Dear Mother, thank you for you letter from the 22nd. It was fine to hear from you. Just write me when you feel like it. Whether I receive mail from you or not, matters not. I know that you do think of me often. I know that you will always love me because you are my Mother and my parents, no matter what I do. That is the nice thing about parents. Sometimes we just don’t feel like writing; I understand, because I am in the same boat.
The time will come when we can talk everything over. When seven thousand miles and thirteen months are separating us, the picture becomes blurred. Today we have gotten paid, so that means I am again another month closer to the good old USA.
Mother, I do not have the negative of the picture you are asking for. I did not see the movie you mentioned in your letter, but I did see a movie last night that I like very much – “The Glen Miller Story” with Jimmy Stuart. It was wonderful.
I do not need another pair of pajamas, thank you. And you can also forget about the pipe. If you would like me to buy a Contax-3A, I can get them in the PX just now for 180 dollars. I believe it has a 1.5 lens. See what they cost in the States; I would be interested what the difference in price is. I hope you are all feeling fine. Give my regards to Alice. I wore her shirt yesterday with the red tie and I liked it very much.
It is close to five o’clock and quitting time. I want to get this letter into the mail for you before the box is emptied at five.
Your son, Peter
Copy of a letter from the commanding officer for my birthday:
16 February 1954
Dear Private Laue:
On the occasion of your birthday I am happy to send congratulations and best wishes for many happy return of the day.
It is a pleasure to have you in the organization.
(Signed) Everett G. King, Colonel MC
March 5, 1954
My dear Parents, Brother and Sister,
It is Friday evening, nine o’clock. At a quarter after five I left the office and went to the mess hall to eat supper. It was a long day because I was very tired this morning when I got up. I surely wished I could have stayed in bed and slept, but that I could not do. Do you know why? Guess? - - - because I am in the Army and one has to follow orders.
The afternoon went faster than the morning because I did something I liked. I worked with numbers. Although I did not continue with math, I still love to work with figures. After supper I went up to my room and stretched out on my bed and read. Did I tell you I was just reading “Cain Mutiny” by Wouk? It is a fairly interesting novel. Tonight I read a rather well expressed sentence. The gist of it is that if you watch for the water in the pot to boil, it will never boil. So it is. When I figure out that there are so many days left before I am finished then I get frustrated.
I received a letter from you, Mother, and also from Papa. Mother, you always make that silly excuse to me that your letters are just wishy-washy talk with no backbone in them. But let me tell you, Mother, that I enjoy those letters more than a long philosophical treatise. To continually go into the abstract is just like watching the water boil. I like to hear what you have done and how you have applied all those theories to every hour in the day. Mother, you will probably read Papa’ letters and say, “Now, there is a letter the boy will get something out of.” But that is by no means always the case. You know how much you enjoy reading the examples and the little stories Yogananda gives in his book. You see, unless you do put that knowledge into daily practice, the philosophy is not a working philosophy. And that knowledge which you do not put into daily practice is dead weight and becomes a burden to your conscience. So, it is a sound idea to know as much as you can use. If you got ten pounds of bananas and only one stomach, half the fruit will rot. If you overstuff yourself on bananas, the result will be that you will feel mighty uncomfortable in your stomach. I have had that experience time and time again. You can only eat one banana at a time, earn one dollar at a time, and type one report at a time. If you try to do more than one thing at a time, the result will be that you cannot do one thing right.
Last Wednesday the game, tie clip, stockings, ties, Coronet, music and the book arrived. So far I have enjoyed the ties, tie clip, stockings, and the chocolate the most. My joy for the things was in sequence of the articles as I have listed them; the first item was first. My friend likes the tie clip very much and has asked me to ask you to buy one for him. Will you tell me the price, and he will give me the money. My friend has worn the clip two nights in a row already. He feels himself like a rich man with that tie clip. The game I don’t know what to do with now, because here you find seldom a person who is interested in such a thing. And you do need a partner to play games. I have an idea to take the game to the Tratz family, because even the grownups there like to play, or at second thought, I can also take it to Ruth. She likes to play. We enjoyed a lot of games together. Mr. Pfennig also took part in the games.
