Last week we gave you the Foreword and Introduction of the book my daughter and I have put together of Catherine and James Neville's letters to each other during World War II. As promised, here's Chapter One. While the final edition is still being worked on, we'll be publishing select chapters in the coming weeks. If you're interested in a copy of the book once it comes out, let us know. In the meantime, enjoy Chapter One.
James Neville and Catherine, The War Years – 1944-1946
Camp Shelby: “Dearest, well your husband is now in the army.”
Dearest, I love you. April 7, 1944
We are in Memphis at the bus depot. It’s about 9:30. I called your mother a few minutes ago. Didn’t go past there. Didn’t feel up to it. So far so good.
Started to call you, but decided it would only make bad matters worse. Just start me crying and I couldn’t do it with these boys in public. So far they have behaved nicely.
I thought we managed the leave taking as well as we could. I love you so much. I haven’t realized yet what being apart means yet.
Hope you make out Saturday on route okay. Tell Cathie and Jimmy hello for me.
All my love forever,
P.S. I’ll think of you every hour. Can’t write more now. I love you.
On Friday, April 7, 1944 James Neville LeDuke of Tiptonville, Tennessee boarded a bus along with several other inductees all bound for Camp Shelby, Mississippi to be inducted into the United States Army. Camp Shelby is one of many reception centers across the United States used to receive new recruits and evaluate their skills and make decisions as to where they should be placed in the Army.
James Neville, probably because of his age (29), is assigned the role of group leader for this long trek by bus and train. As a former teacher and dormitory head master he jumps right into this role, telling Catherine, “John L. West unintentionally did me the biggest favor when he made me group leader. I was so worried about the responsibility that my other senses were numbed.”
The bus leaves from Dyersburg, Tennessee and goes south to the Memphis train depot, where he manages to mail the above letter, the first of hundreds that he’ll send during his time in the service. From Memphis they head south to Jackson, Mississippi and eventually arrive at Hattiesburg and Camp Shelby sometime Saturday morning. In one of his first letters, James Neville writes of one of their first experiences: “Dearest, well your husband is now in the army. We were sworn in about 2:30. Got a chain hung around my neck. James N. LeDuke, 34987226. I’ll never be able to express my mingled emotions.”
Go here for the rest of Chapter One.
Jimmy LeDuke (I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail.)