75 Years Ago: The “32” in the First Week

 

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A sketch at the bottom of letter, dated 15 Feb 1942, sharing the unit insignia. Sheldon M. Dannelly Collection.

 

 

It is worth noting that during the second week of February, 1942, quite a number of young South Carolinians–in particular, a group of  Army Reserve  second lieutenants–were on the road, making their way singly or in groups to Camp Livingston, Louisiana.  We are fortunate to have insight into this trek by way of the fragments of personal history that have survived.

In a specific case, the Capt. Sheldon Dannelly papers continue to provide a window into this time.  In December 2016, what appears to be the last missing trove of Dannelly papers emerged into the daylight after sixty or more years in storage.  This last find included several bundles of letters, mostly covering both the very earliest and very last letters the young officer and Wofford College honor graduate (1939 Class) wrote home.

We already know through the prior discoveries of his collection and others that the official telegrams went out to the call-ups in January.  These notices, sent in batches from Fourth Corps (Atlanta, GA) Headquarters, informed the Reservists of their activation effective generally either 27 January or 11 February 1942, and instructed them to report to Camp Livingston, Louisiana, 32nd Infantry Division.  The telegrams were augmented by a letter containing an “extract” (partial installment, with list of names) of Special Order 29 from Fourth Corps.  Copies of this letter and its incremental lists were found in at least two of the veterans’ collections so graciously offered for investigation between 2011 and 2014 by surviving family members.

From the latest discovery, we now know that Lt. Dannelly was on the road the week of 14 February.  He had resigned, effective Friday, 6 February 1942, from his civilian job as the youthful Superintendent of Hampton County Schools, having assumed this lucrative gig only the previous year at the age of twenty-four.  Driving back up the road to “Shady Rest”, the family home in Ehrhardt, he spent a weekend there, leaving his prized 1941 Chevrolet Special Deluxe Town Sedan in the hands of his parents, then set out on Wednesday the 11th riding shotgun in the car of another young South Carolinian, “Lt. Crouch”, who is almost certainly Lt. Henry Mathew Crouch (Clemson ’39) of Saluda, destined for the same unit.  In a letter home, penned that evening from Meridian, Mississippi, he wrote that, “Here are Lieutenant Crouch and I only 284 miles from our destination and 560 miles from Ehrhardt–that means it isn’t quite as far as I thought to Alexandria [Louisiana].  We got here about 8:30 (Central War Time).”  Continuing, that, “the trip down was quite as enjoyable as it was uneventful.  We’re staying at the Hotel Meridian,–a pretty nice place, though not quite the best in town.  We have a radio in the room listening to Kay Kyser playing ‘The Couple in the Castle’.”  Later in this first letter, he tries to dissuage any anticipated worry on the part of his family members:

I hope everything goes quite well at home, and that you make up your minds not to worry about me.  I expect to enjoy my time in the Army, and I feel very optimistic about it all.   I shall not worry about it.  I have my duty to do–and I hope–all of you will certainly enjoy everything, while you rest assured that I am being taken care of as well as humanly possible.

Following up, in a second letter postmarked 12 February, he announced “we arrived at 3:30 today.  My impression so far has been the best possible,”  the men being “mostly from the Wisconsin-Michigan National Guards. . . .  From my idea of army officers, we seem to have a very good bunch.  They are definitely friendly.  Everything has seemed much better than I originally expected, and my expectations were far from depressing.”  Some other sections of a letter written slightly later shed more snippets of the window into these first days of service:

We know we aren’t here for a picnic–the officers are serious, but can laugh, joke, and really kick up some fuss–but we all are going to enjoy it.. –This seems to be the real attitude here!

. . . We stay in tents that are heated by gas stoves; all you do is turn the button and the heat is on–not bad, eh?  Yes, and I’m about as close to the church as I would be at Ehrhardt.

. . . It is highly rumored that this (32nd) Division is likely to move out almost any day–destinations “unknown.”  This is no more than a rumor at present and is definitely not official.  If it does develop, I shall notify you as soon as possible and tell you where, if that is possible.  It can’t be at once, because they are still calling men into swell the ranks to full war-time strength.

