Saturday, February 27, 2016

13) Map of Locations

Here is a link to a customized Google Map of the locations important in this collection of letters.

Jack & Betty Locations Link (click here)

Many thanks to Ken Clark and others for their extensive information on posted on

12) Permanent Assignment and Voyage to the South Pacific

From March 9, 1943 to Sept 13, 1943 I have no saved letters.

Jack’s grandfather, Clarence Merriman, died on April 5, 1943. I know that Jack had not been sent overseas at that time and was allowed a short leave to come back to Louisville for the funeral. I assume he was still stationed in California at the time, perhaps still at Hammer Field.

Sometime between early April of 1943 and the next letter dated Sept. 13, 1943 he was assigned to the 9th Fighter Squadron (The Flying Knights) of the 49th Fighter Group in the 5th Army, and sent to the South Pacific. He told me that the sea voyage across the Pacific from California was horrendous. He was seasick for most of the time and ended up sleeping in a jeep on deck (I assume for the fresh air) for much of the voyage. The trip probably took between 20 to 40 days.

Jack was assigned to the supply department of the 9th squadron and by the end of the war had the rank of Sergeant.

Logo of the "Flying Knights"

  1. The 9th Fighter Squadron was activated as the 9th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) on 15 January 1941 at Selfridge Field, Michigan. Redesignated as the 9th Fighter Squadron on 15 May 1942, the unit saw combat throughout the Southwest Pacific campaign during World War II, earning four Distinguished Unit Citations and two Presidential Unit Citations during the war.
  2. The 9th Squadron had the distinction of being the first Air Force unit to land and operate from the Philippine Islands following the Japanese occupation of that country, and was selected as the Honor Guard at the start of the occupation of Japan. Fourteen aces served with the 9th during WWII, including Major Richard Bong, the top American ace of the war.
  3. Clarence E. Merriman (1872-1943)-- Jack's beloved grandfather had engaged in several business ventures in Louisville, KY including: The Central Furniture Company and the Phoenix Cafeteria.  He owned a number of properties in Louisville, which after his death were managed by his daughters Avery (Jack's mom) and Lillian (Jack's aunt).  After the war Jack joined his mother and aunt in business, and for the rest of his life was in partnership with them, managing the properties and also building and remodeling homes. It is clear that Jack's Merriman grandparents were a very stabilizing presence for Jack, who grew up in a family in which the alcohol addictions  of his parents took its toll.
The Courier Journal- Tuesday, April 6, 1943

Clarence E. Merriman

These photos of Jack were likely taken during the short leave he was granted in April 1943, to attend his beloved grandfather's funeral in Louisville, KY.

11) Deeply in love with Libby- March 1943

Hammer Field, (Fresno, CA)
March 9, 1943 Tue. 9 PM

Dear Betty,

I am just dropping you this short note and I hope you are not mad because I have not written anything to you for some time. Honestly I have been very busy lately but not really too busy to write. I have been neglecting to write because I thought I would ship at any time. But as yet I haven’t been on a shipping list. I hope I get on one tomorrow though.

I have been getting your letters and have so enjoyed them a lot. You have been kept pretty busy yourself lately I understand. How is it you don’t tell me anything about Bobby and Billy anymore?

Last nite 20 of us guarded some “Flying Fortresses: (B-17E) here on the filed. From 12 Midnite till 8 AM

It has been raining here for a week “Sunny California”.

Please excuse the haste and length of this letter. I wish you would write me every thing that happens there so I can keep up on things. Libby and I are sure getting along fine. I really do love her deeply. I know you understand… try to … You are so sweet about every thing.

Please write me soon

My love


  1. Boeing B-17E "Flying Fortress"--During World War II, no aircraft epitomized American air power more than the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. With 10 machine guns for self-defense and capable of carrying a two-ton bomb load for 2,000 miles, the B-17E became the first truly combat-capable model of this type.
  2. "Bobby" & "Billy"-- Bob and Bill Giltner are Betty's 1st cousins and also high school friends of Jack's.

