Irene Schnell was a much beloved English and Latin teacher at Allegany Central School. During WW II, she corresponded with many of her former students. One of those students was Richard “Richie” Boser. Richie enlisted as a Private in the Army in 1940 at the age of 21. He participated in the invasion of North Africa, and the invasion of Sicily. He was part of the second wave that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He was an infantryman for five years with the First Army Division, the Big Red One. He was discharged as a Staff Sergeant, and received two Bronze Stars and the Silver Star. After the war, he returned home and became Allegany’s first letter carrier. He died May 26, 1990.
This is a letter that he sent to Miss Schnell, dated Sunday, Nov. 29, 1942:
Dear Miss Schnell:
Your most welcome letter arrived several days ago and I sure was glad to hear from you. By now you probably know that I’m in North Africa and have been in action. Our being so far from England is the reason for your letter taking so long in reaching me. When we were in England, the usual time a V letter or Air Mail letter took in reaching us was seven to ten days. At the present time, there is no V mail service from here to America but V mail from the states reaches us all OK.
Today being Sunday, a gang of us fellows made the trip into town to attend Mass at a little French church in the center of town. The Mass was said by our Regimental chaplain and is attended by about 75 French people and several hundred Yankees. Due to the war, they were all women, and they sang the Mass in French. Of course, it was all Greek to me, but we appreciated it very much, and there is a Corp. from the Regt. who serves at the Mass and speaks to the people in French. I can’t begin to tell you what a beautiful church the French people have. They are fighting with us, as you know, and like us Americans very much. They are taking good care of the soldiers’ graves who lost their life in the battle by putting fresh flowers on their graves daily.
I saw Carl Jones on the way back from church today. He sure is getting fat and has taken advantage of this warm climate by getting a good suntan. He also has grown a mustache which has changed his looks a lot. Bob Nolder is still with him and my buddy who was home with me several times is still here with me.
The days here are fairly warm but the nights are cold and just above freezing. Nov, Dec., and January is the rainy season, and four days ago, I washed several articles of clothing and they just dried out today after the rain had given them a good rinsing.
Last week our first mail arrived here in Africa and I got 28 V letters so far. I have several packages on the way and some of them are probably at A.P.O. now. I know of 3 of them that are down in Davey Jones locker due to the sinking of a mail boat with all mail dated from Sept. 15th to Oct. 3rd on it.
Gosh but I’d sure give $10 to be able to sleep in a bed and between two white sheets again. We are still sleeping in pup tents and on the ground. But it makes us men pretty rugged, and some day when the war is over the truth will come out about our Division and just what part we are playing in this war.
This French money is much easier to catch on to than the English money was. We have been paid in overprinted (Special) U.S. currency. The paper money is the only difference from the money back home in the states and it’s the seal. In the states it’s blue and over here it’s gold. The coins however are the same as in the states. The monetary system in based on the “franc” – one franc is equivalent to 100 centimes. In the American dollar, there are 75 francs. I am enclosing a new 20 franc note for you to keep as a souvenir. In our money it is worth 26 2/3 cents.
These Arabs are a bunch of chiselers. When we first arrived here in North Africa, eggs were 1 ½ francs each, but they’ve gotten wise to us Americans, and now they want 6 francs each (or 8 cents in our money). Tangerines are plentiful and I eat on the average of two dozen every day. They charge 1 franc each for them, but usually they’ll give you a bargain on a bushel of them. I personally don’t like them. They never shave, wash or wear any shoes, and seeing that I can’t talk their language I am compelled to act crazy because of all the motions that I have to go through in order to buy anything from them.
Thanksgiving was just another day for us, we were minus the turkey, chicken, cigarettes, etc., and it went by almost unnoticed. But the Army will make up for it just as soon as they get their rations in.
It’s getting dark fast so guess I had better close. Carl told me to say hello when I wrote you. Please excuse the writing paper but this is all I could buy over here in Africa. Tell Miss Hardy and any one who asks about me that I wish them all (especially you) a very merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. It’ll probably be a long time before I’ll be able to write again, but I’ll write when I can even though it may only be a card. Thanks again for writing and the best of luck to you.
As ever, Richie
** This letter and history was submitted by Francie Potter of the Allegany Area Historical Association. The group has published "Tales of War and Confinement: From World War II" which shares letters home from Allegany residents participating in the War. It also lists Allegany Men and Women in Service. Copies are available for $6.