LETTERS SENT HOME
I rejoined my outfit around Prum, Germany, and was the only original member in the combined two squads I led when the war ended. After combat, I volunteered for probably the one and only time in my army life, and ran PX'es in several outfits.
We veterans are all old and slowing down, but I thought that some family members, especially the sons and daughters, might be interested in what life was like and how we lived. These letters are all contemporary views, not filtered through the minds of writers or historians - in short, they are real. I earnestly encourage all veterans of “the Greatest Generation” to record their experiences , even at this late date.
CAMP COOKE / 11TH ARMORED DIVISION / BACK TO THE INFANTRY,
(The first letter in this group was mailed around the end of March, 1945, or approximately three weeks after I wrote my last ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program) letter home. I Wish that I could recapture the emotions of that period, but I can't).
Sunday Night. Well, I served on KP again, washing pots & pans. That was Friday & yesterday I was a table waiter. We didn't get to go out on the problem Friday night which turned out to be really something. Wish I could have gone and most of the new men felt the same way, but only the old men went. For the past two days we've had a continuous dust storm & the sand infiltrated into every crack. Looked like an outpost in the Sahara around here. Didn't get to see Howell this weekend. I was supposed to go down, but I couldn't. Marlowe & I went to see "Up in Arms" starring Danny Kaye & Dinah Shore. We do the same thing over & over again-drill, calisthenics, obstacle courses, hand to hand combat, and all types of practical work. Wednesday night, we went on a four mile rugged compass course over some rough terrain. About half the company ended up with poison ivy. I guess I'm still immune. Last night, Headquarters Co. of this battalion had a dance with 85 girls up from L.A. This morning after church, they rode around in peeps, halftracks, and tanks. It was really demoralizing seeing so many girls & yet so far from them. Friday night, we were supposed to have a party with 200 girls from L.A., but some of the old men decided they wanted a beer party. We cant have a dance & a beer party at the same time. As for furlough, nothing is definite. The army is so unpredictable, I might get one in three weeks & I might not get one for six months. So I don't try to plan-just come what may.
Tuesday night. All afternoon we had gun drill. We would load up in the halftrack, ride to a position, all the crew would pour out over the sides, unhook the gun, roll it into exact position, put it on fire supports, unhitch & spread the trail legs, lock them into position, elevate & traverse the gun & get it on target, bring up ammo, & fire one round. On level ground this took us 24-30 seconds. That is good time even for an experienced crew & the Capt. & Lt. were well pleased. We were ahead of the other two squads in getting into action. Tomorrow we have a problem using tanks. We were selected for the 55th Battalion because the Colonel said we were the best. I have a lot of confidence in this squad & platoon. I may be transferred to another platoon because we are over T/O strength. My name was the last put down for this squad so it's natural I'll be the one to go.
Monday. I had planned to write to you Easter, but I couldn’t. I spent a rather miserable night on beach guard patrol Saturday night. Once each month this company draws beach patrol and it was just my luck to draw it on Easter. And I got the worst post-nothing but a field telephone located on a post in the middle of a sand dune. (I well recall even now) The wind was blowing so hard that it was practically impossible to stand up and it was carrying sand with it. I had on all the clothes I owned & even in the sleeping bag I was cold. I had to sleep with goggles on because of the sand. I drew it on one of the worst nights I've seen here, but someone had to do it, and I guess that's conditioning. We're still having crew drill and I got to fire the gun. I'm happy with this outfit & I know I'll be contented overseas with them. I've fired the sub-machine gun. Lot of fun firing it, but it's not accurate enough to suit me. I'll keep the M-1. I can't write more as there is a bull session going on around me.
Thursday. I'm rather late on the come back, but, you see, someone has been able to get work out of me & for the past two weeks they've been busy seeing how much of an appetite they can work up for me. Well, they work up the appetite & then fail to satisfy it. We've been getting ready for the anti-tank squad AGF tests which came off today. Our platoon was high in the division, our squad was third in the division. Everyone one is happy tonight. We won quite a bit on bets and this platoon has a steak dinner which the anti-tank platoons of this division promised to buy for the winning platoon. We were supposed to be the crack anti-tank platoon in the division and we lived up to our name. We were the one selected to put-on the problem for a British Lt. Col. which was a huge success for us. Maybe I seem filled with "espirt de corps" or something like that, but, after all, why shouldn't I be? We are rapidly meeting POE requirements. One requirement which I hope to be met soon is furlough. You said that some of the boys at Ole Miss lost their ratings, in ASTP. I know of some who also lost their stripes, one a first sergeant. Practically all of the ASTP'ers landed in the infantry. All in all it was a dirty deal-the guys who were qualified as leaders ended up in the infantry as privates & less than 1% of us will ever get more than 1 stripe. I'm not complaining though, because I'm quite happy & I have the utmost confidence in what we'll do over there.
Thursday. Days past fast here even though it seems I have been in the army for several hitches. Yesterday, we had a 14 mile hike-the first one over 2 miles for me in over four months. We made it in 31/2 hours with just one break. I didn't get tired, but my feet hurt last night. I found that I had worn a hole in the bottom of one sock that I could practically put my fist in. No wonder my feet hurt! My shoes, like everyone else's do not fit too well, they are too large. I usually wear two pair of socks on hikes, but I forgot. Last night I went to the show to see "Follow the Boys". That's the show for which some scenes were filmed at the Soldier's Bowl at Camp Roberts while we were there. All week we have been on ranges, just like basic except here we ride to them. I've been on the close combat range, rifle transition & carbine transition range, & we've got another one tomorrow. I'd like to get time off to clean my rifle for the bore is filled with carbon.