Boeing B-17E

Friday, February 26, 2016

10) On To Hammer Field, CA--Feb. 1943

Hammer Field (Fresno, CA)
Feb. 16, 1943
Tuesday, 8:30 PM

Betty dear,

Well, I received your long and very sweet letter yesterday and hope I receive one like it every day. It is so very lonely out here and I don’t get as many letters as I used to (from a good many people.)

I have been thinking about you recently and wishing you would write to me. Your letters are so nice and lengthy. I would like to have the “full dope” on the “Brad” you speak of so often. I am sure I don’t know him. Is he a nice boy? I do want you to answer these questions.

I would like to get out of this place. Something happened unexpectedly today, that could with a lot of luck and the help of everybody from the Almighty down to the Major, mean my whole life will be changed. Anyway I am praying that it will all turn out. Here’s the way it is (let this go no farther than your own sweet ears). Tom Curtis and I were coming out of the PX and there was a car pulled up to the curb with a 1st Lt. and his wife and another lady sitting in it. When we saw the Atlanta, Georgia license plates we said where are you from, “Atlanta”, and started talking to them (after saluting the officer and everything) about Georgia and various other things. During the course of the conversation the Lt. happened to ask what we wanted to do. Well Tom used to hold a reserve commission and I am as you know I am very anxious to go to O.C.S. “Well”, he said, “I have helped several of the boys out and would be glad to help you” so we agreed to meet him in front of Hdqtrs. this afternoon and he would see what he could do for us.

We met him and went right in to see the Major who is Hammer Field’s Personnel Officer and one of the “High up Joe’s” so to speak. He said that they needed men and he recommended us to go and see the shipping officer, whom he would contact by phone in the meantime and see that we get sent to our permanent bases immediately or transferred to the 50th Air Base Sq, here on the field till they can bring us before the board here. (And file application there which we could do while in the Replacement Depot.) Meanwhile he could use us around here as clerks or something. Sounds swell doesn’t it? Honey! Maybe my big chance has come at last. I have a letter from 1 major at West Point already. The “big boys” can really help you in this army believe me. We see the shipping officer tomorrow and I will let you know what goes on. Well I must go now.

By the way I certainly do want your picture and by the next mail.

Please don’t tell anybody about this till I see how I come out on it. I want to surprise the family.

Love as usual.

P.S. Tell the family hello for me especially Ann.


  1. Hammer Field---also known as Fresno Army Air Base, was located 5 miles northeast of Fresno.  Hammer Army Air Field was a training base of the 4th Air Force specializing in night fighters. It had three sub-bases and two gunnery ranges. Hammer Field also had an Army Air Forces regional hospital. 
  2. Tom Curtis--- Mentioned in this letter and also in the Dec. 26, 1942 letter, indicating that he and Jack were both sent from Buckley Field to Hammer Field at about the same time.  There was a Thomas Byrom Curtis (1922-1945) who was from Atlanta, Georgia.  He died in Germany in July of 1945, the result of an  automobile accident in the line of duty.  When he died he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 955th Quarter Master Service Company.  I have only circumstantial evidence (association with Atlanta, about the same age as Jack and in the Army at this time) that this is the same man.
  3. He mentions that he isn't getting enough letters "from a good many people."  Do you think he means Libby?  Also, Betty must have written him about a boy named "Brad".  Perhaps she wasn't phased by his last letter, or maybe she just wanted to let him know that she didn't lack for romantic prospects at home.  Still no "love and kisses" sign offs from Jack, so he's keeping it toned down for the sake of Libby.
Hammer Field Postcard- my addition

Thursday, February 25, 2016

9) Just Friends- Jan. 22, 1943

As I read these early letters, I'm reminded that Dad is 18 years old, writing to my mother who is only 16. It seems to me that many of the war movies I've seen depict slightly older soldiers, at least the actors who play them are older and I'm guessing the scripts are written so as not to sound too juvenile. But, when I read these early letters of my parents, I am reminded that they were just teenagers and still focused on teenage topics-- girlfriends, boyfriends, football games and the social life of the world they knew. I don't mean to imply that either of my parents were immature, just that they were young. There are still no saved letters written by my mother from this time, but oh how I'd love to have read her early ones, or the ones that Libby was writing him! Do you think Betty was offended by this letter? Notice no "love and kisses" or "XXX"'s included on this one!

