Irv Reiss served in the US Army from Jun 27, 1941 until September 17, 1945 for a total of 4 years, 2 months, and 20 days. Foreign service in India and Burma (Myanmar) was 1 year, 1 month, and 23 days.
The foreign service in Burma was very intense and is the heart of this book -- hence thename, From Burma With Love. Irv was a labor officer along the Ledo Road from August 28, 1944 until December 11, 1944. His job was to hire and feed and pay several thousand native laborers (and a few elephants) to help build that road from Ledo, India to Mongyu, Burma. Read his letter of October 7, 1944
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From Burma With LoveFifteen months of World War II letters between Irwin and Mary Reiss
By Stephen W. Reiss
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Stephen W. Reiss
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Stage and Cast of Characters
Leading Lady: Mary Leone Stephenson Reiss
Leading Man: Lieutenant Irwin "Irvie" Reiss
Leading Baby One: Stephen "Stevie" Reiss, son of Mary and Irv Reiss
Leading Baby Two: Andrew "Andy III" Stephenson, son of Mary's older brother Elliott and his wife Mandy
California Cast One: Daisy "Mom or Mommie" Stephenson, mother of Mary
California Cast Two: Andrew "Andy I" Stephenson, father of Mary
California Cast Three: Mandy Stephenson, wife of Mary's older brother Elliott and mother of Andy III
California Cast Three and a half: Mandy's parents General William and Mary Ryan. He was Commanding General of the Pacific Division, Air Transport Command which was charged with delivering personnel and supplies throughout the Pacific Theater. William Ord Ryan was named for his great uncle Edward Ord who was born in 1818 and also had a distinguished military career. Edward Ord was considered a mathematical genius and was appointed to the US Military Academy by President Andrew Jackson. He saw action in the Civil War, the Second Seminole War, the Indian Wars, and the Spanish American War. His final rank was major general. He was present when Robert E. Lee surrendered to U. S. Grant to all but end the Civil War. He died in Cuba in 1883. Fort Ord in California is named for him. Ord, Nebraska is named for him as is Mount Ord in Texas. There is a bronze statue of Ord at the Vicksburg National Military Park and at Arlington National Cemetery where he is buried. There is a bust of Ord at President Grant's Tomb in New York City depicting him as one of five sentinels (Sherman, Thomas, McPherson, Sheridan, and Ord) watching over the tomb of President Ulysses S. Grant.
California Cast Four: Captain Elliott "Steve" Stephenson, older brother of Mary and father of Andy III
California Cast Five: Andrew "Andy II" Stephenson, younger brother of Mary
Illinois Cast One: Katie "Mother" Reiss is the mother of Irwin. She was born on 3/25/1890 in Illinois of Swiss descendents so her first language was German. Her maiden name was Luetzelschwab which Mary mentions as a mouthful in several letters. She was the fifth of eleven children so some of her siblings are mentioned in letters. She married George Reiss on 4/16/1911 and they had three sons—William, Franklin, and Irwin. They all lived on the Reiss family farm which was established in 1834 in St. Clair County, Illinois and continues to this day. Katie's five year diary from 1949 was published by Author House as Quilter, Granger, Grandma, Matriarch. Her five year diary from 1944 will be published in 2011 as Granger, Quilter, Grandma, Matriarch.
Illinois Cast Two: George "Geo" or "Pop" Reiss is the father of Irwin. He was born on 4/22/1873 in a log cabin built by his grandfather in 1834 on the Reiss family farm in St. Clair County, Illinois. His parents were German descendents so his first language was also German. George was the fourth of eleven children but the oldest to reach adulthood so some of his siblings are mentioned in letters, especially Henry. He married his parents' domestic servant, Katie Luetzelschwab, on 4/16/1911 and they had three sons—William, Franklin, and Irwin. George and Katie eventually bought the family farm from his parents plus an adjacent 160 acres to bring the total to its current 360 acres. George retired from farming in 1948 at age 75, having farmed only with horses. He never owned a tractor.
Illinois Cast Three: William "Bill" Reiss is the oldest brother of Irwin, was born 5/6/1912 on the family farm, and grew up speaking German. He married Anita Hesse and had one surviving child, June Ann Reiss who was born 12/2/1936. They lived half an hour north of the family farm in Maplewood, Illinois where he worked for Socony Oil. They alternated visits for most Sunday evening meals between his Reiss parents and her Hesse parents who lived five miles apart. Three of Anita's brothers also served in the war—Siegel in the Marines, Edgar in the Navy, and Harvey as a B17 pilot in the Army Air Force. Sadly, Harvey was shot down over Germany and did not survive.
Illinois Cast Four: Franklin "Frank" Reiss is the older brother of Irwin, was born 10/31/1915 on the family farm, and naturally grew up speaking German. He married Gerry Hulet and had two sons, George "Georgie" Reiss born 2/26/1942 and Richard "Richie" Reiss born 11/21/1944. Both births are mentioned in several letters. They lived two hours northeast of the family farm in Urbana, Illinois where Frank was a professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Illinois, his and Irwin's alma mater. They visited the family farm every three or four months.
