Friday, 30 October 2009

Einstein's One Great Mistake

On August 2nd, 1939, after consultation with fellow physicists Leó Szilárd and Eugene Wigner, Albert Einstein signed the following letter to then-U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt. The letter warned that the construction of an atomic bomb using uranium was indeed possible, advised the U.S. Government to invest time and money into its research, and then hinted that physicists in Nazi Germany had already begun similar work. As a result of the letter, Roosevelt created the Briggs Advisory Committee. This slowly evolved to become the Manhattan Project, an enormous project that later developed the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs. These were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing over 200,000 people.

Einstein later described signing the letter as the "one great mistake in my life."

(Source: Wikimedia; Image of Einstein, via.)

Albert Einstein
Old Grove Rd.
Nassau Point
Peconic, Long Island

August 2nd, 1939

F.D. Roosevelt,
President of the United States,
White House
Washington, D.C.


Some recent work by E.Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations:

In the course of the last four months it has been made probable - through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America - that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable - though much less certain - that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.

The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia, while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.

In view of the situation you may think it desirable to have some permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America. One possible way of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an inofficial capacity. His task might comprise the following:

a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action, giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uranium ore for the United States;

b) to speed up the experimental work, which is at present being carried on within the limits of the budgets of University laboratories, by providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause, and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial laboratories which have the necessary equipment.

I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.

Yours very truly,


(Albert Einstein)

I HATE "Bright Eyes"!

Back in 1979, when such a feat actually carried some weight, Art Garfunkel's song Bright Eyes spent six consecutive weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart after featuring on the soundtrack to the movie adaptation of the novel Watership Down. As a result of seemingly endless airplay, the song gripped the nation and became the country's biggest seller of the year. One person who clearly didn't buy a copy was the author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, who sent this note to Andrew Watkins in July of that year.

Note: 'Shardik' was Adams' next book.  


To Andrew Watkins

Many thanks for your super letter.

I HATE "Bright Eyes"!

I'm very glad you like "Shardik", lots of people don't.

I think to walk 20 miles at your age is marvellous.

Yours sincerely

Richard Adams

Thursday, 29 October 2009

I feel like an egg in a whisk

Jessie Corbett waited until 1924 to propose to the love of her life, John Wilks, and only chose that particular date as it was a leap year; a point in the calendar when, as a result of years of tradition, it wasn't frowned upon for a woman to ask for a man's hand in marriage. Jessie opted to craft a written proposal that is so perfectly romantic, I'm assuming Mr. Wilks was rendered defenseless by the time he reached the end. Indeed, John did agree and they married in November of that year.

Letter courtesy of the Australia Post - used with permission.


Leap Year 1924

Honeymoon St

My Own Dear Heart,

Leap Year is here at last. How I have longed for this year of feminine liberty my sweet to pour out the secret of my heart’s desire for you. Oh honey my brain is in a whirl thinking of you and as I write my humble request, I feel like an egg in a whisk. I love you darling, indeed I have loved you since first I gazed into you dear eyes and I want you for my own adorable husband. I can cook & sew & dig in the garden. I can play and sing divinely & would make your life one long dream of bliss. Oh sweetheart come to me & tell me that I may call you mine. Meet me in dreamland, oh beloved let your eyes light the way to paradise for two. I am longing for the day when I shall feel your sweet lips pressed close to mine. I hear your magic voice saying that my dream is true. I will wait through the long weary hours for your reply. Hasten oh loved one & call me and I will come from the end of the world. I have the ring, that magic circle, also a cosy cottage in a garden of loveliness so just say the word & we will wed. Meet me neath the star shine at Kissing Point and give me your answer.

Reply dearest to Mary Anne, G.P.O. or if you refuse my offer, forfeit in friends name a pair of gloves.

Your own Hug me tight

Mary Anne.

It's with regret, Mr. Warhol...

As we all sit back in our chairs, bathing in hindsight, the temptation to laugh and cringe at Alfred Barr's decision to turn down a piece of art from Andy Warhol is almost overwhelming. But then it wasn't until the '60s that Warhol began producing the Pop Art he's now famous for, and in fact he had already participated in a group exhibition that very year in the very museum from which this letter came, so MoMA clearly saw potential in him already. Just not enough to accept his gift.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Douglas Wilson; Image of Andy Warhol via.)




October 18, 1956

Dear Mr. Warhol:

Last week our Committee on the Museum Collections held its first meeting of the fall season and had a chance to study your drawing entitled Shoe which you so generously offered as a gift to the Museum.

I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our Collection.

Let me explain that because of our severely limited gallery and storage space we must turn down many gifts offered, since we feel it is not fair to accept as a gift a work which may be shown only infrequently.

Nevertheless, the Committee has asked me to pass on to you their thanks for your generous expression of interest in our Collection.



Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Director of Museum Collections

Mr. Andy Warhol
242 Lexington Avenue
New York, New York


P.S. The drawing may be picked up from the museum at your convenience.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


Howard Junker is the editor of ZYZZYVA, a literary journal based in San Fransisco, and as such receives a steady stream of submissions from writers eager to see their work published in his magazine. Understandably, Junker sends out a standard form letter when rejecting work. An example can be seen below, complete with the handwritten 'Onward!' that adorns every single one.

For more rejection-based documents, I suggest a look at Literary Rejections on Display.




Manuscript logged in: MAR-2 2007

Gentle writer:

Please forgive me for returning your work and for not offering comments or suggestions. I would like to say something to make up for my ungraciousness, but I don't think a few quick remarks would really help. The truth is I have so little space, I must return almost everything -99%- of what's sent to me, including a lot that interests me and even some pieces I admire. (Also, I make mistakes; my taste is erratic, my judgment flawed.)

The important thing is this: Do not be discouraged by this or any other momentary setback. The road is long; the struggle must go on.

Then, too, the ways of the Muse are strange. When she does visit again, I hope you will give her my best regards.


Keep the faith.


Howard Junker

We all feel like that now and then

At the height of World War II on April 6th, 1943, the British Ambassador to Moscow, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, wrote a letter to Foreign Office minister Lord Reginald Pembroke in an effort to simply brighten up his day--a letter which has since become a classic piece of correspondence for reasons that will soon become obvious. The letter is indeed hilarious, and proof, if it were needed, that name­-based punnery and mild xenophobia did a roaring trade long before the Internet was fired up.

(This letter, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note.)



Lord Pembroke
The Foreign Office

6th April 1943

My Dear Reggie,

In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that he is called Mustapha Kunt.

We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.


Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr,
H.M. Ambassador.

The birth of Roger Thornhill

Late theatre critic and arts editor Otis L. Guernsey wrote the following letter to Alfred Hitchcock in 1957. In it, he effectively handed over the rights to a movie idea he had already suggested to the director in the early 1950s, the treatment of which Hitchcock subsequently bought from Guernsey for $10,000. This 'fake masterspy' story was later used in Hitchcock's Oscar-nominated North by Northwest.