Monday. I'm behind on writing and on everything. We've been busy lately and the next two weeks look like a nightmare dreamed up by Satan himself. Thursday & Friday, we were out on the range shooting the M-1. We were zeroing in our own rifles & getting used to them again. I shot 178-the very same thing I did at Roberts for the record-fairly consistent anyway. I don't guess I'll shoot for the record again. We're having practice with the 57 gun. While we're on this, we don't catch guard, KP, or any details. But we work harder. I'd like to fire the M-1 for record again, I know I could break the jinx & shoot expert (180). This past time, I had trouble on 300 yd. rapid fire, just as at Roberts. I got off only 7 shots & got 7 bull's eyes. It's not the score that counts, but how well you know & handle your gun. The score may be an indication, but when I look back I see that I've always done exceedingly well on field targets & surprise targets at unknown ranges. The more I think about Roberts, the more I realize I had a very extensive, as well as intensive basic. We've been rolling out at 5 every morning for the past week and have had quite a few night problems, with 3 scheduled this week. This outfit has gone softball crazy. It all began when the 4th platoon challenged the 3rd platoon to a game & beat them. Since a week and a half ago, we've had at least a game a day. I play most of the time because I enjoy the game & somehow, I've developed an eye for hitting. Yesterday we started at 10:30 and by 3:30 we had played four 9 inning games winning everyone with a total score of 70-38. I only played 2 ½ games as I got tired. They weren't satisfied so they challenged us to a game this afternoon. We beat an aggregation of the other 3 platoons 14-13.1 have lots of fun & lots of arguments in these games. I'm dirtier than you ever saw me. This afternoon we were out working about 1000 yds. from the Pacific, practicing with the gun. Then on the way back the dust that rolls in the half tracks is terrific. Then 9 innings of ball, so I'm filthy.
Sunday. (4/23/44) This will answer a question in your last letter. I just got back from church. While I was at CPS, (College of Puget Sound), I didn't go to church very often-not nearly as often as I should, but since I've been here I've started again. I didn't realize until 11 o'clock last night that yesterday was your birthday, Mother. I went to the show and when we came back, every one was talking about the pending invasion, thinking it would come off last night. It was then I realized it was your birthday. I had written Shelby to get you some flowers, it must seem rather impersonal. If it were easy to get into nearby towns, I would have gotten you something-heaven knows what, tho. We're doing the same old things over again. Friday we went out on the village fighting course for practice in street fighting & taking of houses. I was in the clean up squad to set off booby traps or neutralize them. They don't use full charges. Yesterday, we had a full inspection with the squads lined up in front of the half tracks. Everything from the drivers tools on up was inspected by the Lt. Col. who heads this battalion. We have a rougher one in two weeks. If there is one thing I hate about the army, it's inspections, t love dress parades, retreat ceremonies, and field problems, but I hate all types of inspections. I haven't been gigged in five -months & that's good. Very few got thru ASTP at CPS without several gigs. I've gotta wash my fatigues. I still have just one pair of fatigue trousers and I cant send them to the laundry. Some big shot, McNair, I think, is coming down & will be here next week so we have to have clean fatigues. A lot of hooey-he ought to see us as we really are & maybe we would get some equipment that we are sorely in need of. I'm stilt living out of a barracks bag & it's a mess. Remember that furlough is just a hunch, a hope, and based rather on logic, which doesn't get far in the army.
(Printed card with 11th insignia) "Dearest Mother: My thoughts will be with you as I worship God on Mother's Day. The influence of our Christian home and assurance of your prayers are my comfort during the time of our separation. May God bless you, Mother. I am sure that you will pray with me that we shall be worthy of victory and lasting peace." Signed, All my love.
Sunday. I wish conditions were such we could be together today, but maybe next year we can. I had an opportunity to go to Santa Barbara this weekend for Mother's Day services and then to a home for dinner, but I couldn't go. I've got washing to do and a dozen letters to answer. I've been busy-day problems and night problems-platoon tests and battalion demonstrations. Wednesday, the battalion was out on a problem with tanks and field artillery in support. Thursday, our battalion put on a demonstration for the other infantry bn's. Every weapon in the company was put on a line 400 yds. long. It looked like a civil war line, elbow to elbow, but when we opened fire it looked like Mars, 25th century. After 10 seconds all could be seen was a cloud of smoke and dust. I was shooting a 50 cal. MG. and we were dug in only a yard from the 57mm. The noise was terrific. Then that night we went out on the beach to see another inf. bn. show how an invasion would be repulsed. The mortars shot up some flares and every machine gun, rifle, and other weapons fired at the flares with tracer bullets. Then they fired at simulated barges, next opened fire on the beachhead. It was a beautiful & breath taking sight if you don't think of it in terms of life & death. Saturday, another battalion put on a problem, but I was out with the 57 on a platoon test, only one more to go. Last week furloughs were cut. Now we get 7 days at home with travel time and there's never enough time allowed for going to & from. We got some film last week. I was on guard Tuesday and Wednesday so I was off the afternoon some film came into this camp. I borrowed someone's camera & I have taken some good action shots. Everyone in the platoon wants some pictures so it maybe a month before I can send you some snap shots.
Sunday. Tomorrow we have a company problem lasting from 1300 to 2400. We come off of that and go on a battalion problem for three days. This is our final battalion problem. I just don't know what it means. You can interpret it any way you want to. Were getting dose to the/end. We've practically finished all tests and everyone meets all the requirements except for furloughs. It all depends on where we're really needed & where. I'll probably only know a week or so in advance when I get my furlough so when you get a wire for $50, don't let it go unanswered. I'm up for Re, I think. The platoon Sgt. asked who wanted rt and no one answered. If we've earned it he should know. I think all of our names were turned in.
May 17,1944. At Christmas time I sent a card to a girl I dated regularly at Ole Miss and to whom I had not written since being in the army. She wrote a long letter giving me hail Columbia for she didn’t know where I was stationed. Here's what we have done and have scheduled this week. Monday was a regular morning with drill, calisthenics, and classes. We left at 1400 right in the middle of a thunderstorm (& we have no tops on our half tracks) for a battalion problem and came back at 10 the next morning. All that time we were awake (or were supposed to have been) & most of the time we were busy. I was a platoon runner and it wasn't an easy job finding our guns in the middle of the night with no stars, no moon. & the guns & men dug in & camouflaged. I didn't get lost, but a lot of the runners did. (In another letter the same day, I wrote that I got mixed up one time. I was looking for the company C.P. after taking a message around to all guns-l came out where I thought the CP was & found instead the chow truck. That was at 2:30 in the morning & I hadn't eaten so a lucky break for me), I got about 2 hours sleep curled up in a slit trench with a raincoat over me. When we came back, we cleaned our half tracks & our 57's, cleaned up ourselves (got the ticks off) and got about 2 hrs. sleep. Tuesday afternoon, we had our last anti-tank platoon problem. After we got in, cleaned the guns, the halftracks, our own guns and the machine guns, it was dark. This afternoon, we leave on a battalion problem that will last until Thursday night. Tomorrow is my birthday & I must say rt will be quite different from any birthday before, but I don't ever think, worry, or bother about such things any more. In fact, after all the bad breaks I've had in the army, along with some of my buddies, it really takes something to bother me. Thanks again for remembering my birthday. I'd forgotten I had one until I received a card last Friday. I even let Dad's slip by. I'd forgotten what month it was.
