Dear Son December 6, 1943 Somewhere in China.
I have just finished supper and it is just about 6 o’clock. We eat quite early here because we quit at five and there’s nothing else to do. Our mess hall is close to our office so it doesn’t take us long to go there.
I’m going to a show now. We are certainly getting to see a lot of them now. As I wrote in my last letter to mother we saw Joe E Brown in person last night. He was very funny. We also saw and heard a guitar player (in person). It was quite a coincidence because we had seen him in a movie just the night before. His name is Harry Barris in the movie is Priorities on Parade.
I’m sending to you what is known in China as a chop. It is like a rubberstamp and has your name in English as well as in Chinese. Although it is made of stone you will use it in the same way as a rubberstamp.
The use of a chop is considered more legal than a written signature. The Chinese say that they use a chop because it is difficult to write a Chinese signature twice in exactly the same way. Also there are so many Chinese who cannot write their names, so the use of a chop is the not only convenient but it makes forging difficult. Of course on our contracts we don’t recognize a chop and so require we compromised and use both. We have a chop for the office and use it if the Chinese contractor insists. They seem to like to see a contract or similar paper literally covered with chopped marks. Furthermore a man’s importance were standing in the community is indicated by the size of the chop he uses. (Ours is rather small).
You may have difficulty opening the box but it will be opened easier if you will grasp it between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand and slide the lid with the thumb of your right hand. By looking at the end of the box you can tell which way to slide the lid. The box has been carved out of a solid piece of wood.
To make a good print with a chop you have to put it in the paste and then pushed down on the paper rather hard and hold it there for a little time.
July 14, 1943 Somewhere in China
After traveling by land and by air I am now at what can be considered my permanent headquarters although my work will be a couple of hundred miles from here. This is a beautiful spot; we are 10 or 12 miles from a fair sized city. I don’t like the cities here so I am content to stay out here at the base. The base Is completely circled by mountains that are called ice cream cones because the tops of them resemble the ice cream part of an ice cream cone. The climate here is hot but I’m used to that.
I’m going to have to change my ideas about construction work to fit the methods used here. Everything is done by hand. The rock which is obtained from the nearby mountains is quarried, crushed and hauled by coolie labor. No equipment bigger than a roller pulled by about 125 coolies is used. However it is amazing to see what has been accomplished. I’ve seen some very fine runways which have been built that way and expect to see more.
Prices here are very high. I wanted to buy some presents to send to all of you but I’m afraid the prices are prohibitive. There are two rates of exchange here the US government will give 20 Chinese dollars for one American dollar. The black market exchange is 20 Chinese dollars for one American to give you an idea how prices have gone up. I saw a watch in a store window marked 23,500 Chinese dollars or $300 to over $1100 depending upon the rate of exchange you were able to get. The watch probably sold for $40-$50 in the states a year or so ago.
I wish I could tell you more about my work however I don’t know too much about it myself I’m staying here at this headquarters to find out some of the details before I move up on to my own project. What we are doing over here though bids no good for the Japs. I can tell you that since I’m in this thing and have to be this far from home I’m glad to contribute a little bit toward what is finally going to be done to those culprits. There is certainly a spirit of optimism among all concerned over here.
14 of the officers who came over on the same boat and who have had about the same training are all in this theater. After traveling for over 60 days (we left the states May 10 in with the same bunch you hate to see the gang broken up, but that’s part of the game, I guess.