Providing insight in a family’s history against the backdrop of major world wars, Buster’s Book offers a collection of more than a thousand letters exchanged during the twentieth century as young men provided service to their country.
In this memoir, author Donald Junkins has compiled letters, diaries, interviews, recollections, and photographs of the family’s participants in both world wars and the Korean and Vietnam wars. This fascinating historical record includes the stories of a variety of escapades: from single-handedly opening an eight-year-old Nazi prison camp; to B-24 air forays from New Guinea in which an aerial gunner shot down two Japanese Zero planes; and to the rescue in Korea of wounded men stalled in a jeep in the middle of a freezing river that culminated in the awarding of the Silver Star.
Buster’s Book reflects both the lives of a middle-class American family during these years and the daily activities of two generations of young American men at war.
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Buster's BookFamily Voices to and from the Front, WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Donald Junkins
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Chapter OneRalph Chester Junkins, WWI
[The following WW I letters are from Ralph Chester Junkins to his family living at 118 Ontario Street in Lynn, Massachusetts, eight miles north of Boston on the North Shore. He served in the Yankee Division from July, 1917 to February, 1919 during his enlistment days both in the States and in France as a private in the 26th Division, 101st Field Artillery, Battery D. He was then 23 years old, and had returned from Worcester, MA where he worked, to enlist in Lynn where he grew up. His immediate family consisted of his mother, Lillian May White Junkins, his three sisters: Marion who early married her first cousin, Everett White; Bernice, a piano teacher who never married, and Edith who married young and died in her late thirties. Ralph's father died of pneumonia when Ralph was in the fourth grade, and he left school. He went to work in the General Electric Company in Lynn when he was twelve, earning wages of $3.60 a week, of which he gave $3.00 to his mother. Later in life he became General Foreman of Bldg. 63 where he supervised the building of the turbines for the aircraft carriers Wasp and Hornet (the immediate on-the-job worker winding coils being his first cousin, Ray Keyes, my mother's foster brother). In WW II, Ralph served in the Coast Guard Reserve in Nahant, MA, and wrote letters weekly to his son Roland (Buster), 1943-1946.
My father was a good man. He was quiet, complicated, funny on occasion, devoted to his mother who was widowed when still a young woman, patriotic, restrained but forthright, and modest. At the Fullerton Funeral Home in Saugus Center in 1960, when the working men from Building 63, the Turbine Division of the General Electric Company, filed by his casket to pay their respects, more than one patted his face. When Dad re-told, at my insistent request, the Beany Craig story from his youth on Pine Hill (a true tale about his hairliped friend being continually misunderstood in the local grocery store and his exasperated reply, one that would be considered more than questionable in today's world), he filled the room with laughter. During Sunday night service at the Dorr memorial Methodist Church in Lynnhurst, when he and I stood side by side and sang "This Is My Father's World" during the Hymn Sing portion of the service conducted by either Andy Boynton or Mr. McClernon, I felt something closer than the essence of his voice and his presence. It was truly my own father's world and I felt so lucky to be in it with him.
I remember especially one warm rainy Saturday morning in a late thirties summer over in the cove at Great East Lake in Maine watching him from the other end of the boat pickerel fishing with a long yellow bamboo pole and a dead frog—our dog Pickles alert in the boat, focusing on the disappearing frog in the water swirl, and Dad lifting the foot-long fish into the boat, flopping free of the hook, then Pickles picking up the pickerel in his mouth, dropping it overboard into the dark warm water, and Dad laughing as if the joke were on the world itself. It was truly our world and our family's world, and because my father was an honorable man, the world always seemed an honorable world.
When Dad went off to war in France in 1917, he left behind a girlfriend named Elsie who is referred to in one of my grandmother's letters below. When he returned home at the war's end, he was first told beforehand by his mother that the engagement was "off," and when he went to hear the news himself, he could see before any words were spoken that she was pregnant. The relationship was finished. When I heard the story myself many years later, it was always short and without rancor, for he merely drove to my mother's home in East Saugus, and as she related it to me, said merely, "Come on Ev, let's go and get married!" Regardless of whatever icing or cake there was in that proposal, it was the one that "took," and they did get married and my older sister Evelyn Betty was born nine months to a day from the day of the wedding, followed three years later by Buster (Roland Winslow) and six years later by myself, Donald Arthur, "Arthur" after my foster grandfather, Arthur Keyes. DJ]
LETTERS OF RALPH JUNKINS DURING WW I
[Outside envelope dated July 20, 1917] [Stationery printed at top left with an American flag and top right with a Y.M.C.A. logo, an upside down triangle. In between, on separate lines: "WAR WORK COUNCIL, Army and Navy, Young Men's Christian Association, and 'WITH THE COLORS.'"]