PEnnsylvania 6-4000
230 West 41st Street, New York 36

October 14, 1957

Mr. Alfred Hitchcock
c/o M-G-M
1540 Broadway
New York, New York

Dear Hitch,

A few years ago I suggested to you an idea for a movie, vaguely based on something which actually happened in the Middle East during World War II. At that time, a couple of secretaries in a British embassy invented--for the fun of it and to relieve the boredom of an inactive post--a fake masterspy. They gave him a name, and a record and planted information around to lure the Nazis onto his trail.

To their delight and astonishment, the enemy gobbled the bait and spent some valuable time and energy trying to hunt down the non-existent operative.

I suggested to you that this escapade might be built into a good movie melodrama in any one of a number of ways. The actual treatment we discussed at the time involved an ingenuous young American--probably a traveling salesman--who has the fake identity pinned on him by accident and finds that he cannot get rid of it. He is on the spot: the enemy is trying to capture and kill him. and his friends cannot help him because they cannot afford to have their ruse exposed.

However you plan to use the idea at this time, I hereby hand it over to you, blithely and with best wishes, with all rights and privileges, etc., etc., with no purpose of evasion or mental reservations, etc., etc., for such consideration as may have been discussed between my agent and yours, for all the good it may do you which I hope will be plenty.

Cordially yours,


Otis L. Guernsey Jr.


Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The result would be a catastrophe

Just 73 seconds after launch on January 28th, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle broke apart over the coast of Florida and ended the lives of all seven crew members. A subsequent investigation determined that an O-ring failure on one of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters, coupled with extremely cold weather around the time of launch, caused the accident. 6 months prior to the launch, the following memo was sent by Roger Boisjoly — an engineer working at Morton Thiokol, the manufacturers of the solid rocket boosters — to the company's Vice President, in which he predicted the problem and warned of a potential "catastrophe of the highest order."

Boisjoly's warning went unheeded; he then attempted to halt the launch, unsuccessfully. Boisjoly later revealed this memo to the presidential commission investigating the disaster and was then forced to leave Morton Thioklol after been shunned by disgruntled colleagues. In 1988 he was awarded the AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility for his actions.

Transcript follows.

(This memo, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note. For more info, visit Books of Note.)

Morton Thiokol, Inc
Wasatch Division

Interoffice Memo

31 July 1985

TO: R. K. Lund
Vice President, Engineering

CC: B. C. Brinton, A. J. McDonald, L. H. Sayer, J. R. Kapp

FROM: R. M. Boisjoly
Applied Mechanics - Ext. 3525

SUBJECT: SRM O-Ring Erosion/Potential Failure Criticality

This letter is written to insure that management is fully aware of the seriousness of the current O-ring erosion problem in the SRM joints from an engineering standpoint.

The mistakenly accepted position on the joint problem was to fly without fear of failure and to run a series of design evaluations which would ultimately lead to a solution or at least a significant reduction of the erosion problem. This position is now drastically changed as a result of the SRM 16A nozzle joint erosion which eroded a secondary O-ring with the primary O-ring never sealing.

If the same scenario should occur in a field joint (and it could), then it is a jump ball as to the success or failure of the joint because the secondary O-ring cannot respond to the clevis opening rate and may not be capable of pressurization. The result would be a catastrophe of the highest order - loss of human life.

An unofficial team (a memo defining the team and its purpose was never published) with leader was formed on 19 July 1985 and was tasked with solving the problem for both the short and long term. This unofficial team is essentially nonexistent at this time. In my opinion, the team must be officially given the responsibility and the authority to execute the work that needs to be done on a non-interference basis (full time assignment until completed.)

It is my honest and very real fear that if we do not take immediate action to dedicate a team to solve the problem with the field joint having the number one priority, then we stand in jeopardy of losing a flight along with all the launch pad facilities.


R. M. Boisjoly

Concurred by:


J. R. Kapp, Manager
Applied Mechanics

Whatever you do, don't touch his hair

On January 8th, 1957, a press conference confirmed millions of music lovers' worst fears: that Elvis Presley would soon be drafted into military service. For the next 14 months - at which point his induction took place - countless Presley fans became consumed with panic and spent much of their time speculating about the King of Rock 'n' Roll's future, some even aiming for the top by sending urgent mail to the White House in an effort to keep Elvis away from harm. The following letter, sent to President Eisenhower in 1958, was written by three female fans seemingly resigned to their idol's U.S. Army induction but not to suspected changes to his physical appearance.


Box 755
Noxon, Mont

Dear President Eisenhower,

My girlfriend's and I are writting all the way from Montana, We think its bad enough to send Elvis Presley in the Army, but if you cut his side burns off we will just die! You don't no how we fell about him, I really don't see why you have to send him in the Army at all, but we beg you please please don't give him a G.I. hair cut, oh please please don't! If you do we will just about die!

Elvis Presley Lovers

Linda Kelly
Sherry Bane
Mickie Mattson


Monday, 26 October 2009

Please clean up the oil spill

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker collided with Bligh Reef and proceeded to spill 40 million litres of crude oil into the sea, ultimately leading to one of the most devastating man-made disasters in history. According to the BBC, approximately '250,000 seabirds, nearly 3,000 sea otters, 300 harbour seals, 250 bald eagles and up to 22 killer whales' died as a result of the spillage.

On April 13, 1989, 8-year-old Kelli Middlestead wrote the following letter to Walter Stieglitz, then Regional Director of the Alaska Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


April 13, 1989

Dear Sir,

I am very sorry but I am very mad about the oil spill. It is killing nature. And it is killing the sea otters.

It makes me very sad because my class is doing a report on sea otters. And sea otters are cute, sea otters are an endangered species. Please clean up the oil spill.


Kelli Middlestead.

Mrs. Ashley - 2nd grade
Franklin School.

Krusty the Clown is God

Says Jeff Trexler:
Back in 1990, when I was researching my Ph.D. dissertation in religious history, I found a Christian tract featuring Bart Simpson as the sinner and Homer as the angry God. Simpsons counterfeit merchandise was ubiquitous. I sent it to Matt Groening and jokingly argued, since a Christian wouldn't steal someone else's intellectual property or falsely claim to have licensed it, that Groening must have plagiarized the Simpsons from the tract. As you can see, he copped to the charge but corrected the theology.
Transcript follows. Many thanks to Jeff for allowing me to feature his letter.









(Signed, 'Matt Groening')

The Johnny Appleseed of LSD

Sandoz Pharmaceuticals - the company who first synthesised LSD - sent this letter to 'Captain' Alfred Hubbard in 1955 along with forms enabling him to clear 43 boxes of LSD-25 ampules through customs. Hubbard (a.k.a. The Johnny Appleseed of LSD) was an intriguingly mysterious man who, due to his relentless promotion of the drug, is considered by some to be one of the most important figures in the history of LSD. It is thought he owned the second largest stockpile of LSD on earth, behind Sandoz themselves, and was responsible for introducing many high-profile people to the drug before it was banned. When this letter was written, Hubbard was Canada's sole licensed importer of Sandoz LSD.

Many thanks to Mansour for the tip.


Dr. A. M. Hubbard
Uranium Corp. of B. C. Ltd.
500 Alexander Street
Vancouver 1, B.C.

Dear Mr. Hubbard:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your telegram, and in compliance with your request, we are enclosing herewith Canadian Customs form No. 267 in triplicate covering the 43 boxes of L.S.D. 25 Ampuls, which we have forwarded to you on May 20th, via Parcel Post.