Buckley Field, Colorado
Jan. 22, 1943 8:45 PM

Dear Betty,

It has occurred to me lately that you are becoming too serious in some of your letters. I don’t want to make you mad but I am sure that you will appreciate the fact that I have come straight to the point.

Betty dear, I like you ever so much and I say this sincerely, but I don’t want you to become too serious and feel bad because I am not there. I really wish I could be there to explain this to you as I never was good at expressing my self with a pen. Not that I can’t explain what I mean, but I am not sure that I can say this in a way that will not make you feel bad. Well I’ll try anyway.

You see it’s about Libby and me. We have been corresponding all along and I feel that you should know this and also that I wouldn’t want to have her think that I was receiving anything but friendly letters from you. You see I have noticed that since she has come home, her letters have become strange and seem to say between the lines of course, that she has been hearing things about you and I, which we both know are untrue. I know you wouldn’t say any thing that was the least bit untrue and especially about you and I. You are far too sweet for that.

I want you to write me just as often and more often than you have been if you find time. Maybe this letter may seem strange at first but reread it and try to understand. Make me happy by trying to understand. I don’t want any thing to break up my friendship with Libby or my friendship with you. Honestly it hurts me to write this because I think that perhaps you won’t understand. Well remember there is a soldier hoping you will understand.

Well the lights just went out so good bye.


8) Talk of OCS and Tank Destroyer Units--Jan. 1943

Buckley Field, Colorado
Tues. Jan. 5, 1943 7:35 PM

Dearest Betty,

Well first I want to thank you for keeping the old pen busy. Honestly honey it sure is swell to know that if by some chance that if I don’t get a letter today that I will surely get one tomorrow from you and believe me its swell to be able to count on it.

Honey I have decided to try to go to Officer Candidate School. Buddy Mantler tried to discourage me on this but I have made up my mind. I simply don’t want to be a nurse maid to a machine gun, for the rest of my time in the service. I really believe that I can do better than that. I am going to talk to the family about it tomorrow nite. If Buddy still don’t approve to he-- with him. However if he does it will help me a lot to have a letter of recommendation from an officer. It is what I want and no one can discourage me now that I have had some time to think it over.

I have heard a lot about the tank Destroyers and I hear O.C.S. comes quickly in that branch and besides I think I would like the fast action more than “cleaning another guys guns.”

However what ever is decided I will let you know about it but promptly. As a matter of fact you will probably already have heard from the family by the time you get this, but I wanted you to know just how I felt.

Tell Bob that I want him to take me up the next time I get to Louisville so keep flying on straight. Also, happy landings.

Honey, please keep the letters coming and don’t spare the stationary.

Love & kisses & etc. XXXXXXX


Buckley Field Training- image is my addition

  1. Officer’s Candidate School---Near the end of his life Dad, began to talk more about his personal experience in the Air Corp. He told me that he had been very interested in Officer’s Candidate School, but found out that young officers at that time were being shipped to the front lines and would be “cannon fodder." So, thinking the better of that he stopped pushing to get into O.C.S.
  2. "Buddy Mantler"- I've tried to figure out who this friend of Jack's family was.  He is mentioned here and also on the earlier (Dec. 26, 1942) letter.  It turns out that Mantler is not a very common name and I think there is strong evidence that he is a man named Marshall J. Mantler, who went by the nickname "Bud." Marshall J. Mantler (1918-2008) was born in Bridgeport, CT but later lived in Atlanta, Ga. I have few clues as to how he would have become associated with Jack's family in the early 1940s. Marshall enlisted in the Army in 1941 and eventually rose to the rank of Major, serving as a tactical aide to Gen. Patton. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has an interesting recording of Marshall J. Mantler describing when he and Gen. Patton arrived at Dachau, at the time of its liberation- Link to Mantler Recording

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

7) The Last Hours of 1942

Buckley Field, Colorado
Dec. 31, 1942
New Year’s Eve 7:00

Betty dearest

I received your letter today, the one written on Dec. 28th.

