Tag Archives: Jess Burkett

Letters Home: Post WWII Thoughts from a Soldier

Yesterday was VJ-Day, with remembrance ceremonies held around the world. Many of the “Greatest Generation” are now gone, including Sgt. Jess Burkett, my husband’s uncle.

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Sgt. Jess Burkett

I’m not sure when Jess entered the U.S. Army, but I believe it was in early 1945. He stopped to visit brother-in-law Ed, Ruby and their daughter Pat on his way overseas.

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Ed, Ruby, Jess & Patsy

Jess was apparently stationed for some time in Korea and wrote a long letter to Ed and family in June of 1946. These photos were taken in the yard on Oleander, the address on the envelope.

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Seoul, Korea
June 12, 1946

Dear Ed, Ruby & Family,

I was very glad to hear from you again. I sat down to write you some time ago during a slack period at the office, but something came up and I didn’t finish my letter. I’m glad to hear that everyone is well. I see you have kept your weight down to 165. I haven’t kept mine down. The last time I weighed, I had got back up to 195. I had my heart and Blood Pressure checked a few days ago though and the Doc said I was O.K. he said my Blood Pressure was still just a little high but nothing to be of any consequence.

Yes, I think you have a very good job with Shell. I hope your company doesn’t get envolved (sic) in any of these costly labor disputes.

I would really enjoy a visit with you again on the way back. I don’t know what the situation is going to be though, and probably won’t till I reach the States. Some Troops bound for the States from Korea are sent to Seattle, some to Frisco, but either Place you are Probably discharged at your nearest Separation Center (In my case Camp Chaffee Arkansas) and I think you are traveling all the time. I haven’t heard from Wanda, though she may know something about working out such a stop over that I don’t know about. At any rate you can be sure that the first trip we take after the war will be to visit you.

From what I hear over here, Governor Warren was elected by an easy margin. I also hear over the radio that the P.A.C. took quite a beating in California. Back home, your Friend, Senator Nance, has drawn an ex-service man and a Pretty good Politician for an opponent, but I would Predict that Nance will beat him.

Will Rogers Jr. may be, as you say, cashing in on his dad’s great name, but a great name can be a handicap sometimes. Witness Jimmy Roosevelt’s political finagling. Every time he opens his mouth he Puts both feet in it, But even if he didn’t F.D.R. shines him into insignificance. So it works both ways.

Yes, I have read and heard quite a lot on all this strike News. It has sure hindered things in the States. The Maratime (sic) strike just “Can’t” happen. I had quite a lengthy discussion with a former merchant Seaman in our outfit. He can’t convince me that the shipping strike is justified. The Rail Strike was very close to a calamity and Truman did all he could. It seems that Truman always tries, and in spite of my original impression of him, I think he has done surprisingly well as President. But he just don’t seem to be able to Put over his Policies.

I hated to see (Stalinious?) leave U.N.O. I think Byrnes has taken the right attitude with Russia though. There is No sense in starting the old “appeasement” game all over again. I don’t think Russia wants trouble with us. I think the failure of all conferences in which Russia is engaged is due to one thing. There is no “delegation of authority.”

There has been a conference here in Seoul on the Problems of joint occupation. Here is what happens. The Russian delegation comes with a set of proposals from Moscow. They lay them on the line. That is all! In other words, when Stalin sends a man to a conference he is just sending a form of “dignified Transcription.” Now, you can’t compromise with a phonograph record. You have heard that the Russians drive a hard bargain. I say they are the world’s worst bargainers and that their policy is more conspicuous for its stupidity than anything else. Don’t ever believe that old stuff that they Put out about being “Popular” in their occupation zone. I have heard from several sources that they are less popular than the Japs. Koreans don’t especially relish occupation by any Country, but there is no group of Koreans who suspect the U.S. of having any “designs” on their Country. They would like to be rid of us both, but they would hate very much to see us Pull out and have Russia to occupy them alone.

Now they would be only too glad if Russia would pull out. I find the Koreans to be a rather friendly and a very orderly People. Even when thousands of them demonstrated during the New Year’s Unrest they were extremely orderly, much more than a similar group of Americans would have been. Well, I had better quit this support of Korea. I could go on and on.

Everything is going fine here. I’m still keeping the Korean Payroll which has grown to a little over 100,000 yen a month. Inflation is very bad here and that isn’t as much money as it appears to be. The army figures 15 to 1 but that is very, very short.

In spite of food shortages in the States, we continue to eat well and we have very comfortable & modern living quarters.

If Congress would Pass the Senate’s Proposed draft bill, I might be fortunate enough to get a boat home in July. But I’m not counting too much on the House approving a teenage draft law and if they don’t I Probably will have to stay till I finish my 18 mos. or thereabouts and I’d be lucky to get home by September. I have always counted on being home by September and still hope to make it.

It was sure nice to hear from you again. I’m enclosing a Picture that was taken a couple of weeks ago. Did I ever send you samples of this Korean money? I’ll enclose that too. Ronnie got a Big Kick out of getting some and Pat might enjoy it, too.

Yours,
Jess

This letter gives an interesting glimpse into post World War II occupation, labor turmoil back in the States and a mention of upcoming elections. The letter makes mention of “Nance,” who was Oklahoma politician James C. Nance. “Ronnie” in the letter is Jess’s son. “Byrnes” is likely South Carolina politician James F. Byrnes, who was Secretary of State in 1946.

By the way, I loved the 6 cents postage due on this letter!

Thank you to all of our military for your service to our country.