We hope that this invoice will enable you to clear the shipment through the Customs without any further delay.

Sincerely yours,



P. Hartmann, Export Mgr.
East Hanover Laboratories

Friday, 23 October 2009

Men mellow, Women become battleaxes

13th March, 1963: Mr. A. R. Taysom, an Australian bureaucrat, writes the following letter to his boss and Director of Trade Commissioner Services, K. L. Le Rossignol. The minute paper - basically a list of reasons as to why females shouldn't be employed as trade commissioners - is a reminder of the blatantly sexist attitudes upheld by men of the day, some of it so glaring as to be comical in retrospect. All in all, an incredible document. More information can be found here.

Thanks to John Clifford for the tip.





Even after some deliberation, it is difficult to find reasons to support the appointment of women Trade Commissioners.

In countries where publicity media is well developed, such as North America and England and where there are no other major drawbacks, such as the Islamic attitude towards women, a relatively young attractive woman could operate with some effectiveness, in a subordinate capacity. As she would probably be the only woman Assistant Trade Commissioner in the whole area, as other countries employ women in this capacity hardly at all, she could attract a measure of interest and publicity.

If we had an important trade in women’s clothing and accessories, a woman might promote this more effectively than a man.

Even conceding these points, such an appointee would not stay young and attractive for ever and later on could well become a problem.

It is much easier to find difficulties, some of which spring to mind are:-

(i) Women are not employed, except to an extremely minor degree, as career Trade Commissioners in any known service;

(ii) It is difficult to visualise them as Trade Commissioners, firstly because they could not mix nearly as freely with businessmen as men do. Most mens clubs, for instance, do not allow women members;

(iii) Relationships with businessmen would tend to be somewhat formal and guarded on both sides. This would make it more difficult for a woman to obtain information;

(iv) It is extremely doubtful if a woman could, year after year, under a variety of conditions, stand the fairly severe strains and stresses, mentally and physically, which are part of the life of a Trade Commissioner;

(v) A man normally has his household run efficiently by his wife, who also looks after much of the entertaining. A woman Trade Commissioner would have all this on top of her normal work;

(vi) If we engaged single graduates as trainees, most of them would probably marry within five years;

(vii) If we recruited from the business world, we would have a much smaller field from which to recruit, as the number of women executives in business is quite small;

(viii) A spinster lady can, and very often does, turn into something of a battleaxe with the passing years. A man usually mellows;

(ix) A woman would take the place of a man and preclude us from giving practical experience to one mail officer. She could marry at any time and be lost to us. she could not be regarded as a long term investment in the same sense as we regard a man.


It would seem that the noes have it.


(A. R. Taysom)

13th March, 1963.

P.S. I have since ascertained the following, which, it would seem, only serves to support the foregoing views -

Mr. H. W. Woodruff, U.K. Trade Commissioner:

They have a few women Trade Commissioners but only in capital city posts, for they have found that women cannot operate where contact with businessmen is necessary.

The women are fairly senior people from the U.K. Departments and presumably handle trade policy work only.

Mr. N. Parkinson, External Affairs:

Since their recruitments of trainees are made under the Public Service Act, there is no way of precluding women from applying and in fact, many more applications are received from women than from men. Some are chosen and all appointments are made on the basis of the quality of their educational achievements. About one woman is appointed to every twelve men. This year one out of sixteen, last year one out of twelve and the previous year, none.

They have to be trained for 18 months before going to their first post. The average marries within five years.

It is a very expensive process, but External Affairs lack courage to slam the door because of parliamentary opinion, pressure groups and so on.


(A. R. Taysom)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Fire or Acid

American physicist Benjamin Thompson wrote the following letter in 1775 at the start of the American Revolutionary War, a war during which Thompson, a loyalist, acted as a spy for the British Army. The letter actually contains two different messages. The first, longer message spans three pages, was readable by all and is notable in these pictures by its faint appearance, whilst the second, secret message - now dark - was written between the lines of the first message using invisible ink. The invisible ink would be revealed by applying either heat or a chemical solution to the paper; the letter's creator would mark the correspondence somewhere - with an 'F' for Fire or 'A' for Acid - depending on the treatment needed to reveal its true message.


Previously Invisible Message


If you will be so kind as to deliver to Mr. of Boston, the Papers which I left in your care, and take his Receipt for the same, You will much oblige

Your Humble Servant


Saturday May 6th 1775

Decoy Message

Woburn May 6th 1775

Sir, In compliance with your desires I embrace this first opportunity that has offered since I left Boston to send you some account of the Situation of affairs in this part of the Country.

I need not trouble you with a particular account of the affair at Concord on Wednesday the 19th [ ] nor of the subsequent gathering at Cambridge [ ], as you have doubtless already better intelligence of them affairs than I am able to give you.

The only information that I can give you that can be of any consequence … lately received from a Field officer in the Rebel Army (if that mass of confusion may be called an Army) & from a member of the Provincial Congress that is now setting at Watertown. By them I learn that an Army consisting of 30,000 effective men is speedily to be raised in the four New England Governments, & that the quota for this Province is 13600. That as soon as this Army shall be raised & regulated, it is generally supposed that the first movement will be to make a feint attack upon the Town of Boston & at the same time to attempt the Castle with the main body of the Army-

Whether this will be the precise plan of operation or not I cannot determine, but really believe that the congress & their officers in General are determined to, & really imagine that they shall be masters of both the Castle & the Town of Boston in a very short time-

I am credibly informed that the Congress mean now to prosecute their plan of Independence at all adventures & in order to this that application will speedily be made to someone of the European Powers for assistance against Great Britain - And this I am the moreready to believe as I have it from a member of the congress, one who is intimately acquainted with the secrets of the party, & a man whom I can not suspect of any design either to amuse or deceive me.–

But this their plan is by no means [?] comonly known or suspecte by the People in general, but they are still fed up with the old story that "their invaluable rights & priviledges are "invaded", & are taught to believe that the military preparations which are now making are in defence of them & to obtain redress-

As to the quantity of ordnances other military stores that have been provided by the Congress & I have not been able to obtain any satisfactory accounts. But believe that the quantity is by no means equal.

…plan of operation they have formed – …Dunbar from Canada, & Ens. Hamilton of …Reg [?] with their servants are Prisoners in this Town, But I have not permitted to see them tho’ I have made frequent applications for that purpose –

As to my own situation, it has been very disagreeable since I left Boston, as upon my refusing to bear Arms against the king I was more than ever suspected by the People in this part of the Country – And it has been with difficulty … few friends that I have here have more than once prevented my bein asassinated.

