|March 17, 1943
This is about the first chance that I have had to write in a long time, and a good bit has happened since my last letter. Our squadron has just returned to Hunter Field after leaving Camp Arnold, Georgia, where we spent three days. We traveled to and from there by truck convoy and it was 61 miles one way. [Information about Camp Arnold is scarce. According to the books Guardian of Savannah and War of the Rebellion, it had been a Civil War army camp on the Ogeechee River. Going up the river 61 miles from Hunter Field, that would place it in the vicinity of Statesboro. - Ed.] The purpose was for shooting practice. At Camp Arnold, we lived in tents (they held six persons each) and drove 9 miles to the shooting range the first two days. The last two nights, we pitched our own pup tents and stayed on the range. It was plenty hot and I got sunburned. The captain would not allow any of the boys to remove their shirts because he believed that they would be sunburned too badly and possibly blister. This range is about 70 miles north of the Florida line. I fired about 107 bullets from my .30 caliber Remington rifle. There were no mishaps, except that a couple of boys did not hold their guns exactly right. When they fired their rifles, one got a split lip and another got a bump on his nose. These rifles give quite a kick when they are fired.
Our restriction to the Hunter Field Air Base ended two days before we left for Camp Arnold, and both nights I went roller skating in Savannah. It takes two buses and 1¼ hours to get there. The rink floor is not very good, but it's the only one here. I received your two letters, including those extra letters of recommendation and my wage record of 1942. I still have to make out my income tax return. It was supposed to have been in by March 15th. The second night at Camp Arnold, I went to the closest "town," which was ˝ mile away. There I drank two bottles of beer. This "town" consisted of one general store, a saloon, and a gas station which was closed. Also, somewhere in the nearby woods was claimed to be a school. This great metropolis (I estimated the population at about 25 to 50 persons) all lay on one side of a two-track railroad. While at Camp Arnold, I took 8 pictures with my camera. I'll send them to you just as soon as I get them developed and approved by a censor here at Hunter Field.
There must be a law or something of that sort here in Georgia which prohibits the fencing off of property. In the early evening and night around Camp Arnold, wild pigs and boars roamed loosely throughout the camp. Some of them had tusks. Several of the cooks and K.P.'s planned to have pork for one of our meals, but the last day we did not return to Camp Arnold; but as I told you before, [we] stayed out on the range. This section of country down here is plenty swampy and all of the dirt roads had deep ditches on each side to drain off the water. It's a fine place for snakes and alligators to live. We passed several farms where they had oxen pulling the plows instead of horses. Plenty of Negroes hereabouts. The last night on the range, we had a small party. It consisted of one bottle of beer each. Some of the boys entertained with guitar playing and singing.
Yes, my wrist watch is O.K. That fishing trip did not ruin it. I got Yvonne's "little" letter, one from Kitty, and another from Phus - thanks. Also, today I received that Reader's Digest along with a booklet showing service insignias and various uniforms. Also, Ma, I received The Martin Star [a magazine published by his former civilian employer, the Glenn L. Martin Company - Ed.].
We are now wearing our summer khaki. It's just like I wore when I was in the Maryland Minute Men [a civil defense organization (not to be confused with the current day anti-immigrant group) - Ed.]. Did Lt. Drager send that honorable discharge yet?
Ma, how is your job situation?
Did you read about that airplane crash here at Hunter Field last week? That afternoon, another boy and myself were returning from the base post office in a jeep. As we were just nearing our squadron headquarters, a plane came diving down, skimming about 50 feet above our barracks, and headed toward the airfield about ¼ of a mile away. Hardly had the noise of this died away then another one came over. Then after that, another. Each plane coming in lower than the one preceding it. It seems that the planes were returning from a trip and were just showing off. This is of course against military law to "gun an airfield" or to fly over it low at high speed. There was a total of four planes in this group. Now then, three had already passed over and disappeared in the distance. Then the fourth and last bomber come over ever lower, streaking along at about 400 miles per hour - having just pulled out of a shallow dive, as similarly did the others. By this time, this had sort of become routine, so we all turned our heads to continue on in our jeep. No sooner had we done this, then there was a very loud report and the sky soon became filled with a rising column of black smoke. So, we changed the course of our jeep and speeded over to the airfield. Boy! What a mess. The entire end of the airfield looked like a burning trash dump. Only one part could be recognized as that belonging to an airplane. It was a burning engine with a propeller wrapped around it and a piece of the wing still attached. Navigation maps were blowing around the ground. Fire trucks soon put out the oil- and gas-fed fire. Ambulances were there, too, but for all the good they were, they could have not come at all. It would have been nothing short of a miracle if anyone could have lived through that scattered wreck. In the center of the field, besides the hangars, could be seen a navigation tower with the top half missing. Steel beams from this tower were also on the ground with the remains of the once Douglas A-20 bomber. The Savannah newspaper report stated that the three were killed, but it very carefully leaves out the fact that it was caused by a show-off pilot who saw a 50-foot tower too late. Well, so much for that.
Latest rumors have it that we will leave Savannah by the end of this month for our P.O.E. (port of embarkation). This Third Airdrome Squadron is on the alert for overseas duty. We have been told that we are "commandos of the Air Corps." It is our job to capture and maintain airbases. These airdrome squadrons are a brand new experiment and they started when I was in Columbus. Today, there are over 77 such squadrons. I, of course, am in the Third. Right now, we are receiving training in gas protection and how to detect it. Every man who wears glasses is to receive two extra pairs. All of our shoes have been repaired and all old worn-out clothing replaced.
It seems that things are finally beginning to commence. All limited service men have been transferred to another squadron. All of our teeth have been checked. Mine have some work to be done on them. Maybe some fillings fell out or something. I have finally completed all my inoculations for one year. I'll have to repeat some next year. We have been told to send home our excess things. If I ever find a box, I'll send home my books. Also, I have every letter which was ever written to me while in the Army. [Unfortunately, these are missing. - Ed.] I'll send these all home too, as soon as I find some boxes. We are not allowed to wear our garrison caps in Savannah. Maybe I can send this home in some manner, too. Enclosed also are some postcards.
Well, that's about all for now,
So, until sometime later -
TEXT OF NEWSPAPER CLIPPING:
THREE DIE IN CRASH AT HUNTER FIELD
Lt. E.A. Edens, Sgts. Taylor and Thomas Victims
FLYING LIGHT BOMBER
Accident Occurs During Routine Mission
Three airmen at Hunter Field, Savannah Army Air Base, were killed yesterday afternoon when a light bomber crashed on the southeastern section of the field, according to Lieut. C.E. Edwards, assistant public relations officer.
Those killed were Lieut. Ernest A. Edens of Corrigan, Tex., whose next of kin were listed as his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred F. Edens; Sergt. Charles E. Taylor of Blades, Dela., whose next of kin is his mother, Mrs. Hattie Taylor, and Sergt. Thomas W. Thomas of Youngstown, Ohio, whose next of kin is his mother, Mrs. Phoebe Thomas. Next of kin have been notified, it was announced.
The accident occurred at 4:15 o'clock during a routine mission, it was stated. All three occupants of the plane died instantly.
Lieutenant Edens received his commission in the Army Air Corps August 5, 1942.
A board of officers to investigate the cause of the crash has been appointed, it was reported.