Dear Ma, Boxford, Mass. 1917
George Gaffery just gave me your letter and it sure looked good. We arrived out here Saturday afternoon ok. We got quite a little sendoff in Salem, but nothing compared with what the Lynn fellows got from what I heard. It was pretty tough about that fellow in Battery F. It was a terrible storm, quite a few fellows hurt besides the one that got killed. Coming over the road trees were down, wires down and everything else.
There was a big crowd from Lynn today. Mrs. Curley was up, Tink's father John Moran, Bill's [Pope] mother and father, so you see we were not lonesome. John Moran gave me two ten cent boxes of cigarettes and Mrs. Love sent me up a cigar.
Today we took our federal exams and we all passed, that is, all the Pine Hill fellows, so you see I'm physically perfect, ha ha. I hope you can come up next Sunday but if you don't come I won't be disappointed because I understand. But Elsie [his girlfriend] said if her uncle [brought] her up in the automobile that she would bring you. If you should come, ask for Battery D and stay down there until I come. The address is First Massachusetts Field Artillery Battery D, Boxford Mass.
Well, I will close now with Love to all and a lot to you. Ralph
Outside envelope with a two cent George Washington postage stamp canceled with "Boxford," and "Massachusetts Field Artillery, In The Field" printed in the upper left corner. Lynn, Massachusetts [printed on stationery]
First Mass F[ield] A[rtillery]. Dear [younger sister] Edith: Boxford, Mass.
I suppose you were all looking for me the other night. But they are not going to issue any more passes until the end of the week, so I will be home either Saturday or Sunday night because I'm in line for the next pass.
Today we walked about eight miles with two blankets, a pup tent over our shoulder, some hike.
I have got a brand new uniform and it fits me great, and I also have a new pair of leather leggings. Some class to me when I go home. I'm sitting on my bunk with a shoe box to write on and in front of that I've got a wash basin turned upside down with two candles on it for a light (we are in the army now).
I was over to the Y.M.C.A. last night and there was some small pocket Testaments lying on the table so I asked him now much they were and he said all you have got to do is sign your name and take it, so I did. They are kind of cute and they have got colored pictures. I will give it to you when I go home again.
Will close for this time. Love to you and all the rest and a whole lot for Ma. Give my love to Aunt Vine. From Ralph
[Three one cent postcards with Thomas Jefferson's photograph, dated August 4, 9, and 18, addressed to Mrs. C. W. Junkins, 118 Ontario St. Lynn, Mass.]
Ma, send me a tooth brush and tooth paste Dear Ma,
Just a few lines as we are expecting a thunder storm and all the boys are digging a trench around their tents to prevent the rain from running under.
It has been awful hot here the last four days and a lot of the boys have fainted. Last night Uncle Hal was over to see me for a little while. I haven't heard from any of you yet. With love to all and a lot for you. Ralph
I could not get home last night because they did not issue any [passes] so probably won't get home until some time next week. Today I went down to the Watertown arsenal and all around Boston in an automobile truck [and] had some trip. We were after supplies. Will write later. With love to all and a whole lot for you. Write soon. Ralph
Today has been field day out here, and we had to do a lot of drilling. There is a big crowd out here. I saw Jennie Hardy this afternoon. Gee Ma, I didn't have to take any of those candy pills this week after that feed you left. You also left your hand bag, so I will give it to Elsie or send it parcel post. Will be home some day next week. The next time you write send me Aunt Vine's [Elvina White Keyes, Ralph's mother's sister, foster mother of Evelyn Keyes, to become Buster's mother, living in Saugus, the next town north to Lynn] address. Will close for this time. With love to all and a lot for you. Your loving son, Ralph
[Envelope dated] August 11, 1917 [Stationery letterhead:] First Massachusetts Field Artillery CHAPLAINS DEPARTMENT
It is raining pitchforks, rakes, and everything else out here. Last night we had a pretty heavy thunder storm. I started to let the sides of my tent down and a big flash of lightning came and at the same time one of the fellows struck a match inside of the tent. Well, I dropped everything and perhaps I wasn't scared. I'll bet I got a dozen extra gray hairs out of it. The most of the tents on our street had anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of water in them. Some of the tents, a hat or a canteen would float out the door. The fellows' clothes are all soaking wet. I never laughed so much for a long while.
I looked out of the tent about half past four this morning and there was a fellow standing in about a foot of water, stark naked, taking a bath and it was raining shovels. None of the fellows got any sleep after four o'clock this morning.
I just came back from taking care of the horses and I am pretty wet, but it is a good way to wash your clothes.
Another gang is out in the pouring rain walking the horses around for exercise. Oh, it is a great life but it isn't anything like 118 Ontario St. [his home in Lynn, MA]
I rec'd your letter all right and I think I will come home next Thursday night, that is if I'm not in line for any special duty.