Last Tuesday was the last night of the “Fasching Season” (carnival season during February of each year). You should have seen the crowds in town! I have never seen such merry-making before. The main streets of Nuremberg were jammed. On the streets there was dancing. You could dance with anyone, and no one would refuse to dance with you. I took part in the fun together with a German family that I met quite coincidentally last Monday night. I was working last Monday night by myself in the office. I would have loved to go out that night, because practically everyone went that night to some party. While I was working in the office, about 20:30 hours, two German fellows came into the office to find out where a certain man might be who was playing in a band. I put on my thinking cap and thought deeply and made several telephone calls. And I located the person. And then I told the boys about what I would rather do instead of what I was doing just then.
They invited me right away to a party that they were going to. They took me along in their car and also brought me back again. At the party I met the wife to be of one of the boys. It had really been a long time since I met such a sweet girl. We had a fine time together. The boy took a picture of the girl and me. If it comes out good and I get a print, I will send it to you.
The following day, Tuesday, the mother of the girl called me in the office and invited me to come with them and enjoy the last day of the Fasching. At six o’clock I was called for with the car. At first we all took part in the merry-making on the street and after that we went to one of the finest clubs in Nuremberg. It was just like a club in America. There was a wonderful floorshow and dancing and good wine and everything that went with it. My friends invited me to everything that goes with it. At three o’clock in the morning they took me home. The mother of the girl was with us, so you can see that the people still stick to old traditions. My friends said that they would introduce me to some nice young girls. I will see what comes out of it. When I go to the home of the family, I cannot wear my uniform because of the bad reputation that the soldiers have. You can imagine that the boys, being a couple of thousand miles from home do not always show themselves from their best side. And then, young boys are young boys; they are always up to a lot of tricks. Most of the young soldiers are sowing their - - - - oats here.
Yesterday I inquired about getting myself a portable typewriter. I have 200 Marks put away for it, but I will have to double that sum before I can buy it. If I order the typewriter now, I will get it at the end of the month. The company does not keep a stock of typewriters with the American keys. The company can make almost any keyboard, including the Greek. I also want to buy myself a camera for a hundred dollars. And I would like to buy it soon so that I can have the pleasure in taking pictures. Will you send me the money? I am just not able to make any headway with the money that I get. The camera I want to get is a Contessa 2 F. It has a built in light meter. It is not too big and not too small, just nice and handy for my purposes. And after a while I want to add a flash attachment. It will be one of the new flash attachments which have a bulb which lasts for a thousand shots or more.
Tomorrow a friend of mine is leaving for the States. He lives in California and I think you have heard of the name of the town he lives in – Los Angeles. I gave him your name and telephone number. He said that he would call you up when he gets to Los Angeles.
It is eleven o’clock now. I better go upstairs to my room and give my shoes a quick shine. Tomorrow is shoe inspection. I wonder how you will like such a thing, Hellmut? I wonder if you will ever get drafted? Maybe the army will overlook you, and I know that you will do everything to look the other way when the draft board is looking your way. I wish you all the luck. And I thank you for your birthday presents and your letters.
With best wishes, your son,
This morning your letter with the orange-country postcard arrived – thank you.
March 9, 1954
Dear Mother, Father, Brother and Sister,
Well, Mother, I see that you came through with another letter for me written on the 4th of March. I don’t remember the 3rd and 4th of this month for anything special. But at the moment I do feel pretty good.
This morning, as usual, I was working in the office, and this afternoon, as usual, I went to class – every Tuesday afternoon. This afternoon we saw first a movie on leadership. I did not go to sleep during the movie, which is really quite unusual. I enjoyed the picture, because there were a lot of scenes from basic training in it, which reminded me of what I went through about ten months ago. Now I chuckle about those four months of basic training. The second hour the chaplain talked to us about prejudice. That is also one hour I enjoy, because Chaplain Quick talks on everyone’s level. He is from the South, and he has a pleasant dialect that I like. The fourth hour we had physical training and the third hour we had dismounted drill, which means marching around. I must say that we did not look like soldiers as we were marched around the field in front of the hospital. Next Friday we are going on maneuvers for a day and a half. We leave Friday morning by truck and come back the following day around noon. In October was the last time I went on maneuvers. If the weather stays as nice as it is at them moment, we will all enjoy it very much to go outside and pitch our hospital tents. I am on the detail to put up the latrine for the men.
I have another wish; please send me my leather jacket. I think it is a little torn inside. Please fix it for me before you send it. And if it needs cleaning then also have it cleaned. If you have Levis that will fit me, please send me also a pair. I have gained about twenty-five pounds since I have left you thirteen months ago. I think that will be all for the time being.
