Vernon Cratty & Mae Lafsa – 5th Army HQ WWII

My uncle, Philip E. Bergquist, served the USA at 5th Army Headquarters from October 1943 until October 1945. These stories about his colleagues come from letters he sent home from Italy to his family.

Master Sergeant Vernon Cratty, is mentioned in several letters Philip wrote. The first of which is one of my favorite stories written home. Vernon Cratty was the Chief Clerk in the AD Section of Army Headquarters. Mae Lafsa worked in the AG Personnel Section. On 15 January 1945 there was a party for Vernon and Mae to celebrate their upcoming marriage. The wedding took place on Saturday, 20 January 1945 and was described this way in Philip’s letter:

The wedding Saturday (20 January) was very beautiful. I believe I told you in my last letter that M/Sgt Vernon Cratty and T/5 Mae Lafsa were to be united in matrimony here (somewhere in Italy) Saturday at 9:30 A.M. The ceremony was performed by Chaplain Brown, our Protestant Chaplain. The flower girl, T/4 Stella Dera (WAC) and the bride were both dressed in the WAC dress uniform and had a pair of Enelow shoes for footwear. The best man was T/Sgt. Lethel A. Slaten (our chief clerk). After the wedding the reception was held in the ARC club where we all had a piece of wedding cake, a cup of coffee, and a chance to kiss the bride (I didn’t kiss her because I had a cold!). … Oh, yes, the happily married couple are now spending a ten day leave in Rome.

In a letter dated 27 March 1945, M/Sgt Cratty is mentioned as having “decided that several of us fellows should go down to the motor pool and take a drivers test so that if, and when, we move there will be at least one fellow available to drive the Colonel’s van (previously described in the same letter as a two and a half ton Van used for the Colonel’s sleeping quarters.)
Other than being mentioned as his boss, M/Sgt Cratty’s next story in one of Philip’s letters is from 30 May 1945. Food, of course, being a big focus for the young soldiers, this one revolves around an evening meal:

I don’t know whether I have told you or not, but the First Three Graders (S/Sgt’s, T/3’s, T/Sgt’s, M/Sgt’s, and 1/Sgt’s) now have their own mess at which they sit down to a table, without their mess gear, and have their meals brought to them by Italian waiters. They also have Italian cooks. For this privilege they pay $10 extra per month—which I would gladly do if I were offered to mess under the same circumstances. Well, anyway, each man is entitled for four guests a month so last night M/Sgt Cratty invited to take me to supper. I gladly accepted and at about 5:20 (they start serving at 5:30) we walked down to the mess and prepared ourselves for the meal. Of course, Sgt Cratty’s wife (T/5 Mae Cratty, WAC) is also allowed to eat there, which is only right, but she has to pay the $10 per month also. We started out with a C-Ration soup, which was very good, and then we got the main course consisting of Steak, Mashed potatoes, Peas and Beans, Bread and Butter, Iced Tea, Hot Coffee, or Water, and Fruit Cocktail for dessert. Boy!, the food really wasn’t much better (in fact it was the same food) then what we get in our mess hall but the circumstances under which it is served to you really makes a marvelous difference. … Now, comes the bad part. After the meal Sgt Cratty invited me upstairs to the bar where they were giving out Free Drinks –Courtesy of the Combat Troops—that had been captured from the Germans.

It was 5 June 1945 when M/Sgt Cratty learned that he would be going home pretty soon. He was still there on 10 June when Philip described the work in the office of the Casualty Section. In fact, M/Sgt Cratty was still there in a letter dated 5 July, but this letter included his date to leave as 14 July 1945.