I am extremely unhappy that my confinement to this Town (by this deluded people) should put it out … power to do any thing for the good of the service But … soon to have an opportunity of giving convincing … of my Loyalty to the King, & gratitude to all my benefactors – in the mean time you will give me leave to assure you in the most solemn manner possible, that neither the threats nor promises of this wicked & Rebellious faction shall ever induce me to do any thing contrary to my professed loyalty to his Majesty – But that on the contrary I do with the greatest pleasure & alacrity dedicate my Life & fortune to the service of my rightful sovereign King George the third -

I am Sir with the greatest respect

Your much obliged and Most obedient Servant

(Name cut out)

P.S. (Name cut out) comes on purpose to bring this & the Pistol you was kind enough to lend me – I beg you would be so good as to procure him a pass to return

I refuse to allow Stanley to get away with his robbery

Whilst serving as a combat correspondent during the Vietnam War, U.S. Marine Gustav Hasford began to write a semi-autobiographical novel entitled The Short-Timers. Released in 1979 to critical acclaim and later picked up by Stanley Kubrick, the book was adapted to become Full Metal Jacket, but not without problems, as disputes arose between Hasford and Kubrick relating to financial compensation and Hasford's screenwriting credit. Whilst living in Australia and writing 'A Gypsy Good Time' (hence 'DETECTIVE MANUSCRIPT') just a few months before the film's release, Hasford - clearly a troubled man - wrote the following fascinating letter to friend Tracy Hayward. She has kindly agreed for it to be shown here, with certain personal information concealed.

Trivia: Hasford served 3 months of a 6 month sentence in 1988 after admitting to stealing 748 books from 9 separate libraries worldwide.



MAR 2 1987

Hi Trace:

Well, it was nice talking to you, you evil old monster.

Just kidding about that monster thing.

You're right. I'm pushy. It's the type of people I deal with. You know, the kind of people who swim around in the ocean with a knife & fork looking for a shark to eat. I use to be such a good-natured boy. I guess I've gone Hollywood, after all. I guess the next stage of my degeneration is when I start saying "Ciao, baby" and "We'll do lunch and take a meeting." I'm like a cave man. I bonk everyone who speaks to me on the head with a club.

I'm pretty tense right now, too. I'm in a foreign country and no way to get home. I refuse to allow Stanley to get away with his robbery. But then I'm broke. My family is broke. Not that that matters, because they wouldn't help me anyway. My book BLOOP has fallen into a black hole--I'm not even getting rejections--just...nothing. Bantam Books is refusing to return my calls. I'm being leaned on by the lawyers at Warner Brothers and I'm sick with the flu and I want to go home.

Of course, it'll work out okay in the end. One of the advantages of having a few years under your belt, and a few campaigns, is that you know what you can take. What these silly people don't seem to understand is that it's too late to fuck with me. I've survived everything there is, and I will survive this, even if I have to go bush and eat 'roo steaks. If I couldn't stand the heat I'd get me a nice comfy job selling tennis shoes.

Meanwhile, I will plan my staff. This is what we call optimism. Do you know the writer Irvine Wallace? He plays poker with my friend Stewey's dad every thursday. Ol' Irvine has a full time staff of 17 people. (!) Son-of-abitch churns out books like an assembly line, BOOKS OF LISTS, SEX LIVES OF FAMOUS APHIDS, ad nauseum ad infinidum. Probably never even sees them, just puts his name on them and keeps all the money. Pays his staff with Confederate money.

Secretary, research assistant, computer programmer. Male or female. Harlan has a male secretary.

It's not my fault that you are both attractive and capable. I could see you as a research assistant and not as a girlfriend. Actually, girlfriends are a lot easier to find that trustworthy and dependable people. A girlfriend can be a spoiled and frivolous airhead, and can be replaced with about as much difficulty as you replace a flashlight battery. I see you as a valuable person and I think that you are a jackpot of admirable qualities. There. I said it. And I won't take it back.

But you're right, the timing is all wrong. It seemed like a good idea at the time, he said. Well, maybe you'll change your mind someday. I'll still be doing business at the same old stand, if I haven't opted for a lucrative career in the ever-expanding field of footwear marketing.

I'm sorry I was such a nuisance and discomfort in the petunias.


So I'm sending you some cartoons. To cheer you up.

And nothing perverse. That's one of my worst character traits--if somebody tells me note to do something in a threatening way, I just do it and do it.

Or maybe I'm just being enormously myself. Cocteau says, "Cultivate that about you which offends--that's you." Or maybe I'm just imperfectly socialized. Or an asshole. (Yes, I'll guess which one you picked, he said, assumingly).

I have a lot of big character flaws, it's true. A lot of weaknesses and selfishness-es and insesitivities (and I can't even spell). But I do have, hopefully, some saving graces. I just wish I knew what they were.

Well, read your cartoons now. (See, I'm a Nazi even when I'm telling people to read cartoons.) You will read cartoons, Private Tracy. Do it now.

I miss you, ma'am. Thanks for calling. I appreciate it.

Your Pal,

(Signed, Gustav)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Lord Luv a Duck, Gov'nor

Prior to being called up as a B-17 pilot during World War II, David 'Bud' Swift worked as an animator's assistant - and later animator - at Disney, initially under the watchful eye of Ward Kimball. His handiwork can be seen in films such as Pinocchio and Fantasia. The following amusing letter was sent to his colleagues whilst he was stationed in England, 1945 and clearly homesick. When he did return home he first became a writer for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, and then later wrote and directed both Pollyanna and The Parent Trap.


Thursday, 28 Dec.

Praise the Lord
and Pass the Animators!

Dear Fred, Ward and Tom:

Not knowing whether Hal censors all incoming mail or not I will confine myself to slurs and not express what I think. Wonder if he realized just what he missed when he failed to snap up that little biz of Mickey and the Tire that I dreamed up. Ya see ole Mick, he's got this here tire what's flat, and Boy! you can just imagine all the trouble that he has getting it off that ole wheel. First, he pulls it real hard like and it goes twan-n-n-n-n-g-g-g-g-g then he climbs up on the...... But Hell! you really have to see me act it out to get the full benefit of. Tex Avery has been offering me fabulous sums for it but I've been holding out because I think I can work it up into a feature.

This started out to be a letter to you but I just get so damned pissed off when I think of what he passed up that.......... Back to the letter.

i suppose you fellows would really get your kicks if you could see ole Chrome Dome in this environment. I get to laughing about the transition from animation board to this when we're over Germany and have had bombs away. They say "From here to the target you're working for SAM but once bombs are away you're working for number one." Really doesn't seem possible that there was ever anything other than this. So here I sit in my Nissen Hut pecking away at this magic cipher machine which I have lugged all the way from the States. Florida, New Hampshire, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, Wales and then this f________ Limey Hole. "Why, what's that Mam? You ask if I want to go back to Am? Lord Luv a Duck, Gov'nor, what do we have there that you don't have here---'cept maybe a thick ole steak or a bottle of beer that doesn't taste like a wet dream or women that don't carry pro kits or....Oh well, Cheer Guv, you're stuck with it."

Would really like to get a letter from you fellows and maybe a drawing or two if you have a minute.

A grahnd fellow, your friend and mine, and wonderful entertainer..............(Signed, Bud)


Whilst working for Leon Schlesinger Productions in the early 1930s, animators Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett were highly instrumental in the development of the Looney Tunes cartoons, during what would eventually be known as the 'Golden Era' of animation. Fast forward to 1969, and animation historian Michael Barrier interviewed Clampett about that very era for his new magazine, Funnyworld. That long and now infamous (in the animation world at least) interview can be read here. The mighty fallout from that interview can be glimpsed in the letter below; a letter which was originally written by Chuck Jones and sent to Tex Avery, only for Avery to send back with annotations in reply. The entire saga is incredibly interesting.