I have something else on my mind too. Since two months a new regulation has been put out regarding early discharges from the army. It is going into effect on the first of April, next month. I will tell you about it after I come back from chow. Well, in the meantime the clock has turned to 2000 hours, because of chow, instead of coming right back to the office, I went to the game room and played a few games of pool; and I watched a lot more than I played, because I was always on the losing end.
I will tell you the story of the early discharge. The army will discharge a man up to three months earlier if a college semester begins at such a time that the man would be able to enroll in that semester if he would be discharged sooner. Is that clear? I don’t think so. Well, I’ll try again. Let us say the semester would begin at the end of November. The army will then discharge me in time in order to enroll in that semester. But I have to show that I am going to be accepted by the college. The same idea holds true with a job. If certain contract jobs are only open at a certain time, I could be discharged earlier, if I would show that I would lose the job is I would not be back in time. Naturally I would have to show that I was accepted for the job before I apply for the early discharge. I would have to put in this requisition three months prior to my rotation date. The rotation date is the day a soldier leaves Germany for the States. That means, if I wanted to be rotated at the end of October, I would have to put in the requisition at the end of July. So I will leave it up to you, whether or not you want to undertake anything. I would not mind to work for a year before I return to school. I would also return to school first if the opportunity would offer this. I am sure that you could also obtain the same information, and the more exact information from the Army Department or the draft board in Los Angeles. I will come back as soon as the opportunity comes. However if I will stay till December, I know, that the two months won’t kill me.
The sergeant who was at the head of the office is leaving for the States on the 17th of this month. He was here five years. Now he is going to Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is a twenty-year man. He has it pretty nice since his family can go with him wherever he goes unless it is to a combat zone where he is sent. Then the family stays in the States.
Today at twelve I had a visitor here. Do you remember the people I told you about who took me along to the Fasching? They came to the hospital this noon. They asked what day I had off so that they could call for me. Actually I am supposed to have a half a day off extra each week. Everyone is supposed to get that half a day. But since we have been so very busy, we have not gotten that extra time. When my friends came, the captain of our office was just sitting outside in the sun, and he was apparently in good humor. I took advantage of this and the fact that my friends were just there. So I asked the captain if I could have tomorrow afternoon off. My friends had something planned for me, I told him. He could not say “no” very well; and he did not say “no.” Sunday afternoon my friends also want to call for me with the car. But where they are planning to go, I do not know yet.
Thank you for the five Marks. I can always use some extra money. Five Marks is a dollar and nineteen cents in American money. There has come a time now where I wished that my salary would be higher. Don’t be surprised if I should ask you for some money. I hate do do it, but - - -
I am going up to my room now. I have been very tired lately, and so I will go to bed earlier tonight. I will read a while, yet, and then I will sleep. My friend lent me a book I think I will enjoy. “Das Leben von Axel Munthe.” (The life of Axel Munthe). That’s the approximate title of the book.
I really wanted to write Alice tonight and not you. But suddenly I got the idea of the leather jacket and the Levis; and that is why I wrote you instead of Alice. And then again, I was feeling pretty good tonight, and that is also why I wrote a letter at all. I read Alice’s letter once more this morning which she sent me in December; and I liked it just as much the second time as I did the first; and that is why I wanted to write. Please do call her up for me and give her my regards. And if you like, you can also let her read this letter, or at least tell her the things that would interest her.
I wish you all a pleasant night, and the best wishes from your son
Please send me my brown suit. I would like the Los Angeles paper. Letter from the 8th arrived this morning. It’s the 15th of March. Thanks
March 13, 1954
I guess your son and daughter are in the mountains, so I can address my card to just the two of you. I just got back from our field problem this morning at ten. I am glad it is over. I got a terrible migraine headache last night in the field, and thought I could not stand the pain. But someone had some APC’s along. I took three of those and walked for half and hour in the cold fresh air. And from that it got so much better that I could sleep. This morning the pain was gone.
I received the nuts, and boy, are they delicious. I am eating them just now. And I have to reach into the box over and over again. Last Tuesday something unpleasant happened. Someone stole something from me that I liked. I’ll tell you some other time what it was. Papa, instead of you sending me dollars, could not the money come from your income in Germany? I can use Marks as well as dollars. I received your letter from the 6th today with the postcards. Thank you, Mother.
