The 4077th, Korea to the 43rd, San Francisco, California
To my twin brother Dean, stationed to come here to hell as soon as he is done with training –
Greetings to you, older brother (how can I forget that?), who has finally completed his advanced training, so that he could come here to Korea, as a fine officer (Major instead of Captain and I am proud!), instead of going to Nazi Germany. I had not thought to be so formal with you at first, but I have been angry lately and am trying to control my temper. I don’t know why, and Jesus…I’m already complaining to you in a letter. I HATE writing letters and you, of all people, should know it. But because we’re so far apart and not talking to each other in person, then this will have to do. You even said so yourself in your last letter, saying how you could not even get a phone call to Tokyo. And I know that you HATE being away from me and not being able to talk to me. This is the best we’re going to get, I guess. Oh, well. I think we both can deal with it.
I had really not seen you since July, when this war started (and I quickly snuck back into Bloomington from West Germany), and I didn’t the chance yet to giggle over Mother’s new hobby – bridge games at Monday nights with other churchgoers – with you as that last occasion was overshadowed by this thing they call a “police action” in the States. My duty, as yours is now, is to our country and to defeat the Communists who want to “take over the American way of life”, as Major Frank Burns would say, like in his last lecture about what the war is about. What a twit!
I used to laugh about that when my notice came when I was in West Germany. So, I took the first plane out, seeing as how I was needed there as soon as possible. Then, here I am, in Korea, never caring about the damned Communists just three miles away and how close we are to them if they decide to jump over the Front Lines (we are called a mobile hospital for nothing!). Well, I can’t even dare to laugh about it because of what I see here. I can’t say it here, but can only let you imagine the obvious, since you’ve been there already.
Perhaps this is what we can discuss when you come here...? I am sure that you will be posted about here in Uijongbu, South Korea, since we’re oh-so-cozy with the Front Lines here. After all, all of the action is usually here or farther up north. We are three miles from the Front Lines, remember? And all the Communists have been pushed back up since the beginning of the war, just a few months ago.
I can’t imagine such a serious conversation with you, Dean, so I’ll begin to tell you about my troubles and trifles here, if you wish to call them that. Dammit, here I am, laughing about complaining to you again. Well, it’s a change of topic and truthfully, this might not be new to you, as you know the sacrifices of war (and peace, if you must say). Here are some things that have happened here.
I’ve written to Mom and Clarence about this little fact (funny as it is): Henry Blake is our commanding officer here. You’re sure to laugh! Henry hasn’t been able to make the true decisions about his household and can’t even have a good day, even when he was sick and in bed. Remember how Lorraine rubbed his back (still in curlers) that one time, Janie and Molly making noise at the side of the house and his dog having an accident before his bed? You know, that one image has me laughing now. The nurses are giving me a look, but I can care less.
Or do I? I don’t know, and maybe I can explore that feeling more when I tell you more about this place and the people who run it. You might laugh, you might cry and you might even speculate why your wayward sister is having a hard time here.
Well, it isn’t JUST the war that is bothering me. It’s the boys that come here. There are children younger than we are, younger than when we were when we left Mom (we weren’t even eighteen, for Christ’s sake, when we went to school or war or whatever). Good God, you know that I’m not that religious, Dean, but just being here makes me want to pray to some heavenly figure that these people will come out of here alive and going home soon, just like us (but, knowing about the family curse – which I call pure superstition – then we can happily be on our merry ways). You want to believe that you’ll be fine, but you’re not. You look at the children, their families and the soldiers and wonder why we’re here. Even the natives here make me upset. Their hospitals are unsanitary and most babies are born dead, their mothers dying right after them. Henry has helped to changed that, thank God, but it’s still the same, poor country with some quaint beauty around it. It saddens me.
Dammit, I’m crying already. I wanted to feel better writing a letter to you and making you laugh as well, but it isn’t happening. Instead, I am sending my tears of unhappiness at being alone…at being without friends…at the bitterness of being without a single memory of goodness except with the people I love the most, but are barely there with me most of the time. I hope you come to see me soon, as you come to this country, and remember your youngest sibling…well, the only one you really talk to.
Your sister, Jeanie