A Soldier at Fort Polk, LA

This is the actual postcard that is referenced to the left.


Mr and Mrs Otto Zill

1713 Maryfield

Ann Arbor Michigan

Dear Mom and Dad

Got into camp this a.m. Got our work clothes.  Can’t leave barracks except with whole bunch.  No pass yet.  Will write more when I get more time. 

Love  Ken



Jan 17, 1950 (51)

Fort Sheridan Ill.


Dear Rosalie, 

                Well, I’m a soldier now. We got sworn in yesterday P.M. about 4 o’clock.  Out side of getting sworn in yesterday, we did nothing but play cards.  We played from 9-12 and from 1-4 and 4:30-6:00.

                We got so much coffee and donuts yesterday it was pitiful.  We got coffee at the bus station, coffee when we got on the bus, also when we got to Fort Wayne, then when we went to the train station.  Every place we got about three candy bars too.  We got razor blades, soap, cigs, Bibles, shaving cream and all sorts of stuff like that. 

                We just got our barracks assigned and just back to them with our blankets and sheets.  Me & Gus go in the same barracks, hes (sic) at one end and I’m at the other.  It’s getting close to dinner time now, but I don’t know when we get to eat. We are going to get our fagities (sic) this P.M. (work clothes)

                Tomorrow we start drilling.  We got Pullmans for a train down here.  It took 13 pullman cars to get us all on.  There is 346 in our class.  We had to be in bed by 10 last night.  Oh yeah, we went through Lansing last night about 10.  I don’t know how we went thru there on our way from Det to Chi but we did.  It took us 12 hours to go from Det to Chi last night.  We stopped every time a train came by.

                Tonight to get to go over to the P.X (sic).  From what I heard you can buy beer over there, so me & Gus will be over there most of the time.

                This barrack is just a bloody fire trap, its about the dustiest place I’ve seen in my life.  Lights go out at 22:50 every night and Revillie (sic) is at 06:25 every morning.  We live on the second floor.

                We got ten minutes before dinner so I’d better close.

                Gus said to say hello and he said to send you his love.

                We just got back from dinner, had pork chops wasn’t too bad either.

                We had to make our beds so you could bounce a coin off of it.

                Gotta close now and get our uniforms.

                                Lots of Love




 Jan 19, ’50 (51)

Fort Sheridan

2:00 P.M.

Dear Rosie,

                From what I hear we’re pulling out tomorrow night or Sun morning.  We haven’t any idea where we’re going except if we volunteer for the airborne.  About 8 of us are going to volunteer if we don’t like what we get assigned to.

                The only thing wrong with the airborne is the training is twice as long as it is in any thing else, because you got jump training too.  (That’s the para troops you know)  If we volunteer we get $50 extra a month.

                We got real neat barracks up here.  There all wood with no walls except the outside walls.  It is dustier than heck up here.  We got to sweep and mop the floor every morning before breakfast. We get up at 5 and make our beds then clean the place up.

                We get our dress uniforms this P.M. those are the ones with the “Ike” jackets

6:30 PM

                Just got back from chow.  We got our uniforms, they look pretty neat too. (The corporal just came into the barracks and said we could go to the PX tonight.)

                We didn’t volunteer for the airborne.  We found out we could volunteer after our basic training, so we waited.  They told us we may get a furlough after 6 weeks or it might be 3 or four months.

                Too bad you ain’t up here because I really miss you.  All we see up here is soldiers.  Soldiers all over the place.  Gotta close

                                Lots of Love


P.S. We got K.P. for tomorrow morning.



Jan 19, ‘51

Dear Rosie

                We got our assignments tonight.  I’m going to Fort Polk, Louisanna.  That’s an infantry base, so I guess I’m going to be a foot soldier.  Our group leaves Monday morning at about 7:30.  That means we get up at about 4:00, which is too darn early.

                We had K.P. this morning.  We got up at 4:45 and marched over to the kitchen and then we were assigned jobs in it.  I got a job throwing dishes in the washing machine and then running around to the other end and taking them out and stacking them.

                One nice feature of it was we got thru a little after 1 P.M.  Then we marched over and heard a lecture from the chaplin and then we got our shots.  We couldn’t even pick up our arms tonight.  We lined up and a doctor stood on each side of us and jammed a needle in.

