Pvt. John "Jack" Petrow, of Company E, 133rd infantry, 34th Division, U. S. national guard, stationed at Camp Claiborne, La., doubtless is undergoing similar experiences of "Private Plink,” the hero of the cartoon which is published daily in the Freeman-Journal. “Plink” Petrow’s articles will be carried at various times in which he will tell of experiences with Company E while in camp.

Click on month/year links below to read Private Petrow's letters. Hope you enjoy his humor & descriptions of life at Camp Clairborne.



Source: Daily Freeman Journal, Webster City, Iowa, March 10, 1941 - first in a series


Marvels at ‘Knecking’ When Co. E Left for Camp Claiborne

“Junk from Jack,” and “Diary of a Buck Private,” are the headings which Pvt. “Plink” Petrow starts off a communication from Camp Claiborne, LA., and the rest of his “uncensored” articles states:

Thursday, Feb. 27—Left Webster City today as 12:50 p.m. Wonderful turnout. Haven’t had so much knecking since the family reunion. Rode all day. Arrived in Chicago at 10:30. Everyone asleep at the time.

Friday, Feb. 28—Rode all day. Spent most of the day looking out of the window. Arrived in Memphis at noon. Couldn’t get much of an impression of the city from where wee stopped. Stopped at McGehee, Ark., for supper. Stayed there for 4 hours. Some of the local yokels got wind of our arrival and came rushing down with 5 or 6 cases of (censored). Went to bed early.

Saturday, March 1—Arrived in camp at 7:15 a.m. Surprised at the size of it. 40,000 acres of tents and wooden buildings. Worked like demons unloading the train and getting set up. You should see this Louisiana clay. Guess where they got the name of this camp. They assigned our tents today, 5 to a tent. The tents are very nice. That is if you like tents. Went to bed at 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 2—Had an unusual experience to-day. We went to church! Nice sermon tho—nice and short. Didn’t eat dinner today, went over to the canteen (censored). Sat around the tent and chewed the fat the rest of the day. Listened to the radio at night. Went to bed at 10:30. Getting to be a regular homebody.

Monday, March 3—No orders from headquarters yet so we spent most of the day lying in our bunks. Caught a good cold and so did 50 other boys in our company. Today has been a beautiful day just like all the rest. We run around in our overalls without shirts. Got some mail from home and read it over 16 times. Saw a woman today for the first time since we got here and was so excited we forgot to salute the colonel. Had supper and then went to the cinema. Saw “Strike Up the Band” again. Went to the canteen for 7 or 9 (censored) before retiring.

Tuesday, March 4—Cleaning up our tents this morning and this afternoon the whole brigade marched to the theater tent and listened to an address by the general—also several lectures, one very interesting on sexual hygiene. Fried chicken for supper. Bed at 7:00.

Wednesday, March 5—Worked all day making sidewalks for our tents. Cloudy all day. Went over to the canteen for supper again. I think I will be a rowdy and stay up till 10:30 tonight.

Private “Plink” Petrow

Source: Daily Freeman Journal, Webster City, Iowa, March 17, 1941 - 2nd in the series.

Private ‘Plink’ Petrow
Thinks Co. E Officers ‘Swell’ Guys—Enjoys Some Army ‘Caviar.’

Thursday, March 6—Another beautiful day. Each day I like it more down here. There’s really a fun bunch of boys in Co. E. Captain (E. E.) Meller is a grand guy and we have two swell lieutenants, (Don) Andrews and (K. O.) Nichols. Drilled all day. Got a nice sunburn. I wonder when we get paid? I’m so broke I’m smoking Bull Durham and I had to mooche it. Had caviar for supper. It was a new kind though. Looked just like beans. Tasted like beans. I think it was beans. Bed at 9 o’clock.

Friday, March 7—Boy, what a day. Makes a man feel good just to see that sunrise. Makes him feel better to see it set though. More drilling and school today. Time really moves down here. Got some more mail. They say it’s snowing up that way. Too bad! My heart bleeds for you. Saw a blade of grass today. I’m going to put it on exhibition. I’m convinced the only grass around here grows in flower pots. Borrowed a dime and went over to the canteen for a (censored). Bed at 8.