Note: I chose to put Avery's annotations in bold whilst transcribing the letter.









Decemeber 11, 1975

Dear Tex,

Here are a few random thoughts in the night.

Recently I've taken to waking up in a frenzy wondering if I have a ruptured memory, wondering if all those things Bob Clampett is saying are really true, wondering if defunct FUNNY WORLD'S funny Mike Barrier is correct when he says "I am going to operate on the assumption that his (Clampett's) version of the events at the Warner Cartoon Studio is substantially correct." -I RECEIVED SAME COMMENTS FROM BARRIER

In order to check my memory here are some Clampett quotes from said interview.

Clampett - discussing the year 1931:

"I thought up a stream of 'wabbit jokes' hunting jokes, some of which reached the screen seven years later in the first Bugs Bunny cartoon", (carefully dated and signed drawing "Bob Clampett - 1931" - for some reason non of the rest of the other drawings are dated - Clampett was either 15 or barely 16 at the time. Precocious kid.)

"I thought of the name "Porky and Beans", (he substantiated this with a model sheet drawn by Friz Freleng of Oliver Owl, Porky, and others - this bears a Clampett signature but not a Freleng signature).

"Then we (Tex and Clampett) thought of Daffy Dean - and thus Daffy Duck was named" - (not according to Tex - but who cares what the originator of the character says?)

In 1938 - "I had found the character I was looking for. This was the birth of Bugs Bunny." (The world was looking for it too) "My first sketches were simple but they were very close to what you saw finally in A WILD HARE." (Hm)

"I decided to stay close to all future storyboard development" - (difficult, since the Clampett/Katz unit was housed some three hundred yards from the building where the rest of us worked - and Bugs Bunny was born.)

"and worked with Tex in order to get Bugs back on the track of what I had envisioned..." (Clampett getting Tex on the track is comparable to Sam Peckinpah getting Charles Chaplin on the track.)

"Leon okayed my using whoever I needed to work out a final model sheet...." (substantiation: a model sheet drawn by Bob Mckimson for Tex Avery but here labelled "Bob Clampett's" Rabbit Model.)

"I designed the backgrounds ("Porky in Wackyland") in the manner of a surrealistic Picasso-like modern art." (Picasso surrealistic? Dali is now joining the Clampett fan club.)

"I helped him on the story of "The Isle of Pingo-Pongo." (From way up there in the Ray Katz unit? Tex says no.)

"I gave Bugs Bunny his first carrot..." (Funny, I could have sworn it showed up before Clampett started directing Bugs Bunnys)

"I've written over a thousand songs..." (one a week for forty years?)

"Tex and I went to bat for Chuck, and he got the job." (I really prefer you as an enemy, Bob) (DITTO)

"I hit upon the name 'Sniffles'. I sketched him as a little mouse....I gave him (Chuck) 'Sniffles' as a gift." (Not the way Dave Monohan and Rich Hogan remember it - but who are they? - the writers on the Sniffles series, that's who. Proof: a drawing of Sniffles by Bobe Cannon.)

"So I pencilled in the mustache, etc. and this revised Red hot Ryder which became known worldwide by his new name - Yosemite Sam." (Supported by an uncredited drawing of Sam by Friz Freleng - who originated the character of yosemite Sam.)

"I have the true, original sketch of that gag, Rabbit kissing Dog, in my Warner cartoon collecion." (Well, that kind of proof ought to settle the matter, but again Hogan and Monohan point out that the gag referred to appeared in "Presto- Change-o" directed by Charles M. Jones, whoever he is.)

"As I recall, Friz was away when we made the first three or more Bugs Bunnys." (It was Clampett who was away - Friz directed two or more Bugs Bunnys before Clampett directed his first -- well, Clampett's memory is only human - except to Mike Barrier.)

"Tweetie Pie" - I started the cartoon and then I left - Mike and Tedd and Friz's unit (not Friz - "Friz's unit") later made 'Tweetie Pie' and it won the Oscar -- and I'm mighty proud of my little guy." (By little guy, I presume you must mean Friz - who directed "Tweetie Pie.")

Note: Clampett now contends that he left in 1948 - "Tweetie Pie" was released in the 1945-46 season - so Clampett left before July 1945 according to his own statement. (Hey, a new first - a Clampett statement you can trust.)

"Bugs Bunny and his (NON) creator, Bob Clampett" heading on a reproduced article.

Picture of Bugs Bunny, signed "Bob Clampett", however not drawn by Bob Clampett, but probably by Rod Scribbner, plus an "Easter Greeting" unquestionably drawn by Bob Mckimson.

Drawing of Porky Pig - artist unknown but not Clampett - all cartonists have easily recognised graphic signatures. And all the drawings in this article with possibly the exception of one - are drawn by others.

Now if a false statement is stated over and over again - particularly in public forums such as TV, radio and the press - and because such false statements (or lies) as we are concerned with here convince people like Mike Barrier and Larry Jackson that Bob Clampett is more reliable than the truth of the matter, and because I have become somewhat doubtful about my own memories, I would like to refresh a few more of those memories by stating things as I remember them to be, starting at Termite Terrace in 1935:

1. When Tex Avery was hired as a director by Leon Schlesinger he brought Virgil Ross and Sid Sutherland with him as animators. And bob Clampett and I were assigned to his unit as animators as well, and only as animators.

2. Clampett's status was in no way different from the rest of us. He was not Avery's "collaborator" on story or direction. if he had an agreement with Schlesinger neither Tex nor any of the rest of us knew anything about it. Therefore that agreement could not have had any bearing at all on what happened in Tex's films during those years. We all threw in gags and ideas when we had them because there wa a new espirit d' corps under Tex's leadership.

3. Clampett's contribution to the birth of Daffy Duck, the growth of Porky Pig and the so-called wacky humor of Termite Terrace was not more significant than any of the rest of us who worked for Tex. The difference between the other animators and Clampett was, and is, that we do not pretend to claim credit for the work of other directors - particualrly when we owe them the loyalty of once being on their staff.

4. Note: it is axiomatic in animation that directors are given the credit - and the blame - for the pictures that bear their names as director. Clampett always insisted on this when he became a dirctor - in his pictures he credits not one idea, gag or piece of animation to anyone but himself. RIGHT ON! But his claims for "creation" of Bugs, Daffy and Porky are all on films he did not direct - he even admits that himself.

5. Clampett directed his first Bugs Bunny two years years after A WILD HARE - his was the 7th of the true Bugs Bunnys; creating something two years after the fact is no mean feat, even for a boy magician.

6. Clampett "created" Porky Pig as a director 4 years and 15 or 20 Porky Pigs after the first Porky - directed by Friz Frelang and called HAVEN'T GOT A HAT."

7. Bob was in attendance at the birth of Daffy Duck in the same sense that a hospital attendant is there at the birth of a baby - years later the attendant - if he is Clampett - becomes not only the obstetrician but the mother and father too. Bob Clampett was a good director and made some fine I AGREE, funny pictures - why must he besmirch his own record as well as that of all the rest of us in this reckless need to garner all the credit?

