Letters Home From The War: Part 2November 5, 2013
By MARTHA RASCHE
Herald City Editor
A lot of people called Anna Mae Haller “Anna Mae.”
Arthur Martin “Marty” Gosman always called her “Annie.”
The couple, who wed in 1941, met as students at Jasper High School.
Today Anna Mae Gosman is 94 and for the past three years has resided at St. Charles Health Campus in Jasper after suffering a major heart attack. The older of her two daughters, Sue Taylor of Jasper, shared with The Herald some letters that Marty wrote his parents, Bill and Emma Gosman, and little sister during World War II. In turn, The Herald asked Anna Mae to reminisce about those days 70 and more years ago.
Marty grew up on Seventh Street in Jasper and he and his older brothers, Jim and Bob, were servers at St. Joseph Catholic Church. They had a younger sister, Mary Jane (now Krempp). By the time Marty got to high school, the proximity of the family home to Cabby O’Neill Gymnasium made it convenient for him to attend basketball practice there and he became a hoops standout.
The Hallers moved to Jasper from Detroit when Anna Mae was a sophomore. Anna Mae’s dad, Cyril “Toots” Haller, owned the Rustic dance hall and was the first owner of the Schnitzelbank Restaurant.
Anna Mae became a cheerleader, and she was there to cheer on her boyfriend — a grade ahead of her — when in 1934 the Wildcats advanced to the boys state basketball tourney. Marty was only a junior, but he received the state Gimbel Medal for Mental Attitude, the predecessor of what today is the Trester award.
Anna Mae doesn’t remember specifically that Marty did or didn’t like the attention, but she does remember that in general “he was very shy. He would kind of blush very easily.”
Marty worked part time at Wilson’s Drug Store downtown during high school. After graduation, he went on to Butler University in Indianapolis to study botany and zoology.
Anna Mae stayed behind in Jasper, living with her parents, first graduating from high school and then working part time at her parents’ businesses and baby-sitting a younger brother and sister.
“I was always plenty busy doing something while (Marty) was in school,” she says.
Marty was president of the Sigma Nu fraternity at Butler, and he invited his girlfriend to all of the fraternity dances. She caught the Greyhound bus from Jasper to Indianapolis.
“Oh, yes, I got to go to the college dances, the fraternity dances,” Anna Mae recalls proudly. “It always was kind of a little extra special because I was his girlfriend. Some of the girls didn’t much like that because (they thought) he should have gone with somebody from his class or something.
“”˜No,’ he said, ”˜my girl will come.’ OK, and I sure did. ... I took that bus every time. I stayed at the hotel and (Marty) would have one of his buddies come and get me to go to the dance and they would bring me back. That was an honor to go to a fraternity dance back then.”
After graduating from Butler in 1940, Marty got a job tending bar at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Jasper. He and Anna Mae married Oct. 7, 1941, two years after the start of World War II.
As the war continued, Marty enlisted in the Army in September 1943. Both of his brothers already were serving.
Jim, a doctor specializing in dermatology, had enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1941 and ran a medevac surgical unit. As a flight surgeon, he was flown to the most critically injured in the field to perform life-saving surgery. He achieved the rank of major and earned a Legion of Merit Award for developing a protective device to help prevent pilots from getting frostbitten ears.
Bob, a dentist, joined the Army Dental Corps in 1942 and achieved the rank of captain. Before and after the war he practiced dentistry in Jasper until moving his practice to the new Holland Clinic in 1967.
When Marty reported to the 38th Signal Training Battalion, Company C, at Camp Crowder, Mo., Anna Mae moved to southwest Missouri too. She and two other solders’ wives from Lexington, Ky., each rented a room in a private home in Neosho, a community north of the camp, for $1 a day.
“I was there for quite some time,” Anna Mae says, and “went over a couple times to visit at the camp.”
A letter to Marty’s parents from Camp Crowder on June 7, 1944, was written by Anna Mae.
“So the big invasion has started. I know everyone in Jasper was as excited as we were in Neosho,” she wrote. “Everyone here at the house was up very early listening to the radio. I didn’t know what was going on. We were having trouble with our radio, so I couldn’t hear anything. We had to buy a new tube. It’s working fine again. So now I can hear the news.”
Four months later, Marty was well into his work as a pigeoneer— caring for and training homing pigeons, which carried messages to communicate during the war. And a pregnant Anna Mae was back in Indiana, moving among relatives, never staying at any one place very long.
“Mother would go from relative to relative so she wouldn’t be a burden on just one person when it came to food or soap and all of that,” daughter Susan says, noting that many items were being rationed on the homefront. “She just kind of floated around.”
“I was at my aunt’s, at my grandmother’s, at my mother’s,” Anna Mae adds. “I didn’t have a home. I lived with somebody.”
