Dramatist in America: Letters of Maxwell Anderson, 1912-1958

By Laurence G. Avery; Maxwell Anderson | Go to book overview

122. TO HESPER ANDERSON

[ London] May 11, [1943]

Dear Hesper--

I've had three letters from you and it's beginning to be high time you got at least one from me. It's hard work to write letters but it's lots of fun to get them. Imagine me sitting in a small hotel room with nothing in it but a couple of tables and a couple of beds--one I sleep in and the other is covered with books--and I'm just sitting here trying to remember what you look like while I write you a letter.

Let me tell you a story I heard about two gunners in a B17--a Flying Fortress. There are ten men in the crew. Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, radio man, two waist gunners, one tail gunner, one under-turret gunner and one engineer. They fly so high and it gets so cold up there that they have to wear electrically heated clothes. Otherwise they would freeze solid. And there's no air to speak of up there so they have to wear oxygen masks constantly. If the oxygen mask comes off and the man doesn't get it back on quickly he loses consciousness--and pretty soon he smothers. Well, once a Fortress was in a battle up there and one of the waist gunners was wounded and fell down and his mask came off. The other gunner grabbed the walkie-oxygen tank and went over to the wounded man and gave him a few whiffs, and he came to. But then the second gunner had passed out for lack of oxygen, and the first one, the wounded one, gave the other a few whiffs. He came to and by that time the wounded one was out again. They went on like that, giving each other drinks of oxygen, till they were out of the battle and somebody noticed them and dragged them over to their own masks where they could breathe again. That isn't a very funny story but it's one of the best I've heard about the war.

I certainly hope it works out so that you and mother can come to England, because I know you'd both be so excited about coming and about being here. But if you can't come then I'll want to come home as soon as I've had time to see a few more American soldiers and learn a few more things about England. I went down to the British Museum today because I wanted to see the Elgin Marbles again. They are the Greek statues that Keats wrote about. But the Museum is closed now. 1

-157-

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