Well, will close this time, hoping to hear from you soon.
With love to all and a lot for you, Ralph
[The following is the first censored letter from Boxford, dated August 13. The outside envelope is stamped "Examined by No. 24" across the circular Boxford postal stamp, and in the lower left hand corner a square stamp, the four edges surrounding an American eagle with the designations of A.E.F.—American Expeditionary Forces—, "Censor, Passed, and 14." The printed inside letterhead is the same as described in letter #1.]
Dear Ma, August 13, 1917
I rec'd your letter, and had forgotten about my birthday. I am getting older every day.
Yesterday we got another jab with the needle. That makes two jabs and one vaccination, and none of them affected me at all. Some of the fellows are sick in bed for a couple of days. But it doesn't seem to bother me at all. I wouldn't know I had them unless someone bumped up against my arm.
Today we had a federal inspection by a regular army officer.
There isn't much news about the camp, only that I think we will stay here quite a while.
I got that dollar that you sent but don't you ever send me another cent unless I write for it. (Do you get me?)
Elsie was up yesterday and brought me a lunch, and also my watch.
Mrs. Curley gave me the tooth brush and paste, so today I had my teeth cleaned and one tooth filled.
Sunday morning Bill Pope and I went to church, and the preacher spoke fine.
If nothing happens I will be home late Thursday night, but if I don't come do not be surprised because I might have to go on guard. I'm beginning to like the army pretty well; the rheumatism has practically all left me and I'm feeling good. Will close with love to you all and most for you. Write soon, your son Ralph
[Envelope:] Boxford, Aug. 29, 1917 First Massachusetts Field Artillery In the Field
Well Ma, today has been quite a day for us. I suppose you know that we expect to leave sometime this week. But we don't know just when, we expect it any minute.
Elsie was up Sunday and also Ray [Aunt Vine Keyes' son, his first cousin, Buster's mother's foster brother] was up. We are all packed, waiting for the word and we are all anxious to start.
I won't be able to get a pass to go home because they want us all here. There is a lot of work to do.
We are drawing a lot of clothes. I have got three pair of shoes, and the last two pair we got were unfinished leather, that is, the outside is all rough and the sole is about a half an inch thick. On the sole are big nails and the heel of some shoes are half iron. I've got three suits of heavy underwear and five pair of stockings. We got enough clothes to last us a year.
Tonight we all got paid for the week we were out here, nine dollars and thirty cents, and the boys are all tickled to death. We each drew a five dollar gold piece and four silver dollars, so you see we are pretty rich. But best of all that happened today was the review.
Today the governor of Mass. was here and we had a review of three whole regiments passed the reviewing stand, and that is about eighteen batteries as the best looking and best drilled soldiers. Now what do you think of Battery D?
Well Ma, will close for this time. Give my love to Aunt Vine and a lot to Marion, Bernice, Edith and Everett, and a whole lot to you, Ma.
From your loving son, Ralph
p.s. Take good care of yourself and whatever you do don't worry because I'm having a good time. I signed a paper to send ten dollars a month to you. That's the ten we get from the state. I will drop you a line as soon as we move. Address my mail just the same. It will reach me anywhere. Write soon.
[Envelope:] Washington D.C., Oct. 2, 1917 DO YOUR BIT/ BUY A/ LIBERTY LOAN/ BOND/ INQUIRE AT ANY/ BANK OR POST OFFICE
[written sometime in September, 1917] Aboard The Adriatic, Halifax, Nova Scotia
I suppose you have imagined everything. Well, I'm on my way to England. We left Boxford Friday afternoon, and took a train to New York. We left New York aboard this boat on Sunday and arrived here in Halifax on Tuesday. Probably when you get this letter I will be in Liverpool, England. We have had a swell trip so far, and believe me we have had good eats. We have had chicken, Welsh Rabbit [sic] and all sorts of good stuff. It's a great life. I think I have gained quite a little. I didn't have a chance to let you know when we started. I gave Mrs. Hammer five dollars to give you. Let me know if you rec'd it and also let me know when you get that state money.
I'm writing this letter on board the ship out in Halifax harbor and it seems so funny to think that only a few days ago I was in Boxford. Now Ma, don't you worry a bit because I'm having the time of my life, enjoying every minute and seeing all the sights. But there isn't a night but I picture 118 Ontario St. just the same.
The other night we came across a ship on our way and we started to take a zig zag course and I laughed more at Bill [Pope]. He went on the other side of the boat so as he couldn't see it, and then every once in a while went around and peek to see if it was still following us. He thought it was a German Raider.
It will probably be a long time between letters now, perhaps two months between them on account of the way the boats run, but I will write as often as I can. And whatever you do, do not worry because I always manage to get out of scrapes somehow.