Finally this: Jackson may have acted in innocence though Barrier insists on the Clampett version even in the face of protests from Tex, Friz and me. Well, innocence and stubbornness are equal thieves in the night when they steal the good names of good men, particularly Tex Avery and Friz Freleng who together forged the style and character of Warner Bros. animated films until some of the rest of us grew up and realized how fortunate we were to find ourselves in such an environment. And now today - 30 years after Clampett left Warners - not under his own power as he would have it - we must struggle against the most blindly stubborn Barriers to preserve the truth of our own history.

Today we are constantly reminded of the immortality of our characters and the joy they have brought to the word - must we now have to eexplain to our own grandchildren the truth of our beginnings in the face of the cheap claims of such immoral or amoral opportunism?

Dear Tex, please comment.



Postscript: The errors identified here are only a few of those contained in the original Clampett interview in FUNNYWORLD endorsed by Mike Barrier and leading to the more slyly subtle distortions in CAMERA THREE, the grossly unfair misrepresentations of BUGS BUNNY SUPER STAR, and compounded by Clampett's claims in his other appearances on TV and college campuses.



Tuesday, 20 October 2009

If I cannot live with you I will live alone

In 1818, at 23 years of age and whilst caring for his gravely ill brother who had contracted tuberculosis, celebrated romantic poet John Keats met the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. Less than a year later, Keats himself contracted the same disease and soon afterwards - on the advice of his doctor - reluctantly parted company with his fiancée to move to Italy, in the hope that a warmer climate would help his cause. Below is the letter he sent her just before leaving - also the last letter he ever wrote to her. He died in 1821, aged just 25.


I do not write this till the last that no eye may catch it.

My dearest Girl,

I wish you could invent some means to make me at all happy without you. Every hour I am more concentrated in you; every thing else tastes like chaff in my Mouth. I feel it almost impossible to go to Italy - the fact is I cannot leave you, and shall never taste one minute’s content until it pleases chance to let me live with you for good. But I will not go on at this rate. A person in health as you are can have no conception of the horrors that nerves and a temper like mine go through. What Island do your friends propose retiring to? I should be happy to go with you there alone, but in company I should object to it; the backbitings and jealousies of new colonists who have nothing else to amuse themselves, is unbearable. Mr. Dilke came to see me yesterday, and gave me a very great deal more pain than pleasure. I shall never be able any more to endure to for the society of any of those who used to meet at Elm Cottage and Wentorth Place. The last two years taste like brass upon my Palate. If I cannot live with you I will live alone. I do not think my health will improve much while I am separated from you. For all this I am averse to seeing you - I cannot bear flashes of light and return into my glooms again. I am not so unhappy with you seems such an impossibility! It requires a luckier star than mine! It will never be. I enclose a passage from one of your letters which I want you to alter a little - I want (if you will have it so) the matter expressed less coldly to me. If my health would bear it, I could write a Poem which I have in my head, which would be a consolation for people in such a situation as mine. I would show some one in Love as I am, with a person living in such Liberty as you do. Shakespeare always sums up matters in the most sovereign manner. Hamlet’s heart was full of such Misery as mine is when he said to Ophelia “go to a Nunnery, go, go” Indeed I should like to give up the matter at once - I should like to die. I am sickened at the brute world which you are smiling with. I hate men and women more. I see nothing but thorns for the future - wherever I may be next winter in Italy or nowhere Brown will be living near you with his indecencies - I see no prospect of any rest. Suppose me in Rome - well, I should there see you as in a magic glass going to and from town at all hours, - I wish you could infuse a little confidence in human nature into my heart. I cannot muster any - the world is too brutal for me - I am glad there is such a thing as the grave - I am sure I shall never have any rest till I get there At any rate I will indulge myself by never seeing any more Dilke or Brown or any of their Friends. I wish I was either in your arms full of faith or that a Thunder bolt would strike me.

God bless you

My husband is planning "an accident"

According to her butler, Paul Burrell, the following four-page letter was given to him by Diana, Princess of Wales in October of 1993, ten months after her separation from Prince Charles was announced. Should it be genuine, it would seem Diana was under the illusion that Charles was planning an accident so as to clear the way for a future marriage to Tiggy Legge-Bourke. Should it not be genuine, the fact that it was even produced as evidence at the inquest into her death still provides a fascinating insight into the circus that surrounded her life and death.

Full transcript follows.

(Source: The inquest's now-unresponsive official website; Image: Princess Diana, via.)

I am sitting here at my desk today in October, longing for someone to hug me & encourage me to keep strong & hold my head high — this particular phase in my life is the most dangerous — my husband is planning "an accident" in my car. brake failure & serious head injury in order to make the path clear for him to marry Tiggy. Camilla is nothing but a decoy, so we are all being used by the man in every sense of the word.

I have been battered, bruised and abused mentally by a system for 15 years now, but I feel no resentment, I carry no hatred. I am weary of the battles, but I will never surrender. I am strong inside and maybe that is a problem for my enemies.

Thank you Charles, for putting me through such hell and for giving me the opportunity to learn from the cruel things you have done to me. I have gone forward fast and have cried more than anyone will ever know. The anguish nearly killed me, but my inner strength has never let me down, and my guides have taken such good care of me up there. Aren't I fortunate to have had their wings to protect me.

Monday, 19 October 2009

I cannot swagger out in these shirts

Whilst working at the public relations department of Levi Strauss, a Mr. Art Roth received the following letter from Cary Grant in 1958. In it, Grant thanks Roth for the shirts delivered to his home and then politely makes it known that the designs are far too offbeat for his conservative tastes.

A great letter, brought to my attention by Lawrence Levi.



June 6, 1958

Dear Art Roth:

It's about time you were thanked for those four Western shirts that greeted my return from another recent trip to Europe: if they had not been buried under the usual mess of accumulated trivia that demanded immediate attention, your kindness would have been acknowledged days ago. Still, I am once again grateful to you, as you must know. The shirts are, for a conservative such as myself, rather, rather....if you dig me....and I'm not at all sure if I can swagger out in gold-threaded finery. I shall await a braver mood.

My temerity is at a low ebb today, but I venture to ask that you let me know if Levi Strauss ever evolve a line of absolutely plain un-checked, un-metal-threaded, absolutely solid-colored matter what the colors: I will rush to the nearest shop.

You have my happy and grateful thought, Art Roth; when are you and I going to meet?


Cary Grant.

Tobacco Placement, 1983

Here's an interesting glimpse into the world of product placement. As you can see, in the early 80s, now defunct tobacco giant Brown & Williamson hired a company by the name of Associated Film Promotions (also now defunct) to secure screen time for their cigarettes in major motion pictures. This particular letter outlines their plan to have Sylvester Stallone promote the products in his next five films - a plan which he agreed to (Pic) - in return for $500,000. Equally as interesting is the stark reminder that Stallone was extremely close to starring in (and directing) The Godfather Part III at the time, as Joey Zasa.


An AFP, Inc. Company

June 14, 1983

Mr. Sylvester Stallone
1570 Amalfi Drive
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Dear Mr. Stallone:

In furtherance of the agreements reached between yourself and Associated Film Promotions, Inc. representing their client Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. (B & W), I wish to put in summary form the various understandings and details regarding B & W's appearances and usage in your next five scheduled motion pictures. B & W is very pleased to become associated with the following schedule of films and to have you incorporate personal usage for all films other than the character of Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV, where other leads will have product usage, as well as the appearance of signage (potentially ring).