Friends Cast One—Military: Irv and Mary had lots of military friends from Irv's stations mentioned below on the "national stage." One very special couple was Walt and Marge Keith where Walt and Irv were each other's best man at their respective weddings and Marge played the organ at Irv's and Mary's wedding. The Reisses and Keiths remained good friends for 50+ years. Mary and Irv stayed in touch for decades with many of their military friends via occasional visits and Christmas letters.
Friends Cast Two—Atascadero: Mary had many grade school and high school friends including Eleanor Cornelius, Jean Calvert, and Thais Shaver. Another was Lucille Ray who Mary called Lucybelle. There were also couples like Herb and Delia Rheinert and others who were friends of Mary's parents.
Friends Cast Three—Military renters in the Stephenson home: Housing was in great demand near military bases during the World War II. The Stephensons had modified their large home to include two apartments and they converted their detached garage into a cottage, all for short term use by military officers who were frequently transferred to other posts. One tenant who became Mary's friend was Dody McNeil from "upstairs."
Diary Number One—Irv kept a daily diary from day one of his time overseas. It contained all the details, experiences, and thoughts that censorship rules prevented him from putting into his daily letters. It would have been a terrific resource for this book but sadly it was stolen. See his letter of November 5, 1944.
Diary Number Two—Mary kept a daily diary in California for several months from the time their first child was born on June 12, 1944. Several excerpts are included in this book.
Diary Number Three—Irv's mother Katie Reiss kept two consecutive five-year daily diaries at the family farm in Illinois for the years 1944 through 1953. Several excerpts are included in this book. Both diaries are or will be in book form per the note above on Illinois Cast One.
Small Stage: Atascadero, California is a community located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, about 225 miles from each city. It is farther inland than most other San Luis Obispo County cities, and as a result, usually experiences warmer, drier summers and cooler winters than neighboring cities such as San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach. The Atascadero population was less than 5,000 in 1942.
Middle Stage: Camp Roberts was established in March 1941 on 42,784 acres in southern Monterrey County, California as a very large replacement training center for the US Army. Design capacity was 29,000 officers and troops but peak population hit 45,000 in 1945. Camp Roberts was probably the world's largest military training facility and boasted a mammoth parade grounds the size of 14 football fields. Some 436,000 World War II Infantry and Field Artillery troops passed through Camp Roberts on an intensive seventeen-week training cycle. One of those was Lt. Irwin Reiss who was here as an instructor from 10/1/1941 to 8/1/1943 except for a month at Fort Washington, Maryland in censorship school. Mary Stephenson worked here as a civilian for less than a year in the Quartermaster's Office but that was long enough to meet a handsome Lieutenant Irv Reiss on her 21st birthday of March 15, 1942.
Large Stage: San Luis Obispo County is far enough from the large metro areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles to retain its rural character and reminders of old California. Using Atascadero as a hub and US Highway 101 as the main artery, Paso Robles (Paso or PR) is 11 miles north, Camp Roberts (Camp or CR) is 27 miles north, San Jose (SJ) is 168 miles north. Going the other direction, San Luis Obispo (San Luis or SLO) is 18 miles south and Guadalupe where Mary's father managed a second ice-making plant is 46 miles south. All of these cities, usually with abbreviations, are mentioned in Mary's letters. The map which follows helps with orientation.
National Stage: Site #1 is the Reiss Family Farm in St. Clair County, Illinois about 20 miles southeast of St. Louis, Missouri. It is where Irv Reiss was born and raised, where Illinois Casts #1 and #2 live, and where Illinois Casts #3 and #4 frequently visited. Irv and Mary visited there also on their cross-country drives from California to Site #2 (Fort Washington, Maryland) and Site #3 (Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut). The family farm is also where Mary Reiss visited after a tearful goodbye from her husband Irv at Site #4 (Camp Reynolds in Greenville, Pennsylvania).
World Stage: British India at the time of World War II included the present day countries of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. When the aircraft carrier with Irv Reiss aboard docked at Karachi on 3/29/1944, that country was called India. Today Karachi is in Pakistan. On 8/15/1847 the British transferred power dividedly to India and a new country which was created from the extreme eastern and western provinces of India and called Pakistan (i.e. East and West Pakistan). But since East and West Pakistan were separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory and had many cultural, ethnic, and political differences, they formally separated on 12/16/1971. East Pakistan became Bangladesh and West Pakistan became simply Pakistan.
The University of Illinois
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS REGISTRAR'S OFFICE URBANA
July 20, 1937
Mr. Irwin Henry Reiss R. R. #1 Freeburg, Illinois
Dear Mr. Reiss:
You are hereby notified that you have been appointed to the following scholarship in the University of Illinois:
1. Kind of Scholarship - Agriculture
2. Date of Appointment - June 5, 1937 - Nominated by H. O. Allison
3. County or District - St. Clair - Assigned to Massac County
4. Period of Scholarship - 4 years, beginning September 1937
The perquisites of this scholarship are exemption from all matriculation, incidental and tuition fees during the period of the scholarship, except fees for the purchase of laboratory supplies and similar fees for supplies and materials.
