Thanksgiving Dinner 1942 at Camp Lee

By Patricia B. Mitchell

Johnny Beaver at Camp Lee

Johnny Beaver with a poster for one of the “Okay America” shows which he helped produce.

Before serving in the army overseas, my Daddy (John L. Beaver, from China Grove, North Carolina) was stationed at Camp Lee, Virginia. Camp Lee was designated the Quartermaster Replacement Training Center in February 1941. By the end of WWII approximately 300,000 enlisted soldiers received basic and branch training at Camp Lee, and an additional 50,000 soldiers went through Officer Candidate School there.

Dad was on the staff at Camp Lee. The food on base was evidently quite adequate, as the Thanksgiving menu attests in the following letter which he wrote to my mother, Reba Jones, at her family's home in Dry Fork, Virginia.

Dad had been a college football player and a high school teacher and coach before he was drafted. He was delighted to be assigned to Camp Lee, only 150 miles from his sweetheart. At Camp Lee he was older than most of the other draftees. Because of his background and maturity, he was given lots of responsibility, coordinating and scheduling sports events, movies, stage shows, and live radio shows for the thousands of men who were passing through the camp.

Johnny Beaver and Reba Jones

Johnny Beaver and his sweetheart Reba Jones.

As he was promoted from private to corporal to sergeant, he repeatedly turned down opportunities to be transferred to other bases, and to go to OCS and become an officer. He kept hoping the war would end and he could simply go home and marry his intended.

As the war dragged on, they were married in January 1943. Shortly afterward, he was shipped out to Europe. He was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, but survived to come home, finally, during the Christmas holidays in 1945.

Thanksgiving 1942 Letter from Camp Lee [Excerpt]

November 26, 1942

Hello Angel,

Just left the dining room, had a very good dinner: soup, turkey, ham, gravy, potatoes, dressing, mixed pickles, celery, lettuce and tomatoes, nuts, apples, oranges, grapes, fruit cake and ice cream, and one big cigar (also candy). I don't believe I have ever seen as much food for one man. Don't we have much to be thankful for?

Yours I am always,

Your John

Johnny Beaver in Europe

Johnny Beaver (who bore a rather strong resemblance, physically and syntactically, to next-generation President George W. Bush) in Europe.