Facing even more time apart, Alvin and Faye tie the knot
Second in a series.
To the surprise of everyone, Army Lt. William Alvin “Andy” Anderson and Faye Walker married in a hurry-up ceremony Aug. 3, 1942, in Phoenix City, Ala.
They hadn’t seen each other in more than three months.
Faye, working a civil service job for the War Department in Washington, D.C., made quick travel arrangements to Columbus, Ga., where Alvin, on leave from Fort Benning, met her before they made the dash over to Phoenix City.
Dr. L.W. Lee, an Army chaplain, presided over their wedding. The couple didn’t know how long they had before Alvin would be shipping out of the country. He already had secret orders and couldn’t tell anyone, not even Faye, where he was going.
He would soon be receiving all kinds of shots, including vaccines for typhoid and small pox. “I have every vaccine you can think about — and some of them four or five times,” Alvin said.
In what seemed like an instant, Faye was back on a train and heading for Washington.
In his first letter to her after the marriage, Alvin began, “My Darling Wife,” and he immediately apologized:
“Darling, I don’t know how I will ever make up to you for the way we were married, but I promise you that someday, somehow, I will.”
Faye also expressed regret about how everything was so rushed: “I know I looked terrible while I was there, because I was tired and got off in such a hurry. The wedding wasn’t the kind we’d always planned at all, but Alvin, sometime maybe we can make it up by giving our children the best.
“Maybe there won’t be a war then.”
The couple worried, too, about the reaction from their parents. “Alvin, do you think we did the right thing?” 18-year-old Faye said in her first letter after the wedding. “I hope Mama will not be hurt with me.”
By Aug. 13, Faye’s mother wrote to her that she was not angry but “somewhat disappointed.” Knowing the circumstances both were in, maybe it was for the best, she said.
“I hope so, and I hope you and Alvin will always do the right thing by each other,” Faye’s mother added.
Alvin said tears came to his eyes when his own mother told him how happy she was about the marriage.
“You have someone now to love and fight for, and if necessary, die for,” she said.
Alvin had graduated July 25 from Officers Candidate School and was commissioned a second lieutenant.
His letters hardly made it sound easy, but he finished in the top five out of 200 candidates.
“Sometimes I think the exams they give here are an insult to one’s intelligence, yet some of them fail,” Alvin wrote June 30. “Two boys were sent away yesterday, and there are about 30 in the class who will be sent away soon.
“There are some of the dumbest people here and yet they are supposed to be the most intelligent people in the Army. So much for that.”
Alvin told Faye of being on the rifle range all day, going over 36 different angles of a geometry problem, preparing for night maneuvers, taking a 120-hour machine gun course and fighting with bayonets.
He was getting up at 5:45 each morning and double-timing to every new test on the base. In OCS, the Army seemed to grade or rate you on everything, Alvin said.
“The way we sit, the way we walk, and they grade us on the intelligence of questions we ask, speech, ability to command,” he added. “I just can’t fail. If I did, I would be all through.”
The heat at Fort Benning during the three months of school — May, June and July — proved oppressive. The fair-skinned Anderson feared his face would become poisoned or infected from his bad sunburn.
At 6-1, he weighed 170 pounds. For a time he was nursing a 6-inch-long cut on his back suffered during an exercise period.
Anderson sometimes had little respect for the officers putting him through the paces.
In early July, a lieutenant told the men in his company they were all “a bunch of green-earred recruits,” which Anderson found laughable.
“He has been in active service about six months,” Alvin noted. “I guess he doesn’t realize that he was talking to some men who have been in the Army over 22 years.”
Still, Anderson appreciated any praise coming his way. A lieutenant who was his platoon leader told Alvin he would like to go to combat with Anderson in charge.
“He said I had some quality of leadership that very few people possess, and it was the best,” Alvin bragged to Faye.
Throughout OCS, speculation was rampant as to where the men would be headed once the school was over.
Someone heard a captain say 109 of the candidates were going to combat duty.
“I’ll take it and be glad to get out of here,” Alvin said.
On July 4, Anderson told Faye 120 out of a recently graduated class were being assigned to a post in Oregon.
The company bulletin board on July 14 listed 19 more men who failed the course, including Anderson’s first roommate, as he had predicted.
“I feel so sorry for him, but he just can’t do the job,” Anderson said.
Infantry officers are responsible for 50 mothers’ sons, Alvin said, and it was something always on his mind.
Despite some early homesickness, Faye Walker settled in quickly at her Washington, D.C., job.
Her female coworkers kidded her about her accent and called her “Miss Florida.”
Faye’s Signal Corps job eventually moved to an office building in Arlington, Va. She also went from living in a boarding house on 6th Street in Washington to moving in with a coworker Dorothy and her disabled husband at a place in Capitol Heights, Md.