The following is the current list of the next five (5) minimum films for B & W's appearance. It is understood that if production commitments change the order or appearance of any the group of films to be released, B & W will appear in a substituted film. The only non-appearance for B & W will be by mutual consent of both parties in which case another Sylvester Stallone movie will be arranged for substitution.

The initial schedule of films is:

A). Rhinestone Cowboy
B). Godfather III
C). Rambo
D). 50/50
E). Rocky IV

In consideration for these extensive film appearances of B & W products, Brown and Williamson agrees to forward to Robert Kovoloff and Associated Film Promotions, Inc. their initial deposit to you of Two-Hundred-Fifty-Thousand Dollars ($250,000.00). This represents a fifty percent (50%) deposit of the total financial commitment by B & W. The subsequent Two-Hundred-Fifty-Thousand Dollars ($250,000.00) is agreed to be forwarded in five (5) equal payments of Fifty-Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00) each payable at the inception of production of each participating film.

On behalf of our client Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., we wish to thank you for this long term commitment, and look forward to each release from the excellent schedule of films that they will participate in.

Very truly yours,


James F. Ripslinger
Senior Vice President


cc: James Coleman, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Dear All

Before everyone trundles off home to begin the weekend, I thought I'd take the opportunity to quickly thank you all for following Letters of Note so eagerly since its inception just 5 weeks ago, and reacting with such positivity. It has been, and will continue to be I'm sure, a pleasure to kickstart this blog and your many virtual pats on my back have been appreciated.

Regarding submissions: Thanks for all those that have been sent so far - most of them will now be in the queue, ready to go - and thanks especially to those who have actually posted correspondence to me. It's been a long time since I received letters from humans, and it's extremely enjoyable. I'm currently looking into obtaining a P.O. Box to make the process easier for everyone. I'll update you all when that happens.

I've had a couple of similar questions regarding bad language contained within the transcripts of some of the letters. Namely that such words trigger off alarms in the workplace and subsequently cause Letters of Note to become a blocked website. Is this affecting anyone else? Either way, I'll be censoring these words from next week so as to avoid this happening. It's a mighty shame as I've always had a soft spot for expletives, but at least we'll still have the pictures, and they'll never be censored.

(Update) That was quick. I've just received two emails asking me not to censor the transcripts, plus the comments below voicing the same opinion. As a result I'm going to think about it over the weekend and then decide. 

Finally, I'm afraid any requests for 'link exchanges' will be turned down. There is no blogroll on Letters of Note and I'm 99% sure that it will stay that way. I love the layout of the site and am adamant that it will stay as clutter free as possible, no matter how busy we become. Apologies. 

That's it for now. Sorry to disrupt the flow of letters but I thought it was time to say thanks. So, um, thanks. Normal service will resume on Monday. Have a spiffing weekend.



P.S. All admin-type posts, such as this one, will be titled 'Dear All'. Just so you know.

I was ready to sink into the earth with shame

Getting hideously drunk at a dinner party and embarrassing yourself is certainly nothing new. As far back as the 9th Century, the beautifully named 'Dunhuang Bureau of Etiquette' insisted that local officials use the following letter template (dated 856) when sending apologies to offended dinner hosts. The guilty party would copy the template text, enter the dinner host's name, sign the letter and then deliver with head bowed. The letter was discovered, alongside thousands of other documents, in a sealed cave library in western China. To read more - and I suggest you do - visit the incredible International Dunhuang Project.

The entire scroll, filled with Form Letters adapted for various situations, can be seen here.

Translation follows.

Recommended reading: Cave Temples of Mogao: Art and History on the Silk Road.

Translated Transcript

Yesterday, having drunk too much, I was intoxicated as to pass all bounds; but none of the rude and coarse language I used was uttered in a conscious state. The next morning, after hearing others speak on the subject, I realised what had happened, whereupon I was overwhelmed with confusion and ready to sink into the earth with shame.

The things I saw beggar description

The concentration camp in Ohrdruf was the first to be liberated by U.S. forces during World War II, and just a week later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower paid a visit in order to survey the scene. The following letter, in which Eisenhower describes said experience, was written by the future President three days later and sent to General George C. Marshall in Washington. Although the entire letter is interesting and worth reading, the now famous description by Eisenhower can be seen in the image below and found in the transcript's 6th paragraph.

All three pages of the letter can be seen here (1, 2, 3) as JPGs or in PDF format here. Many thanks to Ron Coleman at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for the tip.




15 April 1945

Dear General:

Today I forwarded to the Combined Chiefs of Staff the essentials of my future plans. In a word, what I am going to do now that the western enemy is split into two parts, is to take up a defensive line in the center (along a geographical feature that will tend to separate our forces physically from the advancing Russians) and clean up the important jobs on our flanks. A mere glance at the map shows that one of these is to get Lubeck and then clear up all the areas west and north of there. The other job is the so-called "redoubt." I deem both of these to be vastly more important than the capture of Berlin — anyway, to plan for making an immediate effort against Berlin would be foolish in view of the relative situation of the Russians and ourselves at this moment. We'd get all coiled up for something that in all probability would never come off. While true that we have seized a small bridgehead over the Elbe, it must be remembered that only our spearheads are up to that river; our center of gravity is well back of there.

Montgomery anticipates that he will need no help from the Americans other than that involved in an extension of Simpson's left. However, I rather think that he will want possibly an American Airborne Division and maybe an Armored Division. I have enough in reserve to give him this much if he needs it. But assuming that he needs no American help, that job will be performed by the 17 divisions of the 21st Army Group.

In the center, extending all the way from Newhouse on the Elbe down to the vicinity of Selb on the border of Czechoslovakia, will be the Ninth and First Armies, probably with about 23 to 24 divisions, including their own reserves. This will be enough to push on to Berlin if resistance is light, and the Russians do not advance in that sector. Bradley's main offensive effort will be the thrust along the line Wurzburg-Nuremberg-Linz, carried out by the Third Army with about 12 divisions. Devers, with another 12 U.S. divisions and 6 French divisions, will capture Munich and all of the German territory lying within his zone of advance.

About 8 divisions at that time will be on strictly occupational duties, largely under Fifteenth Army. This will leave about 5 divisions, including Airborne, in my Reserve.

The intervention of the British Chiefs of Staff in my military dealings with the Soviet has thrown quite a monkey-wrench into our speed of communication. If you will note from Antonov's reply to the telegram that we finally sent (as revised on recommendations of the BCOS) the point he immediately raised is whether our message implies an attempt, under the guise of military operations, to change the occupational boundaries already agreed upon by our three governments. Frankly, if I should have forces in the Russian occupational zone and be faced with an order or "request" to retire so that they may advance to the points they choose, I see no recourse except to comply. To do otherwise would probably provoke an incident, with the logic of the situation all on the side of the Soviets. I cannot see exactly what the British have in mind for me to do, under such circumstances. It is a bridge that I will have to cross when I come to it but I must say that I feel a bit lost in trying to give sensible instructions to my various commanders in the field.

