1942-43 Diary of a Chicago Man Training, Travelling and Serving in World War II

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On offer is an outstanding “My Life in the Service” record of a young conscript in the U.S army in WWII

The owner of this volume was Florian Matthew Cerny (1913-1955)  When he entered the army, he was 28 years old and recently married to Emily (Brod) Cerny (1916-1970). He was attached to the 738 Field Artillery Battalion. In the Service Record section, Cerny traces his career from induction on August 11, 1942 through his training at Camp Wallace and Camp Davis all the way through to his promotion to Buck Sergeant on December 7, 1943. Historical records indicate that in 1944 he was promoted to technical sergeant while serving at an air force command in the central Pacific. He worked as a carpenter following his army service and sadly died very young, at only 42-years-old. 

Florian enlisted in the U.S. Army in August, 1942. He keeps this diary until Dec 1943. Some excerpts give the flavour of his writing:

“Inducted to Reception Center Camp Grant Ill. Submitted to tests and was issued some clothing” [Aug 11, 1942].

“My birthday. Treated well too. Cards from the following: my wife of course plus $5.00..Also started school” [Sept 21, 1942].

“Big obstacle course AM. And school. Extra drill because of noise after 9 PM Not guilty. Developed into Ju Jitsu instructor. OK” [Oct 26, 1942]. 

His diary records his transfers through several camps on a journey that takes him south from Chicago to Texas and then out to the west coast to Hollywood. In late December, his wife takes the train out to spend several days leave with him:

“Big Day for me. Em got in safe and sound. Got off at 2:30 to meet her and boy was I nervous. Sure was a sight for sore eyes could hardly believe it. Now to spend four glorious days with her” [Dec 23. 1942]. 

“Home on furlough. Buried Pa on the 26th. Had a fair time at home was nice to see everyone. Tried to get Mom straightened out. Took care of a few things for her. Left for camp Mar 11 at 10 PM Poor toots wanted to come along. If she only knew how much I wanted her. Rough trip stood from Harrisburg, PA to Richmond VA” [Feb 24-Mar 13, 1943]. 

“Graduated from Elec. Fire Control School at Camp Davis but have to stick around” [May 10, 1943]. 

His last entry is on Dec 19th, 1943, when he notes his return to the West Coast from a leave in Chicago: “Travelled by train going through 15 states & enjoying the scenery very much…” [Dec 19, 1943].

In other sections, he lists his ‘Buddies’ and the circumstances when/where they met. He also lists some of his commanding officers. Another section details where he has been posted.

This is an excellent diary. As noted above, it puts a very human face to the life of ordinary men and women drafted to fight a war. For a historian, especially a military historian, this diary adds many details about daily life in the 738th Artillery. The listings of his buddies and his officers is especially valuable, not only to a historian but also to a genealogist.

This purpose-printed journal measures 6.0 inches by 4.5 inches and contains 240 pages. It is about 30% complete. The covers are in good condition as are the binding and spine. The pages are also in good condition and the handwriting is legible. Overall VG. 

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