Swanson Shields, soldier and educator, March 1945 letter

My uncle Lynwood turned 93 a few weeks ago. He and his wife Elaine recently came across a letter written by my father, Swanson Shields, to Lynwood in March 1945. I had known my father was an officer, and thought he was a press information office, but thanks to this letter I learned for the first time he was an educator, and in the medical field to boot. Those who know of my special interest in these areas will appreciate how much I enjoyed reading the letter.

swanson-king-letter-march-1945

The tenor of the letter suggests that those involved believed the war would go on for some time, It was written in March 1945, just after US troops had crossed the Rhine river, as is noted near the end of the letter, yet I doubt my father had any idea the war in Europe would end within six weeks, and only a very small number of people in the United States had any reason to think the war might end in less than a year. Some of them were working about seventy miles from my future hometown, Albuquerque, NM, in a small town called Los Alamos.

I copied out the words from the letter and also made an image so you can what it looks like. It was written on a long piece of paper, so I folded it over, so the end of the letter appears upside-down at the bottom of the image. You can see my father’s signature, “Swannee,” at the end, and part of the sentence mentioning the Rhine just before it.


Sunday, 12 March 1945

Dear King

This is my first letter to you from Camp Crowder, Mo. Along with many other medical soldiers from Camp Barkeley, I arrived here last Thursday. I have now been here a few days and am glad to report that everything is going very good so far. This camp is a vast improvement over Camp Barkeley. It is more modern and more convenient. I imagine it is a bit like Harlingen, after recalling your nice comments about that place.

If you will pardon my tooting my own horn, may I report that I have been assigned to a bigger Orientation job at Crowder. Here’s the set-up: We brought two Regiments with us, in addition to a small Center headquarters for the two Regiments. I am located in the Center Training Department, with the title of Center Information and Education Officer. I supervise the work of the Regimenal I and E officers and things like that. I was pleased to get the promotion for two reasons: (1) It is a bigger job, which means I can reach more men and (2) it shows that my work has been saisfactory to the powers that be.

I was very gratified to find on my arrival that two colonels in charge of the medical training center here were both highly in favor of Orientation. They called me into their office for a conference, asking me for recommendations for a Program. They accepted my Program, which is a very ambitious one. I was very pleased when they placed at my disposal for an officer and war information center a two-story barrack — the type that you lived in at Harlingen. I have the entire barrack, which had been converted into separate classrooms. I will be ideal for setting up a “War Room,” in which to hold classes and discussions.

Along with my assitant, I have been working on this Sunday to get the ball rolling in the “War Room.”

You may be interested to know that I have another assistant – a girl civilian worker. Yes, the T/O calls for a civilian and a girl was hired. She’s the wife of an enlisted Orientation non-com, which is very good and very liberal. Likewise, she’s progressive in her ideas – along political and economic lines, of course.

–over–

So it looks like I have a good set-up. I am anxious to get started. I am directly responsible for providing Orientation to several thousand men. Of course, I will work through my “subordinate” officers on the Regimental, Battalion and Company level but you depend on me to keep them on the ball. Fortunately, the two Regimental I and E officers are very sincere and competent and liberal.

How long I will be here I do not know, although the fact that this medical training center just opened here would indicate I should be here more than a few weeks or months. You see, we are now about the only medical training outfit left. And as long as the war runs on, they will need more medical soldiers. Anyway, I have been very lucky and I know this will be good at least for seveal months.

The only drawback so far is that I do not have Janet and the baby with me. Because Lynwood David is only three months young, we did not think it advisable to move here until I had located an adequate apartment. I went into Joplin, city of 40000 which is 20 miles from Camp, Friday looking for apartments. I found one that would have done the trick had we not had the baby. But we did not want to take any chances with his getting a cold or something. So Janet will remain with the son in Texas for this month at least and will not join me until I have found a decent apartment. In a way, it’s just as well she and the baby are not here for the first few week, because they might take me away from here some nights when I could be doing something worthwhile with Orientation. Now, isn’t that very unselfish.

This city of Joplin is as wild as they come. It’s said to be a dandy for the single boys. I can believe that, after my one visit there, when I bumped into a barfly who wanted to “shack-up.” Some other time, I might have been interested. But I love that wife of fine. The temptation was great, however.

The was news is very good these days, with the increased tempo of the Pacific war, plus the crossing of the Rhine.

Well, I must say I do feel more like a soldier since I have been living on the post. So far it has not been bad. There’s quite a bit to do on the Post here, what with the theatres, beer joints and special service — and Orientation programs.

Bye for now dear brother.

Always,

Swanee (signature)


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