For many years, the Checkerboard has been of special interest to me and the sons of Thomas Cooper Evans, K/393. Like many veterans, my husband did not talk about his war experiences or comment much about recollections. The stories from members of the 99th seem to describe times and ventures that might have been his.
Known as “Cooper” before his Army years, he did take the opportunity to write letters, and one that was saved by a farmer friend in Iowa was discovered recently by his grandson-in-law. This family kept the original and has given us copies. Cooper and Junior shared a skill in shooting, which is the subject of this detailed letter, which I think may be something your readers would appreciate.
Like so many who fought in the Battle of the Bulge Cooper suffered frozen feet and spent the weeks of spring 1945 in a hospital in England. As he writes in this letter he expected to return to his unit, with his rifle. On the trip by train through France and Belgium, slow and eventful in itself, the war came to an end. He stayed in Europe for another year working with replacement troops.
Back home he finished college, earned his commission with ROTC, and continued a career in the Army Corps of Engineers. Perhaps ironically Cooper’s specialty was Arctic construction, Alaska and Greenland. After retirement he entered government service, including three terms in the United States Congress. He died in 2005.
Jean M. Evans
PO Box 8
Grundy Center IA 50638
Got your letter today and was glad to hear from you. It’s a good thing it came when it did as I imagine I’ll be leaving here in a day or so. They say I’m OK so I’m about ready to start back to the outfit. However, I’ve got a seven-day furlough first – what a treat, but I can’t quite make up my mind what to do with it.
I’ve been wondering how you came out in the rifle matches around the state this year? I picked up a new 16 power, 1.5-inch Techer scope sight before I left the States; maybe I’m jumping the gun a bit, but I want to be ready for those first post-war matches. As soon as new rifles are available I think I’ll trade in my Model 37 for a new 52 Bull gun with a Thomas trigger. Shot one of them down in Baton Rouge LA, last winter and liked it a lot.
I was glad to hear about your new reloading outfit. Sounds wonderful and should be a lot of fun. That Pacific tool is about tops I guess. Why don’t you get one of those sets of dies, etc., for it so you can try making a few bullets for the Lovell from rim-fire .22 cases. I don’t know much about it, only what was in The Rifleman. Maybe it isn’t very practical.
I wish you had a chance to play around with one of these sniper rifles; they’re alright. I think there is a bit of room for improvement though. I’d like to have an outfit with a Lyman Alaskan in a Stith mount. It should hold a zero better than our Weavers in Redfield Junior mounts, which I’m not too crazy about. The mount is a bit too delicate or something. You should see the trigger I put on my .03. The original one had far too much slack and backlash and also had a very uneven pull, so one fine day I found some heavy steel strapping, a fine file and an oil stone and went to work. Took the slack out and put in a backstop or rather trigger stop and smoothed things up in general. The result isn’t quite the equal of a Model 37 trigger, but it certainly is a big improvement. To be perfectly honest, it flatters me to think that I didn’t ruin the thing.
Well, I hope everything is OK with you folks. Give my regards to your dad and mother.