Tuesday. The uniform came tonight and, so help me, if I had bought it myself, I couldn't have picked a more perfect fit. I can’t wait until I wear it on furlough-until then it will remain on a hanger here. The number going on furlough was stepped up today. One of the fellows in my barracks from N.C. who had the money ready leaves tomorrow-and he had a furlough in September. I know that if I had the money ready I could leave tomorrow night.
Thursday. I just wired Shelby for money. Since thinking about it, I realized I forgot the first two words, "tell Dad". Guess he understood. Would have wired Dad, but didn't know where in the world he was. I am down for furlough Tuesday, a bad day since it is two days before pay day. After Thursday everyone who hasn't been on furlough will be ready to leave so I would have to have a lucky break to get an opening. In the army, get a furlough as soon as you can, because any time they may be cancelled entirely. A boy from Nashville & I may go together. Furlough has been extended to 10 days plus travel time (8 days) & there's always a day of grace so I'll have 12 days at home. I'm in a predicament as far as clothes are concerned. None of my sun tan uniforms fit & they can't be let out, nor traded, nor salvaged. So I'll have to wear them, but doing so will mean standing all the time,
There is a skip of about 45 days during which time I did get home, albeit not on the schedule I'd planned. I had a 12 hour lay over in Amarillo and the Sante Fe was more than 12 hours late reaching there so I hitched a ride (for money) to Dallas where I spent the night with my Uncle and caught an early train out the next morning. Amarillo only had one train a day to Memphis. When I got to Dallas, I hailed what I thought was a cab and it was a police car. When I told them of my mistake, the officers said they were going that way and gave me a ride. Later, the neighbors wanted to know who the police brought home.
Saturday. It seems my furlough was months ago and in another world, if s just a pleasant dream. (Sunday night) There's quite a skip, but I've been on a fishing trip. I had hoped to finish this letter before leaving. I was sorta homesick yesterday for the first time in a long, long time. Everyone feels the same thing about a week after furlough is over, but the fishing trip made me lose it. We got a 2 ½ ton Gl truck (11 of us), got food from the kitchen and the bait and equipment was purchased from the company fund. We had plenty of food, four eggs apiece, bacon, potatoes, peaches, oranges, grapefruit, lettuce, cereal, and I could keep on. (I didn't mention that we also had a case of wine as well as a bottle of rum I had brought back from furlough-you had to buy such things in order to get regular liquors). We were near a state park on the Santa Ynez River. There the river isn’t very deep, if s just a clear winding mountain stream & it's really beautiful. We caught a few trout and a lot of chubbies, which are bite size. It wasn't so much the fishing, any way. To get away from camp, out where you could do as you please, away from everyone was enough in itself. Everyone did his own cooking. We had skillets & mess kits. We got there about 5, fished until 7, came in & ate. You should have seen us, some barefooted, some in shorts, dressed any way. I went to bed early. Some of the rest went frog gigging, got three. Around 2 o'clock some coon hunters out training their dogs came thru & woke us up. We had two dogs-the company mascots, a cocker spaniel and just a dog named Mo. (stands for more breeds than we can name). Some got up early & fished, but most of us slept. Today, we laid around, fished, took sun baths, and took life easy. There's an old farm nearby where some Jap's used to live. The place was beautiful, in between real foothills, or mountains as they call them in Arkansas. I think we'll go again in a couple of weeks. We would complain if we had to go out on a problem like that, but we could do as we wanted to, when we wanted to. This was the first time I ever cooked for myself, but I did all right.
Friday. I'm going to Santa Barbara for the weekend. For the past three days we've been out in the field and were supposed to go out tomorrow to fire the 57s , but the schedule was changed. Thursday afternoon on a defensive problem, we completely hid the gun, so good, in fact, that no one ever found us, although a Lt. passed within 15 feet. Today, we were selected to go out on another demonstration for one of the tank battalions. We dug in & camouflaged the gun, but we had a difficult place to put the gun. Even then, a battalion of men passed within 15 ft. & never saw us. We got in late tonight, had to clean the guns. Now we've got to stand inspection and the gun isn't clean enough for that. I’ve got to shower, shave, shampoo, shine my shoes, put away laundry, do some sewing, etc.
Sunday, . Wednesday & Thursday, we were on a field problem. Our anti-tank platoon was split up-half of us took the 50 cal. and set up in a defensive position & the rest were scattered on road blocks. Believe me, that 50 cal. was never meant to be lugged around over the terrain we had out there. We set it up about halfway up a steep hillside & remained there for the first day. We slept on top of the ridge, weren't too far from the mess truck, and yet, it was far enough out of the way so that we weren't plagued by officers. When the attack came we had to retreat down one hillside and up another just as steep & taller. I stayed behind & covered the retreat, but I pity those guys who had to lug it. We put the machine gun on the first half track we found as ours was way out on the flank. Then came the news we were being encircled by tanks-we had none on defense and we started out on one of the most maddening chases I've ever seen. We could see the tanks coming and it was ever vehicle for itself. We were on perfect terrain for a tank. The ground was so rough one of the guns turned over, was dragged a short distance upside down & then bounced back up again. It could still be fired, but was rather beat up. We were dropped off (the tanks couldn't see us when we stopped) & the bazooka men stayed behind to cover the retreat. When the tanks came into view, there were no umpires with them so none of them stopped. We just shook our fists at them. The funniest thing was seeing a light tank on a ridge chasing a half track that refused to stop. There were no umpires and the tanks had not abided by the rules so the captain ordered the halftracks to drive right thru the tank column and they did. I'm so sore, I played football two nights this week & this afternoon. I still have a cold. It doesn't seem to want to go away. Everyone got poison oak while out in the field. It's a different type than at home & everyone in this outfit is susceptible to it. Two of the platoon are in the hospital & I have it all over my arms & legs.
