Home » life » What did you do in the war, Grandaddy? (or, Happy Veterans Day)

What did you do in the war, Grandaddy? (or, Happy Veterans Day)

Letters from Ray Lykins to Mrs. J.T. Lykins, 210 East Third St., Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Fort Lewis, May 31, 1942

My “Maw,”

I can now call you, “Maw,” and get by with it because you can’t slap me now as much as I regret it.  Whenever I call you, “Maw,” it is with respect and not trying to be funny.  I just wanted you to understand that, Mother.

I have sent you some negatives of pictures I have taken and you can have them developed if you wish.  The cost is very small.  I think it is about 40¢.  I would do it myself but as you say you can’t get blood out of a turnip.

We can no longer get week-end passes and we have to work 6 days a week but I think we get more money next month.  So I don’t mind it.  Tell Jimmie I pitched a soft ball game last week and won 2-0.  I allow only 2 hits and struck out 9 men.  I also got a triple and single while at bat.  You can also tell that young man to write me.

Did Tommy pass this year in school?  I hope so.  If he did let me know.  How is Dad?  Tell him that I ask about him and that I often think about him.  I saw in the paper where Claude is now with the police again so I guess Ruby is happy about that.  I wrote her a letter last week but I guess they are all too busy to write me.  If it wasn’t for our Radio I guess I would go crazy.  Saturday night and I am at the barracks listening to it.  Can you beat that.

Ans. Soon.



Fort Lewis, Wash., August 7, 1942.

My dearest Mother,

Mother, I would have wrote you lots sooner but I have really been busy.  I haven’t had a free minute in over a week.

Thanks a million for all the cards and money that the family sent me.  I am saving both of them for future use.  I also receive cards from Jack, Rhea, Gene, Jeanette, Estelle, and Tesi [?].  Tesi also sent me a very lovely cigarette case and it sure was nice.  If you see the Mealor [?] family thank them for me or better still call them on the telephone now and thank them because I don’t know when I will have time to write again because time is really short now.

Tell “King” that I really appreciate the $2 and those cards are really helpful when you are blue.  I guess he is the best friend I have and yet I can’t tell him how I feel because that would really be sissy.

Mother I believe that I can get off on any week end and if you can come to some nearby town I feel certain that I could meet you there.  Gee!  I really hope that you can come because I would really like to see you.  I guess and know that that is the best thing that could happen to me now.

Our Lt’s wife gave birth to a baby girl the other day and the next day he had to leave for Kentucky for special duty.  How’s that for Army life?

I hope and want to see you soon.



Fort Lewis, Wash., August 15, 1942.

My dearest Mother,

I wrote you a letter yesterday so I haven’t much to say although I have a chance to come home in a couple months.  I don’t know whether to take it or not because I may get stranded [?] on the road.

It is really hot here but at night it is almost cold.  I can’t understand this weather.

Here in our new barracks where we are comfortably at ease now we have a day room where we have a pool table, ping pong, checkers, and many other games.  We spent much of our spare time here and it is a blessing to have such a place to go to.

Our movie has cut their price to 15¢ so now I go very often.  Yesterday I saw “Pride of the Yankees” and you must tell Jimmy to see this picture because it is wonderful.

When do plan on reaching Ruth’s?  I sure wish that I could be there when you come in.  I can see the look of surprise on your face now but you need not worry because I won’t be there.

I would write more but it is too hot to do anything.  I sit here and write and sweat like a dog.

All my Love,



January 17, 1944

Dear Mother,

I am now some where in North Ireland and am in good health so please don’t worry about me.  We have only been here a short time and I don’t think I will be able to write as regular as I have been.  I am not saying that I like this place but it is really not bad but I will take the states any day.

Ireland is really a quaint place and how you see old people riding bicycles and the autos are like our austins and they have the steering wheels on the right side of the car and they drive on the left of the road.  You also see double decker street cars or trams and trucks with three wheels.

Before we left the states we went to the East Coast and I had a short pass to New York City and saw Terry and really had a good time.  Boy.  That is really a nice place.  I saw Times Square, rode the subway, and done numerous other things.  This is the only V-mail I have now but I will write more as soon as they issued some more.



North Ireland, January 23, 1944

Dear Mother,

I haven’t wrote in a long time because we have moved from one location to another.  We now live within the shadow of a small castle and it is not so bad.  When I went to bed last night I slept on the best inter spring mattress ever made.  It was made of the finest lumber money can buy.  It is not so bad now because we are sleeping on straw.  I can remember when I use to gripe about a hard mattress but I will never to it again.

We have had our money, including my two dollars, changed into English money and their shillings, pences, and pounds are getting me now, it is hard to figure it out.

Mother, if you still have that picture of mine, do not send it here!  I will write you later and tell you what to do with it.

One good thing about Ireland is that you can [?] good steaks here so only three shillings or sixty cents to you, but candy and chewing gum is very uncommon.  We can get cigarettes, razor blades, matches, and things like that in camp as we do not suffer from lack of supplies.  I could go on and over and tell you about the friendly people, the way they live and things like that but you would have to see it to get a thrill out of it.

Tell every body hell-o for me and get them to drop me a line every now and then.  Don’t worry about me for I am O.K. and feeling fine but home was never like this.

Love to all


France, January 23, 1945

Dear Mother,

I am now in a hospital in France and I am O.K. so don’t worry about me.  Remember the trouble I use to have with my right foot well I am having the same trouble again.  I only hope the doctor here cuts my heel off so I will not be bother with it any more.

