My granduncle James Lanctot, my grandfather Ed Lanctot, and my granduncle Vernon "Bud" Slowey all served together in the 147th Field Artillery Battalion of the South Dakota National Guard during World War II. Letters home were few and far between, so whenever anyone received a letter they would take it to the newspaper so it could be published. This is one such instance. The comments in brackets[ ] are my own.
[The 'boys' were at Pearl Harbor at the end of November 1941. The regiment's convoy was a week west of Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The attack caused the 147th's convoy to be rerouted to Australia. During the end of 1941 and the early months of 1942, the 147th was the only major Allied unit stationed in the Darwin, Australia area.]
BIRTHDAYS, A POEM AND COMMENDATION
Recent letters from men in Australia include several from Pfc. John Lubbers, Pfs. [sic] James Lanctot, Sgt. Eddie Lanctot and Pfc. Vernon Slowey.
All write in September, stating everyone there as being well.
Lubbers opens one letter with:
"The Yanktonians haven't anything on us just because they get letters from 'down under' because we get mail fairly regular from 'up above' and today was no exception. I got two letters. x x x"
Most of the letters of recent date have been take [sic] up with description of activities "on leave" indicating the boys are being royally treated by civilians in the vicinity of the camp.
In a second letter, Lubbers describes a birthday party given for him at the home of friends named Kinsey. He begins with:
"Now I'll tell you what I did over the weekend. We left Saturday noon and got to Kinseys about three. At 5:30 we had supper with all the trimmings, including winde, and then they brought out the presents. Here is what I got from them. From Mr. and Mrs. Kinsey I got a silver cigarette lighter which had my initials on it. Marge gave me a billfold also initialed, and Noelle gave me a set of brushes in a leather case which was also initialed.
"About seven we left and went swimming. The pool closed at 9:30 and we left for home right afterwards. About 11 we had what they call lunch -- but to me it was a banquet. Around 2 o'clock we went to bed.
"Along with the packages I received this week were P and D's mostly around the last of July and early August.
"Here are some of the hit tunes in Australia: In the Mood, Crosstown, The Aussies and the Yanks are Here, Elmer's Tune, and San Antonio Rose."
Jim Lanctot writes his mother, Mrs. Alice Lanctot, in Yankton with a note on the rainy weather, stating: "The Aussies have the same line the Californians had when we were there -- 'this is very extraordinary weather.'"
He encloses a copy of a letter he received the first of April, and states that 15 men in the regiment received similar letters -- all signed by the adjutant general. It follows.
1/4 "Subject -- Commendation
"Through -- Commanding Officer, 147th F.A.
"To -- Pfc. James L. Lanctot, 20748121.
"The commanding general directs that I convey to you his commendation as a participant in the placing of (censored).
"In volunteering for this detail, you were confronted with an arduous and hazardous assignment. The courage, devotion to duty and determination displayed by yourself and your comrades is highly commendatory in contributing to the successful accomplishment of an important military mission.
"By commend of Lieutenant General Brett.
"B.M. Fitch, Colonel A.G.D.
In an earlier letter, Jim wrote his mother, stating in one section:
"Chuck Mahan got a box from home yesterday and it had a pound of coffee in it. He made some this evening, and it was really good. It was the first cup I've enjoyed for a long time. This Aussie stuff takes a can of milk and a half pound of sugar to kill the bitter taste."
Mrs. Lanctot also received a letter from her son, Ed, in which he told of a birthday party also. [Jim's birthday was May 21 and Ed's birthday was July 30]
"Dear Mother and All,
There isn't much to write about as news is awfully scarce. Jim and I got the cigarettes and billfolds that you sent, and they came at a pretty good time, since the cigarette proposition wasn't too good at the time, and my old billfold had taken quite a beating."
I was invited out to tea last night, and it turned out to be kind of a birthday party. I guess Harold (Modereger) told her I had one. She made a nice birthday cake, and it had 'Birthday Greetings, Ed' and a small key with '21' on it.
"I'm enclosing a poem that Bud Slowey wrote.
A TRIBUTE TO OLD LEXINGTON
["Old Lexington" refers to the U.S.S. Lexington, an aircraft carrier which was sunk on May 8, 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea, when she was struck by two torpedoes and three bombs]
Out of the cloudy sky they came
Like vultures in search of crippled game
They swooped, and struck, and then turned and ran
Those sneaking sons of rotten Japan
She trembled, shook and began to list
And the order came down to abandon ship
As glorious a ship as rode the waves --
And kept abreast of the modern ways --
A noble ship with a deed well done
We're proud of you "Old Lexington"
by Pfc. Vernon Slowey.