Saturday (this letter is out of sequence) Lately, our PT has been stepped up and everyone from the Captain down is taking it. I thought I would be sore from it, but I'm in better shape than I thought. Next week's schedule looks rough, but they always look rougher than they are. We had a rough inspection yesterday, a Major from the battalion inspected the motor pool & our barracks. He didn't find any thing wrong with my rifle but he really went over it. He caught lots of them. He gigged practically everyone from the platoon leader, the platoon Sgt., & squad leaders on down and we had spent several hours getting ready, scrubbing our web equipment, cleaning mess equipment, shining shoes, scrubbing the floor & everything that goes with it. Each of us has a T/O position and it's now frozen. For each position there is a MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) number. About 3 weeks ago we were given a MOS card that had our duties on it. We were supposed to learn these duties, but practically everyone put it off. The Major asked me my MOS duties and I told him practically word for word. When I finished, he asked if I knew what all that meant so I snapped a yes sir to him. It caught him by surprise, evidently it was the first time any one had known it so well. He turned around and told the Captain to give me a three day pass. Too bad I was absolutely broke and couldn't take advantage of it.
Sunday. Friday, I caught KP & Saturday table waiting. It was my time to pull it as I hadn’t been on in a month, right after I came back from furlough. It doesn't seem like a month. I was planning on going on a pass this week-end but table waiting ruined it. I couldn't go to* LA. 'cause I didn't have the money. I could've hitch hiked to Santa Barbara and stayed on the beach all week-end. Something's probably gonna happen to us during the next month. I don't know, but I do know we aren't going to spend the rest of the war in Camp Cooke. So, I'm gonna have as much fun as I can in California. Thanks for the stationery and razor blades. The PX'es have a good supply of most things, but not stationery. You can only buy in dribbles and I get so dog gone mad buying it that way. Last Tuesday the anti-tank platoon went on another all day problem. Started a fire out there with 50 caliber incendiary bullets and it took the tanks to put it out by running around the edge and plowing up the ground. Everything is so dry we take shovels with us for fear of fire. Wednesday night we had a night problem that lasted until 12:30 and it was really dark. Our track got stuck in the sand and we spent two hours trying to get it out. General Kilburn & some other Gen. were out. Thursday we had a retreat parade, the first since we've had since being here. Friday night, the 11 th had a boxing match with the El Toro marines who are supposed to be the hottest group on the coast. We won four and lost two. The marines stayed with us in C Company. The coach is from C Co. and the referee was the platoon leader of the 1st platoon who used to be a light weight professional. Dot, forget about the map. You'll be able to tell where I go by the APO. An outfit like ours doesn't go on any island.
Monday. The pictures were taken at Santa Barbara. I'll send my extra clothes & furlough bag later this week. Friday night the fourth platoon had a steak dinner in Santa Maria. Some battalion officers joined us later & so did the old man. We went by a dance afterwards. The winds really have been blowing & when it blows the dust & sand is terrible. Looks like the Dakotas during the drought. However, last week we had some beautiful nights. The moon was shining & everything was clear which is something new as fog usually sets in. One day last month the sun was out for reveille, the first time I've seen it at reveille since Camp Roberts last summer.
Wednesday. Uncle Sam can't kill me, not when he works me like he has been doing lately. We have classes every night from 7-9 and quite a bit of PT. I've just finished a 14 mile hike out to see a demonstration. I've heard plenty of rumors. Could write pages of them, but I don't pay any attention to such stuff now. When we get ready to move we'll move, until then we'll stay here.
Tuesday. Today is the 2nd anniversary of our division. This afternoon each battalion has a field day-races, softball, volleyball, & other games, even horseshoe pitching & a pie eating contest. The softball finals were very exciting. C Company played B Co. and we had to go into extra innings to beat them. The winning company wins a keg of beer. Tonight there's a show down at the sports arena with a host of Hollywood stars up-25 or 30 are scheduled to appear. The only catch is that there are only enough tickets for 1/3 of the company and I was too late. At least the officers will have plenty of room to see the show. It's such things that burn me up!
Wednesday. I threw my arm off in a softball practice tonight and it is so sore I can hardly write. Don't write me about the good food you got at Uncle Wilbur's as I can remember meals there. I'm not so hungry as we had good meals today and over the weekend, but I'd like to have some real vegetables cooked right, turnip greens, butter beans, creamed potatoes, and real ham. Oh well, I can dream, can't I? And don't go saying I'm homesick because I think we all keep such thoughts in the back of our minds. Charlotte is able to get up now and she will go to the hospital to have the cyst removed.
Thought I'd insert something personal as I've tried to edit out most references to people & family and this letter did not discuss army life. There were two more letters, and both were all about personal things, practically no reference to anything military, mostly the problems in getting phone calls through. In one, I wrote that I had written 125 letters in the 21/2 months since I had been back off furlough and 22 of them had been to Mother & Dad. I also reported that I had lost some weight and weighed 170 and was 6' 1 ½" tall. A card dated 9/12/44 gave my change of address to APO 261, New York. We were on our way, first to Camp Kilmer, N.J. Almost all our training was now behind us, the big test was ahead. It was good to be going with so many "buddies" when I could have been a single replacement in a strange outfit. The 11th old timers accepted us ASTP'ers, but we proved ourselves time and time again in training.