Marty wrote his dad Oct. 10: “Everything is the same here except we are getting so many birds shipped here we can’t hardly take care of them. The fellows are raising plenty of hell about the work. You see, I belong to the veterinary detachment and don’t have to scrape pigeon crap and as a result the big-shot pigeoneers (so they think) are bitching.”
The letter also included a note that the company had played a basketball game the night before and beat Company D, 38-24.
A letter written Oct. 30 read, “We still have thousands of pigeons here and they are finally preparing to ship some of them back to their civilian owners.”
In November, letters home started to come from San Francisco.
“I have moved again and now am somewhere on the West Coast. Am sorry I haven’t written lately, but we weren’t permitted to write until after the censorship lecture. Everything is fine here except the monotony of moving from place to place,” he wrote Nov. 4.
“As soon as the baby arrives, be sure to take the birth certificate to the local Red Cross at Jasper so that Annie will get the extra $30 allotment as soon as possible. Also be sure to inform me. Possibly the best method would be contact the Red Cross about sending a message.”
He was hoping to get a pass so he could go into the city to get his wife a Christmas gift, but passes were hard to come by and he doubted he would get one.
On Nov. 15, he wrote that his orders had come through and he would be on his way to another camp in California two days later.
“Am being shipped as a pigeoneer, veterinary lab technician and field wire man. My going to Camp Beale doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll go overseas, so I hope everyone doesn’t get excited.”
Two weeks later, he wrote from Camp Beale: “I imagine you have suspected what is happening to me. In case you haven’t, I am on orders for an overseas shipment and am to leave here Friday for a port of embarkation station. Rumors are that it will be Camp Stone near San Francisco. Have been issued all new equipment and it’s not for a cold climate. It includes mosquito netting, etc., but it doesn’t mean a thing, you know. They issue a lot of equipment one day and change it the next, so we might go anywhere. We may not be going anywhere out of the States, but it seems rather definite that we are going to the islands.”
As he usually did, he added at least a few sentences about his wife: “I hope that Annie will be all right and that she doesn’t worry about me too much. Please keep from talking about things that could happen, especially around her. A great deal of worry won’t do her any good, you know.”
On Dec. 17 he wrote: “Annie probably keeps you informed about me and so far I’ve been able to write her every day. ... I hate being away at a time like this, but there is nothing I can do about it. Was glad to hear about Bob being the godfather but haven’t heard who is to be the godmother.”
The envelope containing a letter dated Jan. 14, 1945, bears a return address of 278 Replacement Company, New Guinea. Marty reported having enjoyed swimming in the ocean that afternoon.”You should see the white caps roll in and me riding them in.”
Susan remembers that from his days in Dutch New Guinea and the Philippines, he said his socks would literally rot off of his feet from the humidity, rain several times a day and extreme heat.
By Feb. 2, he wrote about the work he was doing. “All we do is labor detail around the island. Building roads, helping with the mail and building things in general around camp.
“Still haven’t received any mail (since Dec. 14). Can’t understand it because there are planes bringing it in all the time. I think it takes them weeks to sort it and deliver it from the post office.
“Can’t wait to hear from Annie and find out how she is.
“Yesterday was payday and we were paid in Dutch money. One guilder is worth 53 cents. ... Cigarettes are 80 cents a carton in Dutch, which is about 40 cents in American money. Pretty cheap, eh?”
Toward the end of the letter, he anticipated the upcoming birth of his first child: “The last of this month should bring a newcomer in the Gosman circles. I made a small ring out of a Dutch dime and plan to send it as soon as I can find something to pack it in.”
On Feb. 18, he wrote: “Two other fellows in our company were sweating out blessed events and got their good news last week. All the fellows are helping me sweat mine out now.”
Anna Mae was living with her aunt Capitola Yearwood in Evansville by the time Susan was born Feb. 23 at what was then St. Mary’s Hospital in that city. When Marty wrote home March 6, he didn’t yet know his daughter had been born.
“I have been working as physical education instructor in the rehabilitation school. The program is practically the same as the reconditioning school I was in at Camp Crowder. We have calisthenics, swimming and games. The men are those brought back from the front, some of whom have been wounded and others just worn out. The exercise keeps them occupied and does a lot of good. My job is only temporary. That is, it is not a permanent assignment.”
He mentioned that he had signed up for a bookkeeping and accounting course through the Armed Forces Institute. “It’s a good correspondence course, and college credit can be obtained. I just received the books and worksheets a few minutes ago. It only costs $2 and I can take as many different courses as I want.”
Six days later, Marty wrote that he was relieved to finally hear the details of his daughter’s birth.
“I received the telegram from Capitola on the 7th of March. I wasn’t satisfied with just hearing. I wanted to know the particulars. Annie’s and Mary’s letters came yesterday and I’ve smiled and laughed for the first time in several weeks. I never knew one could be so proud of his wife and daughter. The minute the fellows saw the telegram they knew what it meant and let out a yell. You probably would have enjoyed seeing my face. I didn’t blush, but I didn’t exactly know what sort of expression was appropriate. It’s the first feeling I’ve ever had like that. From what I hear, Susan must be a pretty nice gal. Annie says she looks like me, but you know darn well it’s too early to distinguish definite features.”
