Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Lee, Jay M., 1873-1945; Bostian, Kenneth V., 1893-1980; Bostian, Mary S., 1896-1986; Allen, Harry B.

Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace, March 5, 1918. Family, Business, and Personal Affairs Papers - Family Correspondence File.

Lawton, Okla. Mar. 5, 1918

Dear Bess:

Your letter came today and evidently my Sunday special did not arrive as a Sunday special. One of the barbers went to Oklahoma City and I gave it to him to mail. I hope he mailed it. We haven't gone yet on Monday evening although they say the cars to take us have arrived. There was a special order came out today saying that if the special detail were here the next muster period (April 1), they would be carried as if they were not a special detail. I don't much care whether we leave so soon or not because we are getting some very good schooling. Had an examination yesterday in which we had a problem like this: a scout measured the angle found by two trees on the opposite bank of a river, it was 150 mils, he walked back fifty yards and the angle between the same two trees was 120 mils. How wide is the river? I got the right answer, what do you think of that? It is two hundred yards wide. A mil is the 1/6400 of a circle, which is the measurement we use instead of degrees. That was one of five we had to work besides several on drill regulations. We'll sure be wise birds when the war's over if we don't get shot first. I got an underground intimation that I passed my captain's examination all right. I don't believe it though until I see the evidence from Washington. I am telling you only because I thought maybe it would be nice to share good news with you if it is only a rumor, and I know you won't kid me about it if it's false. To tell you the honest truth I'd rather be a first lieutenant than anything else in the army except a buck private in the rear rank. He's the guy that has no responsibility and he's the guy that does the real work. I heard a good one the other day which said that a lieutenant knows nothing and does everything, a captain knows everything and does nothing, a major knows nothing and does nothing. Very true except that a captain has to know everything from sealing wax to sewing machines and has to run them. He also is responsible for about $750,000 worth of material and 193 men, their lives, their morals, their clothes, and their horses, which isn't much for $200 a month and pay your own expenses. I shall probably get the swell head just as all the captains do if I get it, and it will be lots better for me if I don't.

Yes Kenneth's story does "sound well." I am sure he'd have been better thought of in the regiment if he'd gone (even by his Captain). I shouldn't say that but then its true he could have gone if he'd wanted to. I think he just hated to leave Mary and miss an opportunity to go home for which I don't blame him. I think I'd almost give up going to get home once more.

This is Tuesday and I'm still here. I got as far as that last night and got called on a court martial case. I am a member of the general court, which doesn't mean anything only to hear evidence against some poor son of a gun who has used government funds for his own use or done something against the 4 million regulations you're supposed to know and don't. I got done so late that I went right to bed because I was afraid I'd have to fire today and not be able to see to do it. Luckily I did not have to although Pete and Mr. Lee did. They did very well. I acted as an onlooker and fire observer. There were four batteries firing, and it was very hard to tell which was which. The weather has been so nearly ideal the last three days that I think the devil or whoever else hands out Oklahoma weather has overlooked a bet. Don't you worry about my leaving because I'll certainly wire you when I start.

Pete is hollerin' for me and I've got to run.

Yours always, Harry


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