                Heinleg hasn’t got his assignment as yet.  He will either go to La with me or go to Maryland or Texas.  He’ll find out tomorrow where he’s going

Jan 20, 1950 (51)

9:30 AM

Well, we’ve been up since 5:30 and haven’t done anything as yet except cleaning the barracks. Heinleg has been on K.P. since 5:30 so I haven’t seen him as yet this morning.  They announce this morning that all the guys who haven’t had their orders will get them this afternoon.  A whole flock of guys pulled out this morning for Maryland.

                Right now we’re waiting for the sergeant to call us.  We’re supposed to have our records checked this afternoon and they got some schedule we supposed to follow and the sarge is going to announce it.

                It’s colder than heck here in the barracks, they didn’t turn the heat on until about 8:30.  All the guys are wearing their overcoats in the barracks.  Tonight we might get a chance to go to the PX.  One more thing about the PX is, you can buy all the beer you want.

                We just found out we are Privates now.  After only one week I’ve been promoted.  I used to be a recruit but now I’m a private.

                I finished packing my clothes to send home.  We can wear them on the base or off duty, but I figure I may just as well use up the army’s stuff.

                It snowed pretty hard here last night, and there was fairly stiff wind along with it.  One of the guys in the barracks was on a special detail last night.  He was late for K.P., so they made him walk around the barrack from 3 AM to 5:30 AM without stopping.  He was frozen stiff when he came in this morning.

                I should close now, because I gotta write my mother a letter now.  She said I was supposed to write a least one a week but that’s an awful lot of time to spend writing letters.

                Oh yeah, don’t forget to mail that picture of you soon as you get, because you get kinda lonesome out here.  I wish you would've come along with me down here, It would have been fun.

                I can’t wait until I get my first furlong so I can see you again, for I really miss you.  I gotta close

                                                All my love


P.S. Don’t forget to send me that picture.



Jan 22, 1951


Dear Rosie,

                We left this morning for Fort Polk.  I’m writing this from the train.  We left Fort Sheridan at 8:30 and now we’re in Chi.  It’s a distance of about 25 miles and its now 2:15, so we’re not moving too fast.

                I tried to call you last night but you weren’t home.  If I get a chance I’ll call you from Louisianna (sic). 

                There are 374 men going to Polk with me.  Me and Heinleg are sharing the same Pullman compartment.  Some of the guys have even got drawing rooms.  Lucky stiffs!

                We can’t even leave our car on the train.  The sergeant said we might be able to get off at some big city for a few minutes though.  It all depends on how the captain is feeling or we may get off for a while and do exercises for a while.  That would really go over great with the fellows.

                Well after 8 hours we’re finally leaving Chi.  Its going to be nice to get out of this ice and snow for a while and go to sunny climate.  From what I hear, Polk is near Baton Rouge, or 80 miles from New Orleans.

                Its getting pretty close to chow time.  They haven’t got around to feeding us since about 5:30 this morning.  After 9 hours you start to get hungry.

                Last night me and Heinleg went to PX and lapped up a few cans of beer.  The only thing wrong with it its poor beer, the only kind they sell is Pabst & Baltz, and neither is any good.

                I don’t think I ever told you, but the night before I left, the store gave me a Swiss watch.  Its really a dream. They had my name engraved on the back of it.

                Just got back from chow.  What a mess of crap.  Just pure crap.  We had the old Army stand by, stew. Walk through eight cars and then get feed (sic) G__ D____ Stew.  Wasn’t even good stew.  I getting about ready to resign from the army.

                We got issued all of our winter clothing, overcoats, gloves, etc. and now they send us to Louisanna.  Heinleg wants to say Hi to you!

                                Hi, and greetings from this so called Army.  Take it from me, don’t even join.

                                Will write later, if Ken doesn’t censor my letters!

                                                Love. G. W. Hien

The above is Heinleg’s greetings.  This army is simply wonderful.  We haven’t gotten a good look at a good looking woman in over a week.  All you see is soldiers, soldiers and more soldiers you get so darn sick of seeing just soldiers, its pitiful.

                I met someone from Pinkney (sic) who knows you.  I think his name was Bill Klave, although I ain’t sure about the Bill part.  I was talking to Heinleg in the john last night and I told him I was going to call you.  He wanted to know if you was at E. L. or Pinkney. Klave was standing next to us shaving and heard us mention Rosalie and Pinkney and he asked if we were talking about Rosalie Nash.  We said it was, and he said he knew you in H.S. although he graduated a couple of years ahead of you.  He thought you were a pretty nice kid.  He isn’t the only one who thinks you are pretty nice though, there’s a certain soldier who is stationed in Lousanna who thinks your pretty nice too.  Send that picture of you along sometime soon.  I miss you about like a fish misses water somewhat near that.