Saturday, March 8—Good news! This is a holiday today. We didn’t celebrate Washington’s birthday when we were in Webster City so they let us celebrate it today. This is one swell army. Cleaned up our tents and laid around the rest of the day. Wrote some letters. Boy! I love this life. What weather! What meals! Only one thing wrong—no gals! If one should drive by I think the army would have a revolution on its hands. Went to the show tonight, “Tugboat Annie Sails Again.” Got to bed at 11. Gad, what a night owl I’m getting to be.

Sunday, March 9—Big deal today. The whole division went on parade. 12,000 men make quite an impressive sight in dress uniform. Listened to the formal opening of the camp today. Speeches by Governor Jones, of Louisiana, the mayor of Alexandria and a speech by Mr. Claiborne, great-grandson of the famous politician after whom the camp was named. Very classy. Played kittenball with Mason City. They beat us 14 to 10. Kind of windy today. Listened to the radio and then to bed.

Monday, March 10—What a honey of a day. Kinda dark at 5:30 in the morning though. It’s worth a hundred dollars to see that sunrise. Well a dollar anyway. More drilling today. If you’re not drilling they’re drilling something into you. We have a swell sergeant he’s one of the boys. Tomorrow’s pay day! Egad, am I going to town! Bed at 7, got to be all rested up for tomorrow night.

Tuesday, March 11—Pay day—At last the red letter day of the army has come. Boy are the men excited. I’m going to town and bang goes a nickle for peanuts. Boy this town is really a honey. It makes a new man out of you to get to town. The minute I got to town I proceeded to (censored). I didn’t get home until 12, or later. Had a swell time though. I must do it more often—I hope.

Wednesday, March 12—Whew—what a day. Do I feel lousy. Rainy all day. The clay isn’t clay any more it’s MUD. It sticks to the feet and really tracks up the tent. It’s a job to haul a couple acres of clay around on your feet. Oh well, that’s life I guess. Another day another 70 cents. And so to bed.

Pvt. “Plink” Petrow

Source: Daily Freeman Journal, Webster City, Iowa, March 24, 1941- 3rd in the series.

Private ‘Plink’ Petrow
Learns That the Army ‘Travels’ on Its Stomach.

Thursday, 13th—Raining again today. School most of the day. This is one school you can’t skip. The mud is so thick and deep that you have to use a lifeline to get to the mess hall. On these rainy days time moves like a man with a peg leg in quicksand. Bed at 8 o’clock again. One of these nights I’m going to stay up to see the moon rise.

Friday, March 14th—Cloudy again today. Went on the drill field today for some more drilling. There’s more truth than poetry to that old saying, “The army travels on it’s stomach.” I’ve hit the dirt so many times today that I’m afraid to take a shower for fear grass will start growing on my back. Most of the afternoon was devoted to cleaning our tents for inspection tomorrow. Did my washing today and hung it on the line. A strong wind came up. Going to send it to the laundry tomorrow. Bed early again.

Saturday, March 15th—Inspection today. These big boys don’t miss a trick. They inspect everything from tents to toothbrush. Off for the rest of the day. Shelton spent the rest of the morning raking the lawn. He leaned on the rake so long we had to blast to get it out of the clay. We were going to town, but our pocketbooks said no. Homer Ankrum is beginning to cut some of the boy’s hair and I do mean beginning! What chances the boys won’t take when they’re away from home. Oh well, no one will see them anyhow. Donnie Meyer was his first customer and now he combs his hair a new way—without a comb. Listened to the radio and then to bed.

Sunday, March 16th—Slept real late today, right up till 6 a.m. Church again. Spent most of the day at Jack Thorpe’s tent. You can get anything there from a cup of coffee to the “Irish Washer Women” on the bugle. Fried chicken for dinner. Real southern friend chicken. Got my hair cut today at the canteen. He used to be a butcher before he was a barber and when I got in his chair, I think he went back to his old trade.