CAMP KILMER, N.J. AND THE SOUTHERN PLAINS OF ENGLAND
(From Camp Kilmer) This is a rather nice, place, Mom, that is, in comparison to the other camps where I've been stationed. And today the weather has been very pleasant. That's something new, too. That west coast fog was miserable especially in Washington. Just got some good news, I'm gonna get a pass Sunday & go to Boston with Jack Sims. I've also got a (censored) pass. Don't know what I'll do on that pass. As usual I'm broke or in the neighborhood of being penniless. Don't worry about that as I'm quite use to it and I've always been able to get by. I caught KP and it was rugged! Honestly, I think I worked harder that day than I've worked in a long long time. But we all catch it. I have no reason to complain.
Sunday. I got a pass yesterday afternoon. Didn't do much, but I just wanted to get away from camp for awhile. The people around here are quite friendly, not to compare with home, but yet friendly in comparison with the west coast. I think I'm thru with the west coast for good. Everyone here is not trying to hold up the soldier and get as much as they can from him. The 24 hour pass that I got I gave to Jack Sims. He didn't get one and the other pass he got started too late so that he didn't get to go home. At present, I have a long pass for tomorrow, but things are in such a mess no one knows what they have until the last minute. I went to a USO dance last night. There were more girls than boys so it was fun. Today, I slept until noon. Mother, I've heard of something new in the way of food-l mean it's new to me. It's an Italian dish-don't remember how to spell it (pizza), but it's just a plain tomato pie. The ingredients are tomatoes, cheese, some form of oil to keep the cheese from lumping, sausage, and mushrooms. Baked in a huge pan until the cheese starts bubbling thru.
England, Oct. 13, 1944 (V-mail)* There is plenty of food, the shelters are more than adequate, and for the present, we have plenty of reading material, games, etc. for off hours. Although we do get plenty of food, I'll want some things, candy, cookies, spread, coffee, anything in the form of food.
Vmail (Oct 15). A Sunday in England and today is a beautiful day. I had planned to roam the countryside this afternoon and see some of the natural beauty, but first one thing then another stopped me. I wish you could see this place, a lake is nearby, woods, green pastures with cattle & sheep grazing on them. And some very beautiful & quaint homes with thatched roofs. Last night I went on a pass to the nearest town, but it was so dark I couldn't see it. They had a couple of dances, but they weren't any fun, found a small canteen where I could get tea, sandwiches, and could listen to programs from home. I did not go to Church today, but I'm gonna find out more about the services here and go next Sunday.
(Vmail/Oct 18) Dear Dad. Instead of writing separate letters, I've been writing all my letters to Mother and I know you will get them on the weekend. I know how much Mother counts on my letters. My quarters are all right, so is the food. We are close to a couple of towns just as is every camp in England. Special Services looking after us and our PX is to open soon. We may get a juke box. They're trying to fix it up so we'll stay in camp and I'll be glad to do just that. Had some English cider. It is powerful-not like the any cider I've had before. Don't particularly like their beer-ale, that is. Pubs are convenient.
England, Oct.17. I went on another pass last night to another town, went to the show, cinema they call it and saw a show a couple of years old. But it was worth the money for I haven't seen a show for quite some time. We have had a couple of short hikes around our camp here and that's about the only chance we've had of seeing the landscape in the day time. Our passes are only good for the early part of the night and with the dim out (looks like a black out to me) you
Saturday, Oct 21. My squad is on guard from 2 this afternoon to 2 tomorrow afternoon. On top of that my name was on the KP list for tomorrow. I went to the first Sgt. & got off. He didn't much want to let me off, but there are plenty of privates in this company. Tonight, there's a dance, but our squad just caught guard at the wrong time. I don't seem to enjoy the dances here. We haven't received a real mail call. I've received letters from Charlotte & from Ruth. Mother, you are writing, aren't you? This week, our PX opened. Everything is rationed, but we got candy, cigarettes, gum, toilet articles, and razor blades. The rationing is pretty severe, but with management there's enough. We had hikes every afternoon so I've had a chance to see the English countryside. Reminds me very much of some parts of Virginia except for the architecture. Some of the homes are really very pretty and scattered about are several old manors. I've been on another pass. Went to the cinema, the picture was old, but it was good to see it again. I hope to go to the Episcopal Church in the morning if I don't go to services here in camp.
Oct. 30. At last your mail has reached me. I guess there was no alternative but to sell the cattle as there was no one to look after them. Salt away the money, I'll need it when I get back. Nothing new is happening, except we are getting long passes. I haven't the money to go now, but I'm going to Bristol soon and perhaps later to London.
Nov. 7. We've been busy, including weekends. In fact, except for the first weekend here my squad has been on detail, last week it was guard. Last night I was hungry and I sure wished that I could raid the ice box. Looks like I'm always thinking of food, but that's not the only reason I'd like to drive up that driveway! I shouldn't complain because we do have a rather nice set-up here, three hot meals a day, and a warm place to sleep.
Nov 9 & 12. Another rainy and rather dreary Sunday. I had planned to go fishing down at the lake, but after looking at the weather, I decided to stay in. Two or three did go down. We played football yesterday afternoon-our platoon against a platoon from B Co. The field is laid off in a pasture behind our barracks and we have to run the cows off to play. On top of that the ground was slippery & mushy from the rain. I'm sore from the game. We've been here (censored), but in some ways it doesn't seem that long-in other ways longer. The days pass quickly, the months drag by. I'll be glad when I can crawl on that boat (and crawls about right because you have everything you own on your back or in your hand) and make the return trip. The trip over was quite pleasant, not too rough. The way we were packed was like slave trading ships of another era. The Dora Arnold that you mentioned is the one Howell dated, but I never cared for her particularly for she was entirely too conscious of her attractiveness (or should I say pulchritude). Margy Meeks, whom I dated, also married. As for Charlotte, she's the only person from whom I do hear regularly. My parents need to take lessons as I get one at least every two days.
Nov. 15. I've been on a pass, but I can't tell you where. I didn't get to do a lot of things I wanted to, but just to get away from the army life, routine, and camp and do as I desired was enough. Over here the Red Cross has a center (like the USO) in towns of considerable size and it is headquarters for American soldiers. The first things we do is see the town and spots of historical interest. And this town was filled with legend and historical spots. Then, there are always the pubs & shows; take that away and there's very little left. The best thing of all was the Red Cross and the American atmosphere, and real swing music-just everything that's American. I wanted to go to London, but my pass was made out for this town. I would have gone on up if there had been anyone who would have gone with me. I found out later the MP's were checking all passes so perhaps it's best I didn't. I got some Christmas cards, all of them are not nice even though I paid $2.50 for sixteen. But after all they express a sentiment. Also bought a knife & fishing tackle.