This appointment is made subject to the following rules and regulations:
A Scholarship becomes void unless the holder registers in the University at the opening of the semester or the summer session indicated as the beginning date thereof.
A scholarship indicated as applicable in a special course, i.e., Agriculture, Home Economics, or Ceramics, will be cancelled if the holder fails to pursue such course at any time during the period of the scholarship.
A scholarship lapses if the legal residence of the holder is changed from Illinois to some other state.
A scholarship may be extended by the President of the University to cover a period of absence, not exceeding two years, under the following conditions:
1. All applications for an extension of the term of a scholarship must be made in writing to the President. 2. The application for extension must be filed in advance of the time of leaving the University.
3. An extension may be granted only if the holder requires leave of absence from the University to earn money to complete his education, and for no other cause.
4. The holder must have completed the work of at least two semesters after the award of the scholarship.
5. The student's work for the time during which he has been at the University must have been at least of average grade. This is indicated by a grade of "C." No student whose average is below "C" may receive an extension of his scholarship.
Please preserve this notice for future reference.
Very truly yours, G. P. Tuttle, Registrar
September 15, 1938
My Dear Son Irwin,
Dad and I both join in congratulating you to your twenty-first birthday although it don't seem that long since that nice sunshiney Tuesday afternoon on the 18th of Sept. 1917 when our third son was born. A strong and healthy baby weighing eight pounds, no one but we know how proud we were. I can still feel it how I used to tenderly cuddle you in my arms and kiss you. No one in all the world, but a mother can tell the love between the mother and her child. No one knows how proud we are of our three loving sons. To me it was more pleasure than work to raise you up to three fine young men.
But, Irwin, don't think that you have to shift for yourself now. Oh no. You're still my baby and I will help you along as much as I can. I'll keep your clothes clean and do all I can for you until some day when you will have a sweet wife to take my place. I'm sending you a $2 bill as a birthday present from Dad and myself.
It's most remarkable that all three sons were born on clear sunshiney days. That's why we hope that you all will have sunshine and happiness all thru life. Dad and I are so glad that we could make it to let you both go thru college, and are so glad that you are doing such good work. So let's thank our good Lord for all this.
Wishing you lots of Luck & Happiness, Your Loving Mother & Dad
The $2 bill is still enclosed in this envelope and carries a note: "From Mother and Dad on my 21st birthday, Sept. 18, 1938."
May 15, 1939
Dear Mother and Dad,
Mother, I thought about you and prayed for you yesterday, although I neglected to send you a card. I'm sorry I didn't write sooner, but things have to be done toward the end of a semester. I wish you could have stayed for church last Sunday. Rev. Malone preached a wonderful sermon to the mothers. There is no person that is more willing and does more things for one than his own mother. Even though I do not say the things I feel, I hope you realize that I fervently thank God for being blessed with such wonderful parents as you and Dad. I don't see how anybody can have better parents than I have. The sermon last Sunday was the most touching and inspiring one I have ever heard. That hour in church passed like 10 minutes. I am enclosing the bulletin.
We served turkey to 110 people and everything went fine (worked from 11 to 3). Chester & I worked the formal Sat. night, 120 people. Sunday (yesterday) Ches. & I and an inexperienced waiter served ninety people from 12 to 3. So you see I am busy.
I got my numerals in wrestling. They are "41" the year I graduate. They are about 6 inches high and are worn on a sweater.
Franklin left Friday afternoon for Chicago & got back last night. I haven't had time to talk to him yet.
Chester's got a school 50 miles south of here for $1,700.
Finals are coming which meant burning the midnight oil. But don't worry about us, we can take it.
Time to go to work. Don't wait as long as I did to write. You are probably busier than we are.
PS: I was relieved when we got your card saying you got home OK.
Excerpted from From Burma With Love by Stephen W. Reiss Copyright © 2011 by Stephen W. Reiss. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. 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
The Stage and Cast of Characters....................1
The University of Illinois....................7
Fort Benning, Georgia....................14
Camp Roberts, California....................18
A Wedding on November 8, 1942....................30
Fort Washington, Maryland....................36
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut....................41
Camp Reynolds, Pennsylvania....................45
At Sea on the USS Wake Island Aircraft Carrier....................85
Ramgarh Training Center, India....................227
Stilwell Road, Story of the Ledo Lifeline....................359
Along the Ledo Road in Burma....................365
Ledo, Assam, India....................513
Thar Desert, India....................599
En route to Miami, Florida and Van Nuys, California....................609
"Roundup," "Ex-CBI Roundup," and "Sound-Off"....................626
Obituary and Eulogy for Irwin H. Reiss....................633
Obituary, Guinness World Record, and Eulogy for Mary L. Reiss....................636
About the Author....................640
Other Reiss Family History Books....................642