Can you help me determine the author of a humorous World War II poem about toilets?
While I was clearing out my late father-in-law’s attic, I came across three cases of Kodachrome slides taken by his late cousin David Tewes, who had been a soldier stationed in Alaska during World War II. Among the slides was a group of photos taken in Attu, Alaska during the War, and one of those photos, labeled “An Aleutian Latrine — Our XMas Card”, contained an unattributed poem and a shot of a soldier doing his “business” in the snow.
The poem is transcribed below.
An Aleutian Latrine
Out on the wind swept tundra,
A place where howling winds will play
Stands a new three hole cabin
Overlooking a cold, cold bay.
It’s a very rugged country,
For here nature lovely calls.
You have a choice of constipation
Or a dose of frozen whatsis.
When the mercury says zero
And the weather’s very mean,
Then a man must be a hero,
When he visits our latrine.
For the seat is white with snowdrift
And the breeze blows thru the hole,
So your whosis gets frost bit
And your whatsis blue from cold.
It’s a struggle thru high snow drifts,
While the howling winds cut cappers
With a sigh, you sink on frozen boards
And reach out for the toilet paper.
Then gloom surrounds you, no paper is there
While you are in a bad position.
You can not act, nor seek relief,
Till channels clear that requisition.
I’ve seen brave men stoop to sugar bowls
Even paper bags and cans
And some even lost the fight
And did it in their pants.
It takes guts to serve your country,
As a sailor or marine…
But a man must be a hero
When he visits our latrine.
It takes guts to be a soldier,
And to heed your country’s call.
It matters not the whosis be cold
And although you loose your whatsis.
For when the work is over,
and the bloody war is won,
If you’ve used our ole three holer
Then — you are a man, my son.
* “whatsis” and “whosis” are placeholder words used to avoid giving offense. Use the rhyme scheme to decode their secret meaning!
I have not been able to find another copy of this poem; Google definitely doesn’t know about it. I would love to track down the author if the author is known.
It’s possible that David wrote this poem, although he did not sign his name to it. Based on his photos and his hobbies shown in his other photographs, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did write it.
Chris Steller pointed out on Twitter that the author Dashiell Hammett was stationed in the Aleutian Islands at the same time that David was there. It would stand to reason, however, that if Hammett had written the poem, David would have wanted to note that, since Hammett was well-known for his book and movie The Maltese Falcon.
The rest of David’s photos from Attu are posted on the website I built to showcase his photography, in case you can find any clues therein. Any and all tips, ideas, or wild speculations are welcome in the comments below!