Nov. 19. (Vmail) Christmas came to the hut tonight in the form of three packages. The packages have started thru our APO now and I'm looking forward to my packages. Today and for the next two days I've attended a battalion school (sorta mixed up my tenses, didn't I?) on (censored) I'm gonna fire it tomorrow. That's one weapon I didn't get around to firing in the states, but I've handled everything else the infantry has to offer.. (This was probably the bazooka)
Nov. 26. Thanksgiving was perfect. A half day off, a wonderful meal, a package, and add to all that a radio purchased three days before. This can't be the infantry. There's only one thing wrong. Too far from home. If I get back I'm staying right there.
Nov. 27. (Vmail) The APO finally got some of our mail thru, all old stuff written the first of October. I'm still taking life easy as best I can. No complaints. Today, we've been in the field and you should have seen the game, fox, squirrels, rabbits, and deer. Wish we could try our luck out there some weekend, especially on the pheasants.
Nov. 29.(Vmail). My morale is sorta at an all time low tonight, or rather this week. I haven't had any real mail in two weeks, by real mail, I mean air mail letters. All I've received is old letters and some V mail. Don't let that statement stop you from writing V mail, because they're the only mail that comes thru. I'm still doing the same thing, took a long hike this afternoon, went to the PX to draw our weeks rations. I guess this is the last time. (How did that get by without censoring)
Dec 13(Vmail). At last my mail has finally caught up with me. I got eight letters including two Vmail and one letter from you. As yet, I've received only one package. Things are quiet tonight, the only noise is from is from the radio, which is giving out with Major Glenn Miller's Orchestra. I'm still well-haven't become acclimated to the weather, never will. I'd love to see a warm day with the sun shining
Dec. 7. (Vmail). When are you gonna put out another letter to the boys in servive (Dad routinely wrote a letter to all servicemen from our area, bringing us up to date on the news of each other). I'd like to know what changes have been made in the "High Command". I'm still in good health and good spirits and manage to keep my feet wet. It has turned colder here and I sure dread it. Gimme some Mississippi sunshine. Don't worry, my chin is up.
Dec. 8. It's sure good to get some stationery again. Today was the PX day and for once they had some stationery for those lucky enough to get there early. I'm going to raise my allotment. I'm drawing more money than I really need so I'm going to raise the allotment to $35. Still, I will be drawing $16 which will be plenty over here. Keep the money as some day I'll need it! We're still doing the same old things, classes, ranges, hikes, tactics, crew drill, etc., just as it has always been. The same old routine and it gets monotonous, but I'd rather do this than be across the channel. Things are quiet tonight. The radio is gone; we loaned it to the drivers who were having a party and were unable to get an orchestra.
Dec. 10 (Vmail) This is a beautiful morning, just enough snap to make you want to go hunting. But, as usual, it has now begun to rain. I'm going to the Methodist Church in the nearest town. There's quite a group of us from the hut going. We all agreed last night to get up and go. Last night I received a package from Charlotte.
There is a big skip in the letters at this time, from Dec 10, 1944 to January 10, 1945. During that time Mother & Dad received a wire that I had been slightly wounded near Houffalize, Belgium. I'd love to find that telegram, but it's lost. We landed in France on Dec. 16th, I think; the Battle of the Bulge broke out on Dec. 16th. We moved rapidly across France, a few hundred miles. While we were scheduled to get initial combat training in the St Nazarre/Lorient pocket, such was not to be and our initial contact with the Germans came outside Bastogne near Acul Belgium. I'm told that all of our units had not arrived when we launched a counter attack which coincidentally ran head long into an attack by an experienced German outfit. Naturally, our casualties were heavy. We had 18 killed in C Co. on Dec. 31st alone and I have no idea how many wounded, missing, or who later died from wounds received. I was wounded the next day when my partner who caught all the shrapnel was killed. I would say that our initial baptism to combat was a total immersion. The letters pick up in a hospital in Bar-le-Duc, France.
BAR-LE-DUC HOSPITAL AND REJOINING THE 55TH AT PRUM
There are no letters for the short period of time I was in France and Belgium. As I've already stated, we landed as the Bulge (a better name than the Ardennes Offensive) broke out and two weeks later we were committed on the line. If I had written, how would I have mailed it? I only lasted a short time as I was slightly wounded on January 1st, but did not report to the aid station until the next morning, so officially I was wounded on the 2nd. From a selfish view point, that was the best thing that could have happened to me as I missed the miserably cold weather and much combat, rejoining the outfit around March 1st. While I was in the hospital, at first, I made no effort to contact anyone in the squad as I felt guilty that I wasn't with them and somehow assumed that they thought I might be goofing off. How dumb, but it does show true allegiance to a group of dedicated men.
I shall never forget arriving at the hospital. I was wearing my army winter olive drab long underwear, socks and boots and had an army blanket wrapped partly around me, that was all. I have no idea when I had last taken a bath, probably three weeks, nor when I had last shaved, again some weeks, and one of the first people I saw was an army nurse. She seemed immaculate and was the prettiest person I had seen in a long, long time. It was then I examined myself and realized how uncivilized I was and what war can do to a person. I was an animal, except for the fact that an animal isn't able to realize he's an animal.
France. Jan. 10, 1945. Detachment of Patients, U.S. Hospital Plant, APO 350. (Vmail). Today has been a different day as far as weather is concerned. No snow and some actual sunshine. It was really beautiful shining on the snow or perhaps it's just easier to appreciate its beauty from inside a warm building. Saw a movie this afternoon, wasn't particularly good, but it did get the mind away for a brief interlude.