Well Ma, I will close for this time and my address is (be sure you put it exactly the way I write it.) Mr. Ralph Junkins 101st Regiment F.A. [Field Artillery] Battery D American Expeditionary ForcesVia New York That will be my address until I come home. Love to all and a lot for you. Ralph Write soon.
[This is the first letter mailed from France. In the upper right hand corner of the envelope, dad has written, "Soldier's Letter" and signed under it "Ralph C. Junkins." The postal franking indicates it arrived on Oct. 4. The censor's stamp is signed by one 1st Lieutenant Saunders, and someone in the family at Ontario Street has written, "1 from Across."] Sept. 29, 1917
Dear Ma, Somewhere in France
Just a few lines this time to let you know that we crossed the ocean and arrived here in France safe. All the boys from Pine Hill are all well and enjoying themselves, that is Curley Gaffing and Bill Pope. I had a long letter written to you that I wrote [censored] but I lost it in England. If you have rec'd any money from the state let me know. Well Ma, I'm just where I wanted to go. Somewhere in France. Everything here is so odd and different. I have seen English, Australian, French and other different kinds of troops. [4 lines censored]
Well Ma, I have got to fall in for drill now, so will close for this time, with love to sisters and a lot for you. Take care of yourself and don't worry because I'm having a good time.
Love from Ralph My address is 101st Regiment F.A. Battery D American Expeditionary ForcesVia New York Ma,
I just rec'd a letter from you, the one you sent on the 13th. Don't put Private on it.
Excerpted from Buster's Book Copyright © 2012 by Donald Junkins. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsList of Photos and Illustrations....................ix
Part I Ralph Chester Junkins, WWI....................3
Part II a Introduction to Buster....................28
Part II b Buster Talks of His Experiences in WW II....................32
PART II c The Day WW II Ended [May 9, 1945]....................48
Part III Buster's Overseas Letters, WW II....................53
Part IV Mama's Letters to Buster (Evelyn Bernice Keyes Junkins)....................74
Part V Dad's WW II Letters to Buster (Ralph Chester Junkins)....................303
Part VI Letters of Young Brother Donnie to Buster (Donald Arthur Junkins)....................339
Part VII Sister Betty's Letters to Buster (Evelyn Betty Junkins Leck)....................351
Part VIII a THE WW II Diary of Cousin Robert White....................442
Part VIII b INTERVIEW with S/Sergeant Robert W. White By Kaimei Zheng, Fall, 2004....................479
Part VIII c Cousin S/Sgt Robert White's Letters to Buster....................490
Part IX The Surviving World War II Letters of Cousin Russell Keyes....................495
Part X Cousin T5 Ralph Hayward' Letters to Aunt Evelyn and Family....................501
Part XI GRAMMA JUNKINS' Letters to Buster (Lillian May White Junkins)....................510
Part XII Aunt B's Letters to Buster (Laura Bernice Junkins)....................513
Part XIII Aunt Marion's Letters to Buster (Marion Lenore Junkins White)....................523
Part XIV Aunt Bertha's Letters to Buster (Bertha Hutchins White)....................534
Part XV Aunt Esther White's Letters to Buster....................543
Part XVI Aunt Hazel's Letters to Buster (Hazel Leach Keyes, mother of Russell Keyes)....................545
Part XVII Aunt Myrtle's Letters to Buster (Myrtle Trommer Hayward, Sister of Evelyn Keyes Junkins)....................573
Part XVIII a The Korean War: Interview with Cousin Col. Charles Hayward....................578
Part XVIII b The Vietnam War: Interview with Cousin Col. Charles Hayward....................599
Part XIX ROLAND WINSLOW JUNKINS, 1925-2002....................612
WW II Service Record of T-5 Roland W. Junkins....................616
About Liberty magazine....................618
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love the title through the last word, Here is part of our history you’ll not read elsewhere: from Ground Zero, from the warrior’s place in the middle of combat to the hearths at home that bred our warriors. This is a family story of the first order that you will not read elsewhere. Take a month to read it, take two months. Digest it. Know first-hand the midst of combat and the hearth at home where worries are constant interfaces with each day of separation. Junkins, a master poet, a master story teller, becomes a master editor as a compiler of war’s episodes where they inevitably change life. He brings the vital experiences of Buster’s Book to these pages, from both ends of our wars, with all the emotions from combat zones to kitchen anguish. I have been at both ends. This is an enormous piece of history and all the historians, all the veterans, and all those who carried on at home, for all their wars, ought to read. Here is the basic richness of family life. Junkins’ introduction, as well as his wife’s, is one of the warmest I have read, broad history at the family level, our core, right where history shakes itself loose from fiction and becomes us at our best. Old