. . .Our basic pay isn’t but 125.00 plus about 18.00 for rations (which cost us 25.00).  That doesn’t leave much, does it?

. . .We have reville [sic] in the morning at 6:50 and breakfast at 7:15.  That could be worse, because it’s about 20 yards to the mess hall.

On 14 Feb, Dannelly, amid thanks for a received Valentine’s Day card and cake from home, noted, “I’ve just reported to Col. [J. Tracy] Hale, our Commanding officer (Regimental).  He seems to really fill the bill “an officer and a gentleman” quite efficiently.  He is a very pleasant person to talk with.”  Continuing,

The news from him is that this Regiment is destined to move out as soon as rail facilities and such are sufficient.  This is the famous division that broke the Hindenburg line in the last war, and fought five major battles.  Our insignia is the red arrow (Courage Without Fear).  The Division is part of the Fifth Corps, part of which is now in Ireland. General Headquarters moves soon and we are to follow.  According to the Colonel, we are going somewhere, without a doubt–the only questions are where and when.

Between 15 and 22 February, Lieutenant Dannelly wrote a few more letters, which are actually shades of the same letter to individual relatives.  During this time he evidently exhausted his supply of stationery with the Hampton County Schools letterhead (see 32 Answered, page 67) and resorted to typing on a malfunctioning Army typewriter at the 128th’s Regimental Headquarters.  These items of correspondence have in common the same points:

– Sending a suitcase containing all of his civilian clothes home as far as Barnwell (dropping them off at the home of an acquaintance) by way of Lt. Crouch, who by the 22nd of February had obtained leave to return to South Carolina and sell his car

– Apologies for  a telegram home requesting that his dad wire him some more funds to purchase necessary uniform parts and other accoutrements

– Setting up an allotment to send money home every month, plus setting up a beneficiary for the Army life insurance policy

– Instructions for the car payment and for maintenance of the vehicle in his absence

– Repeated hints and rumors of the pending move

During that first week at Camp Livingston, it appears that the officers spent most of their time in classrooms or else in their tents studying for the classes.   Of note, especially, is his observation of the continued arrival of Southern officers into the unit: “A lot of new officers have come into our regiment in the last two days, several of them are from South Carolina“;  remarkably, “A couple of Wofford boys came to our Division yesterday [14 Feb].  They belong to the 126th Regiment, however.  I was in school with both of them, one having finished in my class.”  These two would have no doubt been Harold Evans (’40) and Horace Carter (’39).  He noted, “Nearly all of the new officers are from the South East [sic],” and “especially from North and South Carolina,” while “the men already here are mostly from Michigan and Wisconsin.  The whole lot of us are getting along much better than one would imagine.”  For example, “Lt. Fleege [motor pool officer] took three of us to ride in a ‘peep’ this morning. . . a peep is one of those little Austin-like cars.”  [NOTE: A “peep” is the earlier nickname given to the military Willys “jeep”.]

So ended Lieutenant Sheldon M. Dannelly’s first week in the Army, beginning his and the 32nd Division’s long service in the Second World War from Camp Livingston, near Alexandria, Louisiana.  It might be a goal for this year to furnish periodic updates that chronicle the tenure of service as it matriculated, seventy-five years ago.  What do you think?

[JHC]

19 Feb 2017

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5 thoughts on “75 Years Ago: The “32” in the First Week

  1. I have read these letters with great interest. My mother was a friend of Capt. Dannelly’s and I remember visiting his parents.

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  2. Thanks Jean. I am trying to post a new update, just very difficult to set aside the time right now. Very nice of you to post a comment. Please consider checking out the entire book, if you have not yet done so. Captain Dannelly is the glue that holds the story together. [JHC]

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    1. I will! Thank you for taking the time to respond and for the all the postings. Where are the original letters housed and by chance are they available to the public? I would love to read.

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