Monday, March 17th—Sergeant Mahoney came around this morning at 5:15 and asked us if we had enough sleep. We said no, but we got up anyhow. Too tired to argue. Had an unexpected pleasure today. Donnie Meyers folks came down today. They were in Missouri and decided to drive down. For 2 cents I would have gone back with them, but I couldn’t borrow it anywhere. Kind of chilly today. Dropped down to 60 degrees above.

Tuesday, March 18th—Cloudy again today. Drilled all day. Melvin Greenly left part of his nose on the drill field. He was hitting the dirt and trying to dig a trench at the same time. Arthur Cox, one of the boys who suffered temporary blindness a few days ago, is up and around today. Yesterday was Lt. Nichols’ birthday and the boys put him through the belt line. Going through that is just like going through a meat grinder. Bed at 7 l’clock tonight got a big hike tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 19th—Went out on an eight mile hike today. Boy, what a walk. When I got back I was walking on my ankles. More school this afternoon. Read in the paper that the Lynx are going to the regional tournament. Like to send them all the luck in the world from Co. E.

Private ‘Plink’ Petrow

Source: Daily Freeman Journal, Webster City, Iowa, March 31, 1941- 4th in the series.

Private ‘Plink’ Petrow
Says He Has Drilled So Much That He May Strike Oil.

Thursday, March 20—Raining again today. Awfully muddy again. If it doesn’t stop pretty soon the government will have to issue us lifeboats. They’re already given us overshoes. Caught myself a guard detail for tonight. What weather. I have to walk the post in front of the canteen. The temptation is going to drive me crazy. Oh well, I’m on two hours and off four. Little sleep tonight if any.

Friday, March 21—Stood guard until 5:30 a.m. Was that night ever long and dark. Donnie Meyer, Bob Patterson, Melvin Greenly, Don Shelton, Corporal Knapp and I all took turns shaving each other’s heads tonight. We look like 6 Zombies. Anything to pass time though. Still raining. Bed early as usual.

Saturday, March 22—No inspection today Everybody busy building wooden sidewalks. I got on a detail to help build the colonel’s bridge across the ditch in front of his house. Homer Ankrum is taking a correspondence in barbering. I think he missed the second and third lessons though. The only reason the boys aren’t kicking is because they’re no mirrors in camp. Listened to the radio and to bed at 9 o’clock.

Sunday, March 23—A beautiful day. Sun sure feels good. Church again today. Sergeant Mahoney and some boys went fishing this morning. They didn’t have any bait so they came back and put everyone to work on the sidewalks. A few of the boys got a nice sunburn. Corporal Knapp got a swell angel food cake for his birthday. We all took turns holding him on the floor while the rest of us ate it. When a guy gets a package down here, he has to make a dash for the tent and lock it. The other day Sergeant Woodie got a package and I ate half of a shirt before I found out what it was.

Monday, March 24—Another nice day. Drilled. I’ve done so much drilling I feel like any day I’ll strike oil. No mail today again. It ruins my day when I don’t get any mail. The same for all the boys in the company. A few more of the boys got their heads shaved. Seems like we started a fad. Well, it’s nice and cool anyhow. Saw the Marx Bros. in “Out West” a laugh a minute. Bed about 9:30.

Tuesday, March 25—Cloudy. Drilled again. One of our buddies, John Miller, got a touch of appendicitis. They took him to the hospital. Nothing serious I hope. Our heads are getting a little hair on them now. They don’t look so much like billiard balls any more. Another hike tomorrow. Oh well, I plan to die with my shoes on anyhow. Bed early again tonight.

Wednesday, March 26—Hike today, only three hours. Plenty tired just the same. Shelton kept piling rocks on my pack while we were marching. Got our drill checks. I guess I’ll spend the rest of the evening in the canteen. Money sure goes when you break a nickel. Miller’s back tonight, he’s feeling pretty good. Got a box of candy and I got all of two pieces. Our tent has about three new doors in it after everyone got the word that I had something to eat.

Pvt. John (Plink) Petrow



~Transcriptions done & submitted by Hamilton County Iowa researcher, Pat Juon, July 2016

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