Right before I left my outfit I sent you my wrist watch and also a check for $50.  I hope that you got both of them.  Be sure and have my watch fixed so it will be ready for use when I come home.  I won’t be home for a couple of years or so yet so you can take your time having it repaired.  Did Dude sell his car or is it still around?  I hope that he still has it I don’t ever want to walk again.  Ha!

This hospital is in a famous city in France and I have always wanted to visit for a few days but as yet I haven’t had a chance to get a pass and it would just be my luck not to get one.  I suppose I am lucky to be here because, at least, no one is trying to kill me but as soon as my heel is well I want to get out of here and go back to my boys.  I don’t feel right here in a hospital and as soon as I get a chance I am going back and do a little more fighting.  Don’t get the idea that I like to fight, Mom, as I don’t.  To tell the truth I hate it and every thing about it.  When I get out of here I never want to see a gun, soldier, or any thing else that has any thing to do with the Army.  All I want to do is eat and sleep and go out with the girls!

When I heard these nurses speak English it really surprised me for awhile as it has been some time since I have heard girls talking our “lingo.”  It’s still a treat to hear them talk.

I don’t know what my address is or where I am going or what will happen next but don’t worry about me and I will write again in a few days and give you all the news.  Tell all hell-o for me!




Somewhere in Belgium, December 24, 1944

Dear Mother,

Tis was the night before Christmas and all through the house all the G.I.’s were on the alert for the rats.  How’s that for a start on a poem?

Every thing here is about the same except that I am more home sick than ever.  I wish that these holidays would stop coming around because it is on these days that I feel awful.  I suppose you know how I feel about being away from the family on Christmas but this is the fourth one I have missed so I should be getting use to it but it is impossible to do so.

Tell all hell-o for me and again I will pray that I will be with you and the family next Christmas.



[undated, France, Belgium?]

Dear Mother,

Received your letter today and was glad to hear from you but what is the idea of worrying about me.  You must think I am a baby!  I told you not to worry if I didn’t write and what happens I don’t write and you start worrying.  I am ashamed of you, Mother.  What do you say we quit worrying and think about the good times we are going to have when I come home.  O.K.?

So Lewis is in France now. O.K.  I have his address and I will write and see if I can get a idea as to where he is.  If he comes a little closer I am sure I can get a time off to visit him.  The Army is O.K. about things like that.  Gosh.  I haven’t seen him in three years I wonder if I will know him.  Ha!

Tell all hell-o from me and Mother you quit worrying about me.  Know something- you are still my best girl.



Germany, May 1945

Dearest Mother,

Today is Mother’s Day and I really wish that I was at home now so I could try to make you really happy on this one special day.  All I can tell you is that I send all my love to the grandest mother a fellow could have.

Yesterday I was greatly surprised to receive the box that you sent me for Christmas.  Every thing was in good shape except for the fact that the bottle had broken and ran over every thing so you can imagine how the candy tasted but I ate it any way.  You don’t throw candy away over here!

I received a letter from Ruth and Va and both are alright but awful lonesome now and I know how they feel because I feel the same way.  I can stand doing without a lot of things and I got use to guys shooting at me but I can’t get over being home sick.  I guess that is the baby in me.

I got a letter from Billie B. the other day and she always mentions you in some way.  I can’t begin to tell you how much she thinks of you but she really likes you but then so do I so we have some thing in common any way.

I still can’t believe that this war is over I don’t know why but it all seems so unreal.  I still expect to hear the guns fire at any minute and then we go fighting again.  It is awful hard to get use to things being so quiet but I like it that way and if it’s that way for ever it will suit me fine.

There isn’t much to write about now, Mother, as I am O.K. and I don’t know what will happen next, so I don’t think about it.

Tell all hell-o and to keep their fingers crossed and I may be home in a few months.




Received another letter from you awhile ago and so it was necessary for me to add a few lines.  In the letter you are worrying about me again and after I ask you not to.  See the war is over and I am in excellent health so you were worried for no reason at all.  See I was right for a change.  Now will you quit worrying!


1 Sept. ‘45, Westglar, Germany

Dear Mother,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am O.K. but feeling weak as a kitten, you see, Mother, I have been sick for the past four days.  Don’t worry I am O.K. now!

I am in a place called Westglar now but that is unimportant as I will only be here for the next three days and then I will go to a new unit and then in Oct. or November I will be sent home.  Don’t write me here anymore and don’t send me any Christmas packages as I will be home for Christmas.  I may be wrong but I don’t think so!  Tell every body else not to write too but they seldom wrote any way!!!

I am so darn excited now I can’t think straight so I will close before I start crying.  Why are you crying?

All my love,



4/September 45

Dear Mother,

Well, Mother, I have taken the first step of many on my way home.  I am now in a new outfit but don’t write me as I will never receive the letter.

We are suppose to stay here two weeks or so and then we will move to France, where we will stay ten days or so and then we will be on the boat and the high seas.  I am already sea sick!

It will be two months before I even think about coming home and it may be longer as I want to get my teeth fixed before I get that discharge.

Start saving that home cooked meals for me.



[Western Union telegram]

1945 OCT 5 AM 1 16

1945 OCT 5 AM 8 36








One thought on “What did you do in the war, Grandaddy? (or, Happy Veterans Day)

  1. Daddy taught us The Army Song, and when we took trips we would sing, “Over hill, over dale, we will hit the dusty trail – and those caissons go rolling along!”

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