On a recent tour of the forward areas in First and Third Armies, I stopped momentarily at the salt mines to take a look at the German treasure. There is a lot of it. But the most interesting - although horrible - sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to "propaganda."

If you could see your way clear to do it, I think you should make a visit here at the earliest possible moment, while we are still conducting a general offensive. You would be proud of the Army you have produced. In the first place, U.S. ground and air forces are a unit; they both participate in the same battle all the way down the line from me to the lowest private. I can find no evidence whatsoever olf any mutual jealousy, suspicion or lack of understanding. In fact, I know of one or two Major Generals in the Air Force that one of my Army Commanders would accept as Division Commanders today.

Next, you would be struck by the "veteran" quality of the whole organization. Commanders, staffs, and troops, both air and ground, go about their business in a perfectly calm and sure manner that gets results. I am quite certain that no organization has ever existed that can re-shuffle and re-group on a large scale and continue offensives without a single pause, better than can Bradley and his staff.

Another thing that would strike you is the high average of ability in our higher command team. In recent telegrams to you I explained something of the quality of our Corps Commanders. Inadvertently I left out the name of Ridgway, one of the finest soldiers this war ever produced. If ever we get to the point that I can recommend to you additional Corps Commanders for promotion, he will certainly have to be one.

In Army command, there is no weakness except for the one feature of Patton's unpredictability so far as his judgment (usually in small things) is concerned. These Army Commanders, with Bradley, make up a team that could scarcely be improved on. Bradley, of course, remains the one whose tactical and strategical judgment I consider almost unimpeachable. Only once have we had a real difference of opinion on a major question. He is big, sound, and has the complete confidence of those above and below him.

Patton’s latest crackpot actions may possibly get some publicity. One involved the arbitrary relief of a censor (over whom he had no authority whatsoever) for what Patton considered to be an error in judgment. All the censor did was to allow the printing of a story saying we had captured some of the German monetary reserves. Three or four newspapers have written very bitter articles about Patton, on this incident, and to my disgust they call it another example of “Army Blundering”. I took Patton’s hide off, but there is nothing else to do about it. Then again, he sent off a little expedition on a wild goose chase in an effort to liberate some American prisoners. The upshot was that he got 25 prisoners back and lost a full company of medium tanks and a platoon of light tanks. Foolishly, he then imposed censorship on the movement, meaning to lift it later, which he forgot to do. The story has now been released and I hope the newspapers do not make too much of it. One bad, though Patton says accidental, feature of the affair was that his own son-in-law was one of the 25 released. Patton is a problem child, but he is a great fighting leader in pursuit and exploitation.

This developed into quite a long story, all to convince you that in a short visit here you could see, in visible form, the fruits of much of your work over the past five years. In a matter of three or four days I am sure you would see things that would be of great satisfaction to you from now on. This sounds like I am completely and wholly satisfied with everything that I see. This is far from the case, but the point is that higher commanders have learned to handle the important things and we have gradually developed an organization that keeps the nagging details in the hands of people that can give their whole attention to them.

With best wishes,


(Stamped by Eisenhower)

General of the Army George C. Marshall,
The Chief of Staff,
Washington, D.C.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

I miss my brother

Thomas Hampton, a teenager from Leeds, England, moved to South Australia in 1922 in order to work as a Barwell Boy on a farm, owned by a Mr. Poysden. A year later he sent the following letter to the South Australia Immigration Department with a view to bringing his 12-year-old brother over from an orphanage in Leeds. Incredibly - according to the Australia Post website - his little brother George eventually made the enormous journey from England to Australia - unaccompanied - and was reunited with his brother in Adelaide.


J E Hampton
C/o J W Poysden
South Australia

3rd December

Dear Sir

Mr Poysden as agreed to help me in getting my brother to Australia but he thinks it would be best for me to fill in nomination papers as I know more about my brother than he does. My brother is at present in the National Childrens Orphanage in Bramhope Leeds Yorks we have no parents and I (?) should like to get him near me. Mr Poysden has agreed to make a home here until he is old enough to work at least. I am getting on well here. I have been driving a team since the day I arrived I am now driving an Harvester and I have had a rise in my wages. I think this is a fine country.

Yours faithfully

J E Hampton

PS I am not to sure about my brothers age but I think he is 12 on the 29th of this month.

Stop making "bums" of the school boys

The following plea was sent to then Postmaster General James Farley in 1934, at the height of the Great Depression. At this time especially, many men - particularly those out of work - were of the opinion that all employed females should be stripped of their jobs and replaced by men. 


Jackson, Miss.

Hon. James A. Farley
Postmaster General
Washington, D.C.

We, the undersigned, ask that all females that are employed in the Transi(en)t Bureaus be dismissed and be replaced with men. We are going to ask Mr. Hugh Johnson to have all females discharged by all business men in every line of work and if it is necessary to have anything like a camp make it for a women and in place of making slaves of them be ladies. Stop making "bums" of the school boys that don't know what to do with themselves. Give the boys chance to make a name for themselves instead of being a poor bum. We have no malice in regard to women.


(Signed, by many)

You are a decoration, you little witch!

Mark Twain wrote this truly lovely letter to 9-year-old Enid Jocelyn Agnew in 1907. Enid, also known as Joy, was the daughter of Punch Magazine's Managing Director, Philip Agnew. Philip had recently honoured Twain by throwing a bash at Punch's offices, a gathering at which Joy had presented Twain with a drawing by Punch cartoonist John Bernard Partridge and a small speech. Twain was smitten and kept in touch with Joy on his return home. The following example was written in reply to a letter she had sent in which Joy had listed her pets.

Tragically, she died aged just 22 after contracting TB.

Transcript follows.


August 1/07


Unto you greetings and salutation and worship, you dear, sweet little rightly-named Joy! I can see you now almost as vividly as I saw you that night when you sat flashing and beaming upon those sombre swallow-tails.

"Fair as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky."

Oh, you were indeed the only one there wasn't even the remotest chance of competition with you, dear! Ah, you are a decoration, you little witch!

The idea of your house going to the wanton expense of a flower garden! Aren't you enough? And what do you want to go and discourage the other flowers for? Is that the right spirit? Is it considerate? Is it kind? How do you suppose they feel when you come around looking the way you look? And you so pink and sweet and dainty and lovely and supernatural? Why, it makes them feel embarrassed and artificial, of course; and in my opinion it is just as pathetic as it can be. Now then you want to reform dear and do right.

Well certainly you are well off, Joy:

"3 bantams;
3 goldfish;
3 doves;
6 canaries;
2 dogs;
1 cat."

All you need, now, to be permanently beyond the reach of want, is one more dog just one more good, gentle, high principled, affectionate, loyal dog who wouldn't want any nobler service than the golden privilege of lying at your door, nights, and biting everything that came along and I am that very one, and ready to come at the dropping of a hat.

Do you think you could convey my love and thanks to your "daddy" and Owen Seaman and those other oppressed and down-trodden subjects of yours, you darling small tyrant?

On my knees! These with the kiss of fealty from your other subject.

Mark Twain.

PS: Would you please be good + send me the lovely speech you made to me?