Seeing as today is Veterans Day, it seemed like a good time to write about my grandfather’s military service in the Army during WWII in more detail.
E. Lowell Kammerer was drafted into service a year before the US entered WWII, which he wrote about in his 1940 journal:
President Roosevelt signed the military conscription bill today - the country’s first peacetime draft. - September 16, 1940
Registered at the Lisle School today for possible military training. - October 16, 1940
My registration number was posted in the Warrenville Post Office today - #2326 (the 7970th number drawn) the national lottery held in Washington (first peace time draft in the history of the US) - October 29, 1940
In May of 1943, he was transferred to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. He had previously been working closer to home at (best as I can tell from a single letter that mentions it) an airplane manufacturer in the Chicagoland area while still maintaining his post at the Arboretum. When he left for Missouri, he had to take a leave of absence from the Arb, though his job was held until his return.
During the time he was serving, the Arboretum missed his expertise, and for much of the time he was away, Clarence Godshalk and Sterling Morton wrote to various officials in Illinois government in an attempt to have him discharged and able to return to his duties at the Arboretum. Clearly, he was missed! And while letters and journal entries make it clear that my grandfather missed the Arboretum and his garden at Riverby terribly, he seemed to make the most of his time down in Missouri - often using his time off to gather plant specimens.
Went to Waynesville Friday nite with a friend from the barracks - to collect some propagating wood of Red Mulberry to send to Mr. Nordine…sent a small bunch by mail yesterday - tho, and I hope they’ll arrive early. - Letter from E. L. Kammerer to his mother and brother, August 20, 1944
Maude took me to the office Friday morning - and left from there for RIverby - loaded down like the ‘Okies’ with everything from rocks to onions. (mostly rocks) - Letter from E. L. Kammerer to his mother and brother, September 2, 1945
It also seems he made good friends with some of the other men in his office, and when my grandmother would visit, the two of them often went on day trips or had dinner with other couples. He often wrote about friends he’d made in the Army. Particularly interesting to me was this excerpt from the August 1944 letter quoted above:
[A corporal] asked to be transferred to a General Hospital for psychiatric duty and is being shipped sometime in the near future to Shick Gen. Hosp. at Clinton, Iowa. Clarence is leaving too - for Colorado (Camp Carson) - a rehabilitation center. Psychologists are classed as critically needed specialists.
Mental health services for veterans are still critically needed. While Veterans Day is an excellent time to support organizations that support military service members and their families, every day is a good day to care about Veterans' mental health. Here are a few organizations I’d recommend, either to support financially or for resources if you or a family member have served:
My grandmother wrote in the daily journal that my grandfather kept while he was away during the war. In 1945, she wrote of his being discharged due to the war ending. A couple of weeks later, my grandpa wrote about his return to the Arboretum:
Back to my desk at the Arboretum today after an absence of 2 yrs 5 1/2 months (May 1-13) spent most of the day becoming adjusted! - October 15, 1945
He was thrilled to be back at the job he loved, and I’d bet the Arboretum was equally happy to have him back.
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