 VEHICLES WERE REPAIRED FOR THE 44TH

Last week the personnel of this battalion gave an excellent exhibition of the KEEP ‘EM ROLLING policy.

Monday evening, a tactical organization on an extensive movement by motor transport bivouacked in the Fort Benning area before resuming their journey in the morning.

Their trip rendered some of their vehicles unserviceable. These vehicles were brought to our shop for repairs.

That evening and throughout the night, 100 mechanics and parts men serviced, repaired and rebuilt the damaged vehicles. The following night the same process was repeated when another section of the same convoy spent the night in the vicinity.

The result was that 58 vehicles which otherwise would have been unserviceable or the cause of unending trouble were able to continue the journey the following morning without any loss of time.

This earnest effort of our personnel gives further proof to the growing acknowledgement of the important part the Quartermaster Corps is playing towards the successful efforts of the armed forces.

(Louis Solberg notes that, “Most of the guys were getting $30 a month.”)

(In Part 4, Louis Solberg reaches the one-year anniversary in March for the time he was supposed to serve in the army — except for the start of WWII in December.)