Well I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that one of my best pals left today to be a Flying Cadet. The good news is that we are changing shifts. We go on “A” shift tomorrow which meant that we will go to school at 6AM and get out at 2 PM and on our day off instead of 24 hours, we will get about 36 hours off. Which really means something we will have Sat. Nite in town.

This week we studied Electrically operated Armament controls. I did real well. Today being the last day of the month I got paid $63.30. Sure wish you were here to help spend it. I think I will buy a new pair of shoes and a good pair of sun glasses. The sun is really strong here, especially when there is snow on the ground.

We have been having the funniest weather, one day you freeze and the next you can go to school with out a coat on at all.

I don’t know just when the course will end here but I think it will be over about Feb. 10th. I should be attached to some squadron (Pursuit).

Honey I have been thinking of being a glider pilot. They will take me in with 20/40 vision. What do you think of it? I haven’t said any thing to the family so please don’t. They first teach you to fly light planes and then gliders and graduate you as a sgt (Staff sergeant). I am going to find out more about it and will let you and the family know before I do any thing.

Till then.

Love & kisses etc.

  1. Jack had wanted to be a pilot but could not pass the vision test. You had to have near perfect vision and he wore glasses. The vision and physical requirements for glider pilots was not as strict, as the Army needed additional volunteers for this less desired  posting.
  2. Nicknamed the "flying coffins," the Waco combat gliders were America's first military stealth aircrafts.
  3. Initially glider pilots were given the rank of staff sergeant upon graduation, not the coveted commissioned officer rank of the power-pilot graduates. Later in the war the glider pilots were given the rank of flight officer at graduation and had some opportunity to become commissioned officers.

Postcard image from the era-- my addition.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

6) Christmas in Colorado --1942

Buckley Field, Colorado
Dec. 26, 1942, Sat. Nite, 5:30PM

Betty Dear,

I just received your letters of the 20th and 23rd and they sure were welcome.  I really do appreciate those letters.  It is so swell to receive a letter every day or every other day.  Keep on sending them please.

Well Xmas was swell to me.  I went in town Xmas Eve and stayed till Xmas Nite and then I went to school.  Xmas day I went to dinner with a friend of mine “Tom Curtis” he used to live here in Denver and he had some friends who‘s son is in England (Fighter Alert) and they had us come to dinner at their house.

Well I sure was glad to hear that Bob’s solo flight was a success.  I knew he would make it.  Tell him  (oh well never mind I will write him my self).

I was glad to hear you were over to the house.  “So you liked Buddy Mantler did you, well all the women do.”

You say am I sorry I couldn’t keep the date with Libby.  Well to tell the truth I am sorry really sorry, because I had to tell her a couple of three things or two.  And I don’t mean a discussion about the weather nor the war.

Well we have snow now and it came this morning at 1 o’clock AM.  Just 1 hour late to be “A White Christmas”.  It has snowed all day and there is about 8 or 9 inches on the ground and it looks like there will be more.

Well write as often as you can and write me every thing you do.  I will be thinking about you.

With love and kisses, etc.,


  1. “White Christmas”---The now familiar song was introduced in the 1942 film Holiday Inn (winning the Academy Award for Best Song), Crosby's "White Christmas" held first place on the Hit Parade countdown for a record ten consecutive weeks.
  2. Libby Bazzell--- Jack’s girlfriend in Louisville, KY
  3. Jack's Parent's House---When he mentions “you were over to the house” he is referring to his parents home on Bonner Ave. in St. Matthews.

Jack's Dog Tags at the end of the War.-  The number under his name is his Army Serial number- the first digit "1" indicates that he was a Volunteer in the Regular Army, the second digit "5" indicates that he is from Ohio, W. Virginia, Indiana, or Kentucky.  T 42  43 indicates the years of his tetanus immunization and the year of his tetanus toxoid injection.  The "O" after the number 43 indicates that he had Type O blood.  His mother Avery and her address are listed as next of kin.  The "P" after his mother's address indicated that he was a Protestant.