                We just figured out we will be in Louisanna just about the time that the Missippi (sic) overflows and we can help pile sandbags along the river.  I hope you don’t mind getting 6 page letters, but we don’t have anything else to do and it helps a lot to pass the time away, besides I’m using Heinleg’s stationery so I can write all night and it won’t cost me anything.  Well I suppose I should close now and try to get a little sleep before its time to go bed

                                All my Love




Jan 24, 1951


Dear Rosie,

                We we (sic) finally got to Camp Polk.  We arrived about 01:30 A.M. Then they had us wait around to 2:30 to eat, and finally we got to bed about 3:00.  Then the G.D.S.O.B.’s made us get up at 5:30.  What a sorry looking bunch of soldiers we were.

                Tomorrow we get our rifles and rest of our equipment.  We’re going in a M-1 rifle squad.  I’m going to be one of those soldiers who walks whether he goes and carries a rifle (sic).

                I haven’t seen Gus since this morning so I didn’t know what branch of the division he is in.  I’m in the same room with a couple Ann Arbor kids tho.

                We’ve been confined to company grounds for the first couple weeks.  That means we can walk around our block.  The PX, Post Office and everything else is out of bounds for us, and we haven’t got a darn thing to do, so we play cards all day.

                We got real neat beds in our barracks, a plain cot and two blankets, no pillows and no sheets pretty nice, huh?

                The food they give us ain’t fit for the pigs.  I thought the food at East Shaw was bad, but this stuff takes the cake.               

                I guess I won’t be able to call you for a week or so as there is nothing to call from on company grounds.

                My new address is on the front of the envelope, so you can write now and send your picture along, I getting anxious to get it.  It’s hot done (sic) here in the day and cold at night (ran out of ink) so I’ll probably have a good sun tan by the time I come.  The Major just announced that we will most likely sail for Europe in the spring, and the 4th army is slated for Germany.  That means the whole division will go.  We got a neat insignia.  It looks something like this.  It is supposed to be a thunderbird, but we got other name for.  Our outfit in a national guard unit from Oklahoma.  All the officers are Oklahoma men.

                The sergeants also confirmed the story that we are seriously being considered for overseas duty.

I better close cuz I gotta shine & polish my combat boots.  They raise cain if your shoes ain’t polished



                                Write soon!



                                                                                 Jan 25 1951

Dear Mom

I finally got my address:

Pvt Kenneth Zill


Co. E. 180th Inf 45th Div

Camp Polk, La

                It took 41 hours to come down here from Sheridan.  We came on a train of Pullmans.  So far the food is terrible, and they don’t give out much.




Rosalie Nash

610 Ardson Rd

East Lansing, Michigan


Jan 26, 1950 (51)

Camp Polk, La

1:00 PM

Dear Rosie,

                We finally got our rifles finished.  It took just a little over 8 hours.

                We get to go to the PX tonight after our “G.I. Party.” The party is scrubbing the barracks, washing the windows, dusting the walls, etc.  With 40 guys working it will only take about an hour.  We got inspection early tomorrow morning.

                Haven’t seen Heinleg as yet, but I will probably finding him lapping up beer over at the PX.  Haven’t had any beer since we left Fort Sheridan.  We started drill today.  Whatta pain!  This afternoon we’re supposed to get the rest of our uniforms. Right now we’re just laying around doing nothing in particular, just waiting for the sergeant to call us.  That’s about all you do in the army – wait.

                We get off at tomorrow noon and go back to work at 5 Mon morning, if we don’t draw K.P. Here he is.





Jan 26, 1950 (51)

Camp Polk, La


Hello, Again:

                Just got thru cleaning our rifles.  Yesterday we had to oil them and today we had to wipe them dry.  We had them looking real nice.  This noon, and this afternoon we had to drill with them.  This darn camp is all sand.  Sand everywhere you look.  Then there's a breeze usually and that sand gets inside of your rifle and makes a mess.  We gotta have them completely cleaned, no oil or dust, for inspection tomorrow. 