Your son Peter
Please send me my brown suit. I would like the Los Angeles paper. Letter from the 8th arrived this morning, 15th of March. Thanks. (Peter must have finished or mailed on the 15th)
March 21, 1954 - The First day of Spring
In just a few minutes I will be sitting on a saddle riding into the first day of Spring with a friend of mine. At the moment I am in no mood for this undertaking, but I believe that once I am on the saddle and kicking my legs, I’ll overcome my lethargy. You know that is a common ailment among soldiers, tiredness.
It is Monday morning. I don’t have the time to continue your letter now. Maybe I will get to it during the day sometime when the boss is not around, or otherwise tonight.
I would like to get this letter off today yet, so I’ll cut it short and quickly write it on company time. Our excursion on the bicycle was to Heilsbronn. Roundtrip it amounted to 60 km. It took us about five hours. In Heilsbronn we stopped for a cool beer. But the reason I want to get this letter off soon is because I want to ask you for some money. It seems that you don’t like to send me any. I don’t know why you feel that way, maybe you think that I waste it. I really have good use for a hundred dollar money order right now. I won’t tell you for what I want the money. I have been rather short lately, and I hate to be scratching at the bottom all the time. One hundred dollars would really do the trick. The money is not for a girl; I want to do something for my personal pleasure. The captain came into the office. So, good-bye. And thanks a lot; I would really appreciate it if you would help me out.
I need my birth certificate to have my name changed.
Good-bye – your son Peter
March 24, 1954
My dear Parents,
You are really pretty swell about the mail lately. I received two letters this week from you already, one from Papa and one from Mutti together with Hellmut’s letter from the mountain. (Peter’s brother is looking for gold). I also received the pasted together letter from Hellmut in which I receive moral instructions. I know that Hellmut means very well, but I doubt that he knows the circumstances that I am in. Your see, you first have to be a soldier yourself to understand him and his way of life. If a thousand wolves are howling around you and you don’t howl yourself, then you get eaten up alive. My voice and power is not so great that I am able to raise my voice above the thousand voices. I did think it was possible, and maybe it is for someone who is stronger than I am. Maybe Hellmut is stronger than I am; I hope so.
I am glad to see that he is in such excellent spirits in the mountains. I love to see people so full of adventure, vigor and courage to go into such an enterprise. Good for him.
I doubt if you understood me correctly – about getting an earlier discharge. You see, the semester at UCLA only starts in February, so that I would not have to be discharged earlier to attend the spring semester. My contract job or college semester must begin around November or December in order for me to be discharged sooner. I am sure that you can get the official bulletin about this from the draft board.
Tonight a play is given in our hospital theater. It is called, “The Moon is Blue.” I am going to see it. On the poster advertising the play it is written that the play is only for adults. I guess that I can call myself an adult now. I wonder what the play will be like?
The play was called off. Why, I do not know. So, instead of going out or going to a movie here, I played billiard until now. It is 3:30 PM. If I do feel blue sometimes, and there is a billiard table handy, my melancholy soon disappears. My accordion I do not use very often. Only when I want to overcome some uneasy feeling do I play. When I do feel in good spirits already, then I don’t feel like playing. I also received some more notes from you. Thank you, Mother and Papa. Because you, Papa, earn a big junk of the money, that is one reason why you are included. I know that whatever Mother does, that you have your spirit in that also. I know that you two work like a team together. And that is the way it should be in a family, and between a Papa and a Mama.
Speaking of families, I just heard the rumor today that a friend of mine is going to get married over here soon. He knows his girl only since a few weeks. I have not seen his girl. I really don’t know what she is like. I hope it works out. But the wedding bells have not rung yet, and the word has not been spoken. Love is a mysterious thing that cannot be explained. If we do want to explain it, the beauty goes out of it. I just want to take life as a gift from God. That makes life much more worth living. Have you not also found, that as soon as you want to analyze and reason out these mysteries in our human way that the beauty fades away?
I am really looking forward to a dance that a friend of mine invited me to next Sunday. The girls will be wearing long dresses. And you know how much I love to see the girls that way. The boys will naturally be wearing dark suits. It is a good thing that I have my blue suit. We will all be going in style to the dance. My friend has a car. It will be just like in the States, only that the people are speaking German instead of English.
I will be very glad to send you my paycheck every month if I can get Marks instead. It is little trouble to exchange the Marks for script again. (Script is money soldiers use to purchase items at the PX). I can also exchange larger sums if you would like me to do it.