Somewhere in France, Jan. 15. I'm feeling fine-it will just be a matter of time 'ere this broken arm heals. At least the purple heart was a few points picked up toward discharge. While my arm heals, I get to rest and relax, plenty of food, too; that's the best part. Yesterday, I attended services and last night I went to see a movie. Most of our time is spent reading, sleeping and "shooting the bull". I've run across some of the boys I know. Mother, if you have any fears in the back of your mind about my "conduct", tuck them away. For one thing, I've been busy since I landed on the continent-in fact, when I lost my wallet (it was in our half track which was abandoned at Acul) it had the thousand francs I had when I landed. But that's not the only reason. I think we all try to keep a clear conscience while in fox holes and when we leave from up there we still strive for the same thing. I know I do any way.
Jackson, Ms, Jan. 20, 1945. The only Vmail from Mother I have, because it was
not delivered. No.24- Still no letters from you since January 7th. Charlotte wrote me she had a letter written Jan.9th and we still have not heard from the Govt. in regard to your injury. Of course, we are anxious to have some news and just hope you're resting comfortably.
Jan. 21. I've just finished a V mail to you. I know you're tired of those kind of letters, but at present I'm dependent on the Red Cross for stationery. So is every patient and there simply isn't enough to meet the demand. I'm homesick, but so is every guy in the army who had a home. It's nothing to worry about, it's just a grand ole custom. I wish you could see the snow here in France and Belgium. Maybe it just seems a lot to me because I'm certainly not accustomed to snow staying on the ground this long. I've finally thawed out back here, but it sure took a long time. My days here are growing short, but I've had a swell rest with little, in fact, almost no pain. It's nothing serious or permanent, just takes a matter of time to heal. By the time you receive this I'll probably be back with my squad. Don't worry, because you won't accomplish anything by worrying.
Jan. 27 (Vmail in 2 parts). I have received twelve letters, but none were from you. The only mail I've received here from you were those airmail letters, one written Thanksgiving and one Christmas card and four V mails. And I know my mail is not reaching you from what I can gather in the letters I've received. I'll leave here soon to rejoin my outfit and things look much better than when I left from there. You should receive a purple heart soon as they are mailed home instead of issued to us.
Jan. 29. Life here is just a routine with nothing to do. Not that I'm complaining, because I'm happy here, or rather, happier than I would be elsewhere in France. And, thank goodness, they don't give us classes and such bunk that we were fed in the States and England. When I was evacuated from the collecting station (very impersonal name) I was slated to go to England, not because of the seriousness of the accident, but because it would take a long time to heal. But I ended up here. I haven't had a pass since I've been on the continent. Maybe I can get one here. At least, I could see some of these towns. The old men of combat, those that have been lucky are getting short passes to England, army rest camp on the Riviera, and a few to the States. Snow is still plentiful, too plentiful!
Jan. 30 (Vmail). I've been moved from a ward to a tent area, but everyone is moved to the tents when they are again all right. The tents are large with concrete floors, and plenty of stoves. My arm will probably remain in the cast for another week. I know that if I had known my arm was broken up there, I wouldn't have made it as bad as it is. But I thought it was sprained or something and stayed up there for a day. Guess I may have been dopey from the concussion. Little did I expect all this. (I managed to dig a fox hole with a broken arm and when I reached the aid station the break extended almost from elbow to wrist and the doctors were never able to get my arm in the proper position to set it so that my arm remained at a 60 degree angle).
Feb. 1. Right now, all I'm interested in is getting thru & getting home in one piece, if I can. And I don't think it is something that will happen in the next few weeks or in the next few months, Frankly, I expect to see service either here in the army of occupation or in the Pacific. But I'd sure like to see some bright lights again, a steak & french fries, get under the .wheel of a civilian car, and a million other things. Don't worry about me . I'll be returning to duty some day, but I've learned to trust in God.
Feb 4. This morning for the first time since I've been here, I did not attend church services. I fell asleep around 9 o'clock when the lights in our tent went out. I'm going to the evening services, though. I wonder if you received a telegram from the war department. If you did, I hope you were not too upset. I ran into one of the guys in my platoon here and he said I had received some packages in the company after I left. I wrote the mail clerk telling him to forward my mail here. I ran into some men who were stationed near home and had a good time talking to them. Yesterday, one of the guys who got a pass bought this stationery for me.
Feb. 4th. At certain intervals we all get fed up with the army. There certainly is no place for that here. I have just about everything I want that can be found in France. I certainly have no reason to complain, but complain I'm gonna'. I read in the Stars & Stripes that a method had been perfected for a quick change of most of the ETO combat troops to the SWPA (Southwest Pacific Area). Needless to say, my morale certainly received no boost from such news. Frankly, I don't know what the army expects from the few infantrymen they have. Not only miracles, it looks as if they want to make dam' sure we won't return. At the present rate the last will be fulfilled unless we are wounded severely enough to hit limited service. D day veterans are now few and far between. Much is being done to transfer troops from other branches to the infantry, but they're only scratching the surface. Why can't we have a tour of duty as in the air corps? Certainly we have the most thankless and dirty job in the army. Killing when you see it done just isn't pleasant. Living in fox holes for extended periods with no comforts we once considered essential is no fun either. Most of the guys are fed up on it all, but all of them have seen enough of their buddies die to where they are not only bitter at the Germans, but at the whole world. I wonder what troops they'll use in the army of occupation? Aren't there still enough in the States? And what about peace time conscription? It will go thru, won't it? A year in the army won't ruin American youth as some people seem to think. What about when we return? I know I'm gonna take advantage of the educational provisions of the Bill of Rights. Frankly, we will be powerful enough to get what we want (in reason) because the veterans societies will be powerful enough to bring pressure on both parties. The news looks good, especially the Russian drive. They know the meaning of all out war, but there is no need of over-optimism. I have hopes that organized resistance in the ETO will end this summer. Well, I've got it out of my system and I feel better. Don't know how long I'll be here and can't learn anything definite.
