Sioux County

Pvt. Lawrence Bloemendaal




In a letter dated Feb. 3, 1945, Pvt. Lawrence Bloemendaal writes his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Bloemendaal, about the native people he comes in contact with in India, where he is with the Army Medical Corps.

“On my day off I had an interesting visit with our native boy. He is eighteen years old but compares in size to one of our 14 year old boys. He has been married a year and his wife is fourteen. He is also expecting an addition in the very near future.

“He works for ten of us soldiers and so draws 60 rupee a month, or about $18 in our money. He draws rations from the British which cost for him and his wife 40 rupee a month, or $12.00. Thus he has about $6.00 a month for clothing, etc. His rent is free. He was very surprised to find that I am 23 and unmarried. He also asked why I didn’t smoke and when I jokingly said I was too young he thought that was really a laugh. Over here, poor as they are, they smoke when they are about ten.

“You should see it here on Sundays---the native market days. All the hill tribes come in. You can’t imagine how odd it is to see them pouring in with loads bigger than they are themselves. Generally the wife carried the load on her head and the man walks along behind her. These women are very tiny and short—no higher than my shoulder. Their waist must be not over 15 in. and their legs are thinner than my arms. They are almost as dark as negroes.

“There is no begging up here. That was very bad further south, especially at Bombay. Here most of the natives have a smattering of English they use very well, so one can talk with them.

“Our laundry boy is about twelve and looks more like seven. He is a cute kid who solicits woolens to dry clean, etc. Kids are cute whatever their nationality, I guess. And are they smart! You do business with them once and they recognize you wherever they meet you. It amazes me. I wish I was a little sharper that way.

“I was in the PX today and got a nail clip, a Readers Digest and turned in a film for developing. We also got some candy, juices, peanuts, gum, etc. at the 20th Gen PX this week.

“Nick just brought in my mail. He says, ‘My gosh, you dad can’t afford to have you overseas. Look at all the stamps on this stuff.’ I got the atlas, envelope with newspapers, stationary, United States News, also envelop with circular and pictures. Thanks for all of it. Then I also got two letters from home written the 18th and 19th.....

“There’s an engineer battalion up the road that certainly has an unusual mascot. When they first came up here they found a little native boy about five years old wandering around alone. It seemed his family had gone off without him, so they boys took him in. They made him some clothes from old uniforms and have taken care of him all of this time. He thinks the fellows are just IT. He can talk English very well now and looks so cute in his little army uniform.

“These natives are a peculiar lot. I think England will have her hands full with them after the war. They have always heard what a power the British Empire is, but now everything comes from the States. They see the vast supplies of American equipment and men and in their eyes the British are losing face. There are some British troops here, but they seem to be few in comparison with American.

“I went over to our own area this morning to sign up for a correspondence course from the University of Florida—25 lessons on the hatchery industry and broiler production. It costs $4.85 under this U.S.A.F.I. plan. The Army pays the rest.

“There’s a big argument on in the next tent about how long the war will last—opinions ranged from one to five years. One thing I know is that I’ve been plenty lucky. I have talked with some fellows who came back from the lines—those are the men who get it rough.”

Pfc. Bloemendaal is in the Army Medical Corps with the staff of a General Hospital.

Source: The Alton Democrat, February 22, 1945 (photo included)