Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

By Gary Collins
Pine Bluffs Post 

Young love and war

 

The Eisenhauer Family

Assault Squad Company A, 1944 Seated (l to r): Sgt. Clyde Agee, KIA, Iwo Jima; Cpl. Bill Beatty; Cpl. William (Legs) Deeton, KIA, Iwo Jima; PFC Frank Disse, KIA, Iwo Jima; Cpl. William Henry, KIA, Iwo Jima; Cpl. Wayne G. Bonner. Standing: Sgt. William Chandler; Cpl. Jack Coyne, KIA, Iwo Jima; Sgt. Anthony Miesie; Cpl. Andrew Eloff; Cpl. Rex Briggs; Pfc. Donald Eisenhauer, KIA, Iwo Jima.

"Dear Alice,

What gives anyhow? Here I am expecting to hear from you, and what do I get, not even a post-card.

Well, let by-gones be has beens and start writing will you? I am sadly in need of mail as you can plainly note."

Alice was Alice Sparks, now Bailey, Eisenhauer's girlfriend in Wallace, Neb.

"His frustrated letter was because I had taken a job with 2 of our former teachers, a married couple, and was expected to do it all, cooking, housekeeping, 2 story house, gardening, etc, etc, etc. Canning. Ironing. There wasn't much time left to write or anything," Alice wrote to the Pine Bluffs Post on March 25, 2017.

Her letter from Eisenhauer did not surface until 2007 and was sent by Alice to Gail Eisenhauer and was included in the second edition of Letters Home. In a letter to Eisenhauer's cousin, Wayne Zeiger, Alice wrote the following on May 12, 2007:

"Don was a great help in bringing me out of my shell. And I realized for the first time that you could feel quite differently about a "boy" than your brothers! It was the first time I'd been kissed, and I'm pretty sure it was Don's first, too."

From May 14, 1944:

Dear Mom,

. . .You know Mom I met a very nice girl in L.A. Of course I've known a number of girls there, but none like this. 5 ft. 1 dark hair. Somewhat like the girl that married dear old dad, you know. Now don't get excited. I won't pull a Delby on you or anything of that sort. She's from Brooklyn, and she can go on talking for hours about it. Maybe that's what I like about her then I don't have to talk my head off. I suppose I'm still more or less a quiet sort of guy."

From Alice, March 25, 2007:

"I think Don admired girls, but was very shy around the ladies. I was just as shy, I think was the reason we "clicked." . .He loved his mom beyond description, and was very protective of me when we were together. We discussed marriage after the war was over and he got more education, but we both knew better than to plan on such a commitment with so much uncertainty. "Good decision!" I know he met other girls and I wanted to experience life after high school. It was just a precious time for us both. The love between us was not a mature love to sustain for a lifetime, but it was like the song said," young love." What we had together was just that, "young love.'"

From the Dec. 27, 1943 letter:

"You know I almost went A.W.O.L., and came home for Christmas, but then I got to thinking that there are a lot of other fellows in this outfit that were in the same spot, and if they could take it, I sure could. The longer a fellow's away, the easier it becomes. It's only when a guy lets himself spend too much time thinking about it that it really makes a difference."

"When you're 18 you don't worry about much except yourself. I had the choice of whether I went or didn't (to Korea). Of course I'd gone through training, through boot camp with most of them, then advanced infantry training with the others, and I felt, oh jeez, I can't back out now. So it was pretty much a matter of, no, I'll go," Tom said.

In her book, Patchwork: A Quilt in Story Form, Alice, writing in the third person, penned these words:

"He was homesick and frightened, and that showed plainly in the letters he wrote to Alice and she wrote back, encouraging him and passing on the news of people and places that were familiar to them both."

From May 14, 1944:

"Dear Mom,

...I suppose everything is running smoothly back home. The trouble is I don't suppose you'd tell me if it weren't. The one good thing about waiting for a furlough it'll be that much warmer when I get there."

"I've never talked to anybody about it. When he came back from paratrooper training, of course he was in good shape, nice looking Marine and so forth. We were all proud to have anything to do with him. But one day he was in another bedroom getting dressed or something and I was adjacent to him. He started singing a song. It's a song that is in "Oh brother, where art thou?" I didn't know it at the time. . .it went like you got to go to that lonesome valley...that's enough," Tom said March 4, 2017, unable to continue for a time.

The song was written by Woody Guthrie. It goes, in part:

"You got to go to the lonesome valley

You got to go there by yourself

Nobody else can go for you

You got to go there by yourself."

"'You've got to go there by yourself.' and I knew exactly what he was singing about. It's just kind of a way of comforting themselves. But I didn't, um, feel a sense of anything bad about it at all. In fact, I thought it was good he's thinking along those lines. I wasn't thinking it had anything to do with Iwo Jima, of course, that was a year or so before that. But, uh, ah, I've thought about it often,'" Tom finished.

April 19, 1944:

"Dear Mom,

You don't have to worry about me going over the hill. I just get those ideas when I get a little disgusted with the outfit, which is easy once and a while. Besides, I got in on a good deal today, which I wouldn't take a chance of slipping up on. The company made up an assault team today, and for a change I was one of the chosen few. It's something I've been working for a long time."

"They were an elite bunch, but it's just amazing to me how many of them went from there to Hawaii for assault training. . .How many of them were paratroopers?," Tom said. "In fact, if you want to look at the casualty list, it seems to be pretty complete with the paratroopers. Evidently, when they disbanded the paratroopers, an awful lot of them went into that group and were sent to Iwo Jima."

From Alice's letter:

"Don was literally tall, dark and handsome. He had a great sense of humor and was very pleasant. . . I wasn't thinking of the future, but he was. He knew there was life after school and intended to be prepared for it."

From April 19, 1944 to his mother:

"So don't worry about me going over the hill. Not that I couldn't take the works if they were to give it to me, but I couldn't take a chance now.

Love Don E."

 

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