December 9, 1941, two days after Pearl Harbor was bombed.  Letter from Richard’s mother to Richard, student at Indiana University.

WWII Letter
The letter Richard’s mother sent him Dec. 9, 1941

Dear Richard,

I started a letter to you yesterday but in the excitement of war news and everything I did not get very far. We had a cold house, too, most of the day, for the furnace had been smoking again and Daddy and David cleaned it out. You are probably glad you escaped the job this time.

We have been thinking a lot about you boys and this terrible situation. It looks as if we are in for a bad time of it. We heard this morning over the radio that the students at Illinois U. were all out putting on a demonstration last night, and we wondered if I.U. was doing the same. Patriotism is fine but I do hate to hear people trying to arouse racial hatred. I heard a congressman say, “Let’s exterminate those war-mad Jap devils from the face of the earth.” There may be a group of leaders who do deserve to be wiped out but most of the Jap soldiers are boys just like you, with homes and families and ambitions of their own, and it isn’t their fault they are made to fight. Why can’t the poor old earth just learn to exterminate War?

This is the week when all the clubs have their Christmas parties but nobody seems to be in much of a mood for them. I did not go to Study Club this afternoon but will go to Bethany Circle tomorrow. I am to have devotions and the subject is the usual Christmas one of “Peace”. You can imagine how hard it will be this time.

Yesterday afternoon we made a popcorn Christmas tree decorated with red berries. We saved it until noon today but David couldn’t wait any longer and dug in. I really must do something about Christmas shopping before long. I haven’t been to town yet, except to the parade week before last and I got only a few little things then. Here comes Daddy, so I must stop and warm up supper.

With love – Mother

Medic
The “LeJeune” Richard sailed on from New York City
Courtesy of Norman Eliasson

October 14, 1944 Medic Richard Berkey’s Journal   

Sailed today at 4 bells. Out on deck and watched the last bits of NY disappear. The last bit of land I saw was a long ridge. Ate a big supper tonight and as boat began to rock, so did I. So I went to bed right away, as long as in bed OK, but get out and stand up and dizzy as a fruit. Lots already sick and in the latrine throwing up.

Medic
Richard’s ASTP Photo 1944

November 13, 1944 Richard’s Journal

Up at three, hot coffee and moved out at five, pretty cold in halftrack. Up to Aix then over to Cannes. North to Nice and to bivouac area somewhere near front. Am writing this while lying on my bedroll (7:10) with a small candle as my aid. We are bedded down in an old bombed factory deep in the Maritime Alps, 1/8 mile north of St. Martin du Var – indeed scenic. Cannes looks like an American city and of course the blue green Mediterranean is indeed beautiful. Cannes wasn’t torn up too much. Saw shore installations and pillboxes, burned vehicles on side of road, signs of artillery and small arms fire. The snow-capped peaks of the Alps above the bird’s eye view of Cannes was extremely swell. Ate a C-ration for dinner in the outskirts of Cannes, bought a bottle of wine for 40 Francs. Ate a dinner K ration this evening and hot coffee. Nice and dry inside this building and not windy but quite warm. Scenic and tropical vegetation, oranges, lemon trees, vineyards, etc. I  assume we’re near Italian border, not far from Monte Carlo or Monaco. Think I’ll get some needed sleep.

 

Medic
The vineyard where Richard was wounded – Dec. 18, 1944 – Oberotterbach, Germany – Courtesy of the National Archives

January 11, 1945   Richard’s Journal

At last! After 3 weeks and 4 odd days, I again make an attempt to record the rough and rugged life of R. J. Berkey. This is the longest period of time I’ve missed writing in these four diary years, my mistake 5 years. Sure can remember when I started keeping a diary, as I always recall comes another New Year, the New Year’s Day I kinda tore up Dad’s car – ha! Well, anyway since I last wrote, the peaceful sunny Sunday afternoon of Dec. 17, 1944, quite a few things have happened, indeed quite a few. Guess I might as well record a few things, but I know I shant ever forget, especially that morning of the 18th. We moved up from Oberseebach during the night to another town, supposedly Wissembourg, and proceeded to carry out an attack at the town, Oberotterbach, Germany.  As we moved through a vineyard we got a nice welcome of mortars and 88’s, indeed my so-called “Baptism of Fire”. As I lay on the ground waiting for one to drop on me and write “finis”, I was hit (8:30 a.m.) in the upper right arm by a piece of shrapnel. Boy! Was I prayin, sweatin’, cursin’ and what not, and what a sensation, sting as they say. Moved my fingers and was much relieved to see ‘em move, then cautiously looked at my arm and about then heard a guy call in great pain, so I say to hell with my arm and take off. Crawled through to Pop Karnes and found in bad shape. Helped Sgt. Close who had a neck wound. LaPoint was all shot up. Dragged LaPoint to ditch and went back after Pop. With aid of Jennings who was half out of his mind we finally got Pop to ditch. What agony! Makes me sick to think of it. Why I wasn’t killed during that hour or so I do not know. Pop died in an hour or so with concussion and I’m satisfied I did my best under such conditions. I hope the other guys think so. The least I did was say a little prayer for him. I hoped it helped. It was terrible – enough of that. My arm started bothering me in the middle of the afternoon so I turned in to the Aid Station. Hazelton took my place and I really felt cowardly “chicken” or whatever one might say.

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