Dorothy would become her best friend in Washington.
Faye lived in a room to herself with a small library, lamp, and her hopes for a radio.
Her office building in Arlington was air-conditioned, but only during the day. She worked the night shift. Faye also was the air raid and blackout patrol officer for the Military Personnel Branch in her building.
In one of her letters to Alvin, Faye said it seemed all of the women in her office were either getting married or resigning : Genevieve, the blonde, resigning; Jo, the Italian girl, resigning; Norma, the girl she teasingly calls “Fattie,” getting married.
“Well, she says she is … to a guy who works at a grill,” Faye wrote. “He’s already borrowed $40 from her and now he’s mad with her. Jo told her she had better keep him in good humor til she got the bucks back.”
Since April 19, when they had last seen each other in Florida, Alvin and Faye consistently missed connections when they found time to travel home.
During OCS, Alvin could hardly manage leave, and the distance to Washington usually prevented Faye from venturing south.
But it didn’t keep Alvin from talking about a ring. As early as May 6, he was asking whether a size “6” was correct.
Even though Faye said she would rather talk about rings in person, Alvin wrote to her June 23 that his mind was made up.
“It has been for a long time,” he said. “You should know that by now.”
Many times, Alvin referred back to their magical Easter together. “You looked so wonderful that Sunday,” he said. “I’ll never forget.”
Before Alvin shipped off to his secret assignment, he was able to take seven days in mid August and spend it with Faye in Washington.
It was their first real time together as husband and wife, and they referred to it often in future letters.
Their parting at the Washington train station tore them apart emotionally. Alvin called it the happiest week of his life. Faye said she would take nothing in exchange for that week together.
“When I walk in our room,” she said, “it seems as if you should be there.”
Alvin, in fact, had two tough goodbyes — one with Faye, in which he acknowledged later “tears came in my eyes, and my throat began to ache” as the Silver Meteor pulled out of the station.
The other came in late August when he said farewell to all his relatives in Live Oak. Tears rolled down his father’s cheeks, he said.
Faye wrote to Alvin before he left she was not going to worry and would stop crying.
“Darling,” she said, “lots of boys come back from different places, and I know you will.”
She began leaving her lipstick impressions on the letters she sent to Alvin.
“A kiss for you,” she wrote underneath.
Read part three.
The U.S. Army’s Alvin Anderson faced three big challenges in 1942: getting through Officers Candidate School, managing jungle warfare training in Panama and dealing with long periods of separation from his beloved Faye.
Here are quotes lifted from some of Alvin’s letters to Faye in 1942:
May 16, 1942 — from Officers Candidate School — “They are brutes for punishment here. They try to crowd 25 hours in a day, and it just won’t work.”
May 22, 1942 — “Faye, please don’t worry about me. I will be OK. Regardless of what they give me, I think I can take it.”
May 26, 1942 — “It will be so long since we have been together we will almost be strangers. After all, four months is a long time.”
May 29, 1942 — “We have to shoot every weapon in the infantry, and I have been firing the machine gun this week. Today I fired it 100 times in 10 seconds.”
June 3, 1942 — “I am very proud of our Army, and I am also proud to be a very, very small part of it. But there are a lot of heels in it.”
June 6, 1942 — “Weekends just don’t seem right anymore. I just live them and that is all. ‘Pass on Father Time,’ that is my silent slogan now. It can’t pass fast enough.”
June 24, 1942 — I had a 14-ton tank run over me yesterday, and I am still able to write to you. You figure that one out.”
July 4, 1942 — “I am the most miserable person you have ever seen. I’ve never been so disgusted with one place in all my life. … It isn’t the place so much as the officers we have.”
July 29, 1942 — I want you, Darling, for my own. I could treat you like a queen from now on.”
Aug. 27, 1942 — “I am happy because I know I have more to come back to than any man in the service. Nothing is going to happen to me. I can lick a million Japs for you, Darling.”
Sept. 18, 1942 — from his jungle warfare training in Panama — “Why am I here? Who caused me to be here in the beginning? Hitler! I hope to see the day that his skull will be on display in the museum labeled, ‘This is the skull of Hitler, the murderer of millions of God-fearing men, women and children. When I think of what he and his followers have done, I’d just like to blast him and all his Nazis off the earth.”
Nov. 10, 1942 — One day everything looks good, and the next it looks bad, so we just can’t tell. But I try not to let it bother me. I know that wherever I go, I can take care of myself. I’ve tried to learn all I could since I’ve been in the Army, and now I think I’m a pretty good soldier.”
— Compiled by Mark Wineka.
Next: After the Army throws Alvin a curve, he and Faye finally get to spend more time together as husband and wife. Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.