Today I got my army driver’s license. I will also get a civilian license in a few days. I am now permitted to drive trucks up to and including two and a half ton trucks. I enjoy driving those trucks. This morning I drove a two and a half ton truck through the hills and through town. It is no harder to drive those trucks than it is to drive our Pontiac. How is the Pontiac doing anyway? Is it still in good condition?
I am enclosing a letter from Ernst, which he told me to forward to Sonja. He told me I could read the letter. I do hope that Sonja will be able to see everything with clarity. I personally like Ernst; but I am not married to him, and therefore I cannot see the whole picture. I have not been in Stuttgart since December. Maybe next month I will have the chance to take a run over there and see Ernst. Arthur is in a similar tough spot. I hope he will be strong in himself to find a wife that has the strength to love in a deep, wonderful way. We all need love to grow and to unfold our best possibilities.
Well, I just noticed that you did not want me to mention that I received that letter from Hellmut. I have forgotten. I won’t type the letter over for this. Also, let me know if you want to have Hellmut’s letter from the mountain back, otherwise I will tear it up.
By the way, the nuts arrived in a very tasty condition. Did I acknowledge the tie clip? If I didn’t, I want to tell you that I received it. Thank you very much. My friend won’t get the clip until payday, otherwise he will forget about the money if I give him the clip now. Everyone is broke at this time of the month, including your son. But I have put two-hundred Marks away for something I want to buy soon.
Yes, I have heard about Star Daily. Do you know from whom? I heard his name mentioned the first time in our family some time ago. Please don’t send me his book. If I should want to read it, I am sure that I can also obtain it here.
I just want to say that the tie clip you sent is just like the one I have. My friend is crazy about it. But don’t send me another one unless I ask for it. I am happy to hear that you sent my leather jacket and the other suit away. I hope the clothes arrive soon. The grey suit is shut to pieces. The buttocks side is so thin that you can see my white underpants. It was a mistake to send it. I imagine you didn’t notice how worn the pants were.
Next week our registrar, Captain Hoffman is leaving for the States with his family. He is getting out of the army to enter civilian life again after ten years of service. He was supposed to have stayed here till next March, but since he got a good offer as registrar of a civilian hospital, he asked for a discharge and he got it.
No, Mother and Papa, I do not have sweetheart over here, yet. I have had a number of dates. The girls, however, were not my type. But I am looking; you can believe that. Through my new friend I am getting into a very nice circle of people. And I do think that I will soon have a sweet girl in my arms. Mother, will you be jealous? I know that Papa won’t be. Will you, Papa? You also have been young; or are you still young?
That’s all there is; there “ain’t” no more today. From writer I will turn to artist and draw this letter to a close. (Picture of Peter pounding on his typewriter)
March 24, 1954
My dear Papa,
I am going to tell you for what I would like to have the money, because Mother would worry unnecessarily about my undertaking. I would like to by myself a motor scooter. I will buy the scooter whether you can send me the money or not. The thing is that if I will have to finance the whole thing from the pay I get over here, I will be very short for the rest of the time I am in Germany. The money I get from you will pay for half the cost. I will also only buy a cheap camera here because expensive things get stolen too easily. If you have not sold the camera when I get back to the States, I might buy it from you. If you can get the Marks to me over here, I can send you every month 300 dollars. My pay at the moment is 57 dollars. Thanks for your letter Papa. I receive it this morning. It was misdirected. Sunday I am invited to a big dance; and a girl is also invited for me.
Good-bye and God bless you.
Your boy, Dieter (Peter)
March 30, 1954
I received your letter of March 22nd. Thank you very much, Mother. If you would give me Marks instead, that would be alright with me. I hope I will get a boost in pay from you because then I can do some more things I would like to do. The money is holding me back at the moment. I will gladly send the coffee and clothes along to Ruth.
The Mirror (newspaper) would be fine. You should see what I bought over here last Saturday – on partial payment so far. Your eyes would pop out. You can guess, I guess, Papa. The color is red; it’s a beauty.
My friend invited me to a wonderful, wonderful ball last Sunday. And he invited a beautiful girl for me. I am really in the chips since I have met this friend. I drank “Bruederschaft” (a special way of toasting in Germany that seals a friendship) with this girl and my friend’s girl. It is the first time I did this. It’s a nice custom. Some other time I will tell you more.
If you don’t help me with a bit of extra doe, I might discontinue my allotment and you what is left.
God bless you,
Your son Peter