Among the many pieces of correspondence available to researchers at the Hart Library are the letters of Martin Bischoff (Mss. 01509), who wrote home to his family from England during World War II. Here, Martin—somewhat casually—tells his family of a disaster in the English Channel that would earn him the Purple Heart.
May 12, 1944
Dear Mom, Dad, and Betty,
From your letters it seems that Denver is bursting into bloom, and the park must be quite a sight as everything turns green, and the flowers add a touch of color. Here the weather has been quite decent, and living conditions are once again bearable. . . .
As the War Department sometimes sends untimely telegrams, perhaps it will be best if I tell you about a little deal I was in on. The expression “going through Hell and high water” never had a literal meaning for me before, but now all that remains is to take a trip through Hell. One day awhile back the Jerries closed their eyes and got lucky with their guns. As a result our crew found it necessary to seek the security of the Channel. We all bailed out, and after about 45 minutes in a dinghy, I was picked up by a boat. I took advantage of the situation to get a good stiff drink of rum, and the only lasting effects I have is a colorful story to tell your grandchildren. . . .
Sorry that I can’t tell you where I am, but no matter what the others have written home, such information is definitely a military secret, and I don’t feel right about taking advantage of my position as my own censor. There is no way of telling when the information might get into wrong hands. . . .
One of these British radio programs is on, and is it corny. All of their programs sound like a revival of the gay nineties. . . . [T]hey think all Americans are either crazy, immensely wealthy, former gangsters, or a combination of all three.
This is all the news for now. Seriously, I am very well, and back working hard. Very confidentially, a dinghy makes the best place of worship I have ever been in.
So long for a while.
May 24, 1944
Dear Mom and Dad,
Yesterday marked the second year that I have been an officer. It hardly seems believable, does it? That time has slipped by so rapidly. Every now and then I think back to how long the months seemed when I went to school or when I was working in the bakery. Now they whiz by. Is this a sign of approaching maturity?
Remember I wrote about taking an unexpected swim in the Channel? As a result of the episode I was awarded the Purple Heart. My children should have some nice teething rings when this is all over. Just to keep you up to date I have the D.F.C., Purple Heart, and Air Medal with ten Oak Leaf Clusters. The only one I am really interested in getting anymore is the Victory medal.
Have you been getting the “Reader’s Digest” every month? I subscribed to it for all of us, but my issue has not appeared each time. If you are not getting it, you might write them a hot letter, as I have already jacked them up once.
Sometime after the first of June when you receive my allotment check, the amount should have increased to $156. If it has not been increased, let me know and I shall investigate.
Things are going along okay. My only legitimate complaint is that I deserve a leave in Denver, which is very slow in coming. It is not correct that the pronoun I should be used as we all have it coming. Everyone would feel much better about the situation if only the invasion would begin. Do you know when it will start? If so, let me in on the secret.
Herewith is another request for a package of candy and nuts. The ol’ tapeworm is continually calling.
You asked about night flying. For awhile we went up at night to become accustomed to the conditions here. It was quite an experience to fly around knowing that thousands of people were sitting cosyly [sic] in their homes beneath us, and we were not able to see a single glimmer of light to indicate that the countryside was inhabited. We used certain navigational aids which are secret, but I still felt like I was in a haunted house without a flashlight. It is surprising how everyone cooperates fully in blanketing every source of light. Perhaps not, though, when you consider that if we don’t cover a light, Jerrie is liable to put it out with a ton of T.N.T. At present, however, Jerrie is a little cautious about making any journeys our way unless absolutely necessary.
Keep your elbows greased, and when I get home we will have a drink in honor of the guy who first thought of a collapsible rowboat. So long.