Anna Mae stopped her transient lifestyle upon the baby’s arrival, and mother and daughter moved in with Marty’s family on Clay Street in Jasper.
Susan remembers her mother telling her “that the grocery store man was so nice because he would save her a little extra soap because he knew she had so much extra washing to do and soap was rationed. He would save her a little extra soap so that she could wash my clothes and all the diapers during the war.”
Time passed. For Anna Mae as well as Marty, who in June wrote that he was in Luzon, France, attached to a pigeon outfit in the Sixth Army and had been to Manila.
A week after Victory over Japan Day was celebrated Sept. 2, Marty wrote his parents and sister. He referenced the point system that was used to determine who was eligible for discharge first. Points were awarded for number of months in service, number of months overseas, combat awards and having dependent children younger than 18. Marty and every other soldier kept hoping new criteria would be issued that would increase their scores to the magic number.
He wrote: “Still know nothing definite as to our leaving for occupation of Japan. Part of the Sixth Army is already there as you have probably read in the paper. My only chance of discharge anytime soon is for a ruling to come out regarding dependents. As of V-J Day I had 59 points toward discharge. Have one battle star coming for the Luzon campaign. I didn’t have any actual combat experience; however, I’m eligible to receive (a star) and will take it. Many a fellow has received stars for doing less than I have done. It helps to make up my 59 points.
“As you know, censorship of mail has ceased and we are more at ease to write what we please. It was difficult to write and truthfully express yourself knowing that someone is going to read your letters. It was particularly bad in a small outfit such as ours because the lieutenant who censors our letters is our commanding officer and is with us constantly. He knew all our personal feelings and troubles. My being his chauffeur made it still more difficult for me.”
He closed the letter with: “How’s the new boss at 710 Clay St. doing by now? Am very anxious to see her and Annie. Wonder if I’ll get there for her first birthday. Hope you are well and happy. I’ll never be until I get home.”
The soldier came home the following January, a month before Susan turned 1.
Marty and his young family continued living with his parents for a while, before moving to Huntingburg where Marty and Anna Mae ran Gosman’s Family Shoe Store for 20 years.
In July 1952 Marty and Anna Mae became parents to their second daughter, Connie (now Connie Dunbar and living in Madisonville, Ky.).
Marty became the first vice president of sales for United Cabinet Co., later Aristokraft and the predecessor of what is MasterBrand Cabinets today, and the family moved back to Jasper, to a house on Howard Drive, in 1971. In his free time, he enjoyed fishing and he and Anna Mae participated in a Sunday evening couples bowling league.
Throughout their marriage, Marty “had a wonderful personality, very loving and very calm,” Anna Mae says.
When he developed Alzheimer’s disease in the mid-1990s, Anna Mae cared for him at home.
“We just lived like we always did, and he was just lovely,” she says. “We went through a routine. He’d get up and come to breakfast, you know. We just did everything — he just didn’t talk. I talked to him, and he watched TV and whatever. So we did fine on that.”
But Marty was getting weaker and his doctor wanted him in a nursing home to lessen the chances of him taking a fall. Marty spent two years at what was then Heritage House of Jasper, only three blocks from the couple’s home.
“I’d feed him lunch every day and go back and feed him supper and put him to bed,” Anna Mae recalls. “We still had our little routine and he seemed to be satisfied down there. All this time, he never talked. I talked to him. He acted like he understood it. Sometimes he didn’t, but it didn’t matter. I’d pick him up in the car and drive around. We just lived kind of normal. .. He just lived from day to day. I guess I did, too.”
Marty died April 1, 1998. He had never spoken much about the war.
“Maybe he didn’t want to,” Anna Mae says, “and I didn’t ask.”
About this series: A few months ago, The Herald asked readers for letters written by their loved ones from World War II. We received more than a dozen responses, including from a couple of people who had letters from World War I. Some readers had fewer than a handful of letters to share, while others had dozens, even hundreds. From now through Veterans Day, we are publishing excerpts from the letters received. The words are original to the writers, though some spelling and some punctuation have been altered.
Part 1: In shared company — Soldiers and sailors wrote of new experiences and of missing the old routines.
Part 2: Pigeoneer Marty Gosman — This soldier followed the birth of his firstborn from a distance.
Part 3: Two who never came home — The sisters of Calvin Voelkel and Lowell Gray always have wondered what might have been.
Part 4: Pharmacist Denny Bell — This sailor — the father of two — wrote his wife almost daily.
Part 5: From World War I — A soldier missed the farm he grew up on, and several servicemen were pen pals with a Jasper girl.
Contact Martha Rasche at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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