                We caught the devil this afternoon.  We were all laying around the barracks cleaning our rifles and some officers came up. We didn’t notice him for about 5 seconds and you are suppose to jump to attention within 1 second after he comes into the room.  Anyway, he waited 11 seconds, and he was mad.  He also told us he was mad in no uncertain terms.  When he left the P.F.C. laced into us.

                Try to be home tonight because I’m going to try to call you, if your not home tonight, I’ll call you the middle of next week.  I’m outta paper so I gotta close now





Jan 27, 1950 (51)

Camp Polk, La

9:00 AM

Dear Rosie,

Didn’t get a chance to call last night, will try to call Wednesday if not Fri.

                Went over to the PX and slopped up half a dozen beer last night. Woke up this morning with a terrible headache.

                I went to the telephone room last night and it would have took about an hour and half or longer to get thru to E.L. That was about 8:30 and we had to be in by ten.

                Tomorrow we don’t have to get up until noon.  And by Gosh, I’m going to sleep.

                We’ve got this afternoon off, and I’m going to try to and find Gus.  Haven’t see him since Wednesday.

                Just got back from chow.   Now we’re thru until Monday at 05:00, only we can’t go off the base. I got to get this letter done, because it has to be in the mail by 13:00 and that’s only a half hour.  1300 is one o’clock or maybe you know army time.

                We saw an Army parade this morning, it was really thrilling to see all the soldiers march by, (real thrilling)

                                Gotta Close





29, 1951

Camp Polk


Dear Rosie

Got my haircut tonight – army style.  It looks like h__l too.  The darn barbers just run the clippers over your head until it all shorter than an inch.  We spend all day indoors cleaning our rifles.  It rained like mad all day.  The sergeant had us oil our guns and the wipe them dry and oil them again and then dry them again.

                I just got back from the PX.  Had to guzzle a coupla beer, just to socialable you know, not cuz I wanted to drink anything.  We actually haven’t done any work so far in the army, in fact we haven’t even earned our 10.4 cents an hour.

                Right now we’ve got about 30 minutes until lights out.  They go out at 21.30 and we have to be in bed by 2300.

                I’ll try to call you Wed night if I can get a line thru.  If not I’ll call Sunday morning.  From what I hear you can get a line almost right away.  If I call Sun it will probably be about 7 (or 8 Lansing time if that isn’t too early for you, or won’t you be home Saturday night that early? We don’t have to come in on Saturday night if we don’t want to but we can’t go off the base and everything closes at 22:30.

                Send that picture down as soon as you get, I’m getting more anxious every day.  Time for lights out.

                                All of my Love




                                                           Jan 31, 1951

07 25

Camp Polk, La


Dear Rosie

                Got your letter yesterday.  Was real glad to hear from you.  We got just about ½ of an hour until we gotta go out and drill.

                Last night we got our first P.T (physical training).  For 40 minutes we jumped up and down and did pushups and squats.  They’re trying to bring my school boy figure back.

                This morning everyone is sore all over from the P.T.  The sergeant said we will have P.T. for one hour every day.  That’s really something to look forward to.  Gotta fall out…

                 We had an ice storm here today.  All the lights are out all over camp and its darker than you know what.  I’m writing this by the light of a cigarette light.  The only trouble with it is that you load it every couple minutes.  The telephones are down too so I can’t call you.

                I got your letter today too.  It was swell of you to send the two dollars along.  After this when you write you gotta put CoE. 180th in right after US.xxxxxxxxxxxx, otherwise it takes a couple extra days to get mail.  It’s colder than heck here to and there is no heat.  This is sunny Louisanna for you.

Copyright © 2013 Mary Elizabeth Zill VandenBerghe

Sharon Johnson 07.06.2017 03:06

Elias Raven & I r writing a series of books called Letters Away. It's about Belle & Jacob who r separated in 1951 when he's drafted into the Korean war.

Liz VandenBerghe 18.06.2017 16:25

That sounds like a interesting project. Good luck!

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Latest comments

04.10 | 19:01

Of course, thank you for asking! Would love to see what you write if you can share when you are done.

04.10 | 18:39

I'm writing a book on Christmas in Wartime. Would it be ok to use a couple of comments in your dad's letters related to Christmas in the book? Many thanks!

09.07 | 22:16

If your related to Celia Gearhart Nash 1913-1988. Please contact me. I have a self-published book of poems written by her titled the View From My Window

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