Hospital, Feb.5. This morning I worked at the Post Office, helping to sort mail. It's voluntary, but such a large amount of mail comes in and there are so few to handle it, that if the patients didn't help, they would never catch up. In fact, most of the mail is for men who have already left & must be forwarded. That's why I wrote you to write to my company and not here. It's possible I may go to another outfit, but I can always write the mail clerk. I'm going to have them stop forwarding my mail as soon as I think they are ready to send me back. Tomorrow, I have to report to my Doctor. (doctor.) I'll write what happens. I wish you could hear some of Berlin's propaganda broadcasts, especially, Berlin Sal. Good for laughs, anyway. American soldiers don't fall for that stuff.
Feb 6 (Vmail) My cast came off this morning, but my arm is, of course, stiff, sore, and weak. So I'll be around awhile getting P.T. until it's back to normal. (When the cast came off the Dr. berated me for not washing my arm better before putting on the cast-l thought that was the medic's job and, as I've said, we didn't see bath water very often, once a month, maybe. The showers at the hospital were great, even with an arm stuck outside).
Feb. 7. This morning I received thirteen letters. I guess I'm lucky for very, very few patients receive mail while here and one in five hundred does not receive the amount I do.
February 12. Yesterday was a dreary rainy Sunday; I only left the tent to go to Chapel, for services. But we had the radio, a few new books, and magazines so it wasn't bad. One of the fellows in the tent received three packages this morning that were mailed in August. I weigh 172 so I've gained weight while here. I'm becoming a fixture around here for I've seen guys come & go. I'm the "oldest" in the tent in terms of days here. But I can get my arm over my head and can almost straighten it out.
Feb 14. Today, I received mail straight from home. Most of the letters came from Charlotte, but I believe it's because your mail runs two or three days behind hers. I was very much worried about the telegram that the WD sent you and I wrote you & Charlotte at the same time so you would understand that I was only slightly hurt and would not worry. You should have received letters the same day. But I'm glad you got together & pieced together the news you had. Don't think of my being wounded, but rather just think I got a nice long rest. For that was really what it was. And I am in "good spirits" tho I get filled up at the army at intervals, just as everyone else. I'm practically ready to return to duty.
Feb. 15. The way the Dr. talks I'm about ready to return to duty. I've heard from the boys in my squad. We're quite scattered now, some are in a hospital in England, some are in a hospital in France, and some are busy on the front. Three of us were in the same ward in the Evac. Hospital, but we all went in different directions. I was the luckiest one in the bunch, any way. I've got to stop and go to our daily lecture. Usually, it doesn't amount to anything, but we have to go.
Feb. 18. Every letter I write from here I expect to be my last one. Others come & go and I remain. Getting to be a permanent fixture, but I'm not going to complain because when I leave here my easy days are over. Today has been a dull day, the only excitement came from a few airplanes that flew over extremely low. They do it all the time-makes me envy those guys in the air corps. I know theirs is a tough job, but they don't go for a month without a bath, or weeks without a shave, or days without brushing their teeth. You should have seen me when I reached the Evac. Hospital, I've never been dirtier in all my life and that goes for my clothes, too. There was a fire somewhere out from the hospital. I saw the fire crew go out. Wish I could have gone with them, would have been some excitement.
February 20. I leave the hospital in the morning and go to a Replacement Center and from there to my outfit. I'm feeling fine, my arm is all right & after all, I can't spend the war here. I do hate to leave these beds, good food, movies, and lazy life! But it will be grand to see the guys I know again. And also, the outlook is much brighter than when I left up there. The weather is nicer, also. Mother, I don't know what you mean by tell all. I've told all I could. When I come home you can question me all you want to, that is, the first few days. After that, I hope to forget all this. My mail is going to be irregular from now on.
I rejoined my outfit outside Prum where they had been for a few days, dug in with many of
Somewhere in Germany, March 1945. I've just received a stack of mail, some dating back to the first of December. Please tell me what Paul is in that he has time to raise a vegetable garden. Is that the fighting marines you hear about? The scenery over here of late has been beautiful. Some of the beautiful sights are marred with less beautiful sights. And since we've been here in rest, we've had beautiful weather. We get to take showers tomorrow. Maybe I'll get rid of that scratchy feeling. Just remember I miss you and love you and no matter what I go thru over here in the way of hardships, some things remain constant. For one thing I've learned to love home more than ever and my belief in God is certainly stronger than ever before. Of course, I've always believed, but this is a tough way to strengthen my belief. There are few ways you can help me now. One way tho is just pray that everything will be all right as I do daily.
March 13. (Vmail) I haven't had an opportunity lately to write for I've really been on the go. You've read the news, you know what I've been doing. During such times, it's just impossible to write. I'm well, a little tired, etc. but this break is just what we needed.
March 15. Today has been a day of rest, when I woke up the sun was shining in my face. We're staying in houses, sleeping in beds, really taking a rest in style. Over here when troops need a place to sleep the civilians are moved out and we take over. Shelby kinda gave me the once over for not writing. During the past two weeks I haven't written a single letter, neither has anyone else. Do you think I want it that way? I've received three packages. Yours and Charlotte's came the first of March and at a very opportune time. Today, two guys from the company got to go on pass to Paris. I almost got the lucky number, but the guys that went have been sweating this thing out since we went into combat. I'll get my chance later. The news looks good, just hope it keeps that way. We've learned our lesson of optimism, but this thing can't last forever. I'll see plenty of combat yet, but after a good rest here I'll be ready.
March 16 (Vmail) Today we have a show, coffee & doughnuts (courtesy Red Cross) and showers. That's the second time since Dec 1 this outfit has had showers.
March 17. (Note how bunched letters are. I wrote when I could). I've just returned from Protestant Services, the first services I've attended since leaving the hospital. Not that I've been slack; we simply can't have services. Sometimes an open field is the church, at other times there are buildings, even a school house or a church. The setting doesn't matter. I'm going to change my allotment as I am receiving combat infantry pay. Also, I get $2, I think, for the purple heart. I haven't been paid since November so I have four months pay coming.
March 22. Several days will elapse before I can mail this letter, but I've got a few minutes I can call my own. Perhaps you wonder why everyone else over here has time to write and yet I don't. The armored infantry works differently from the regular infantry and when we're on the go, it is just impossible to write. In fact, we go for days, even weeks without washing & shaving. We may not be moving all that time, but we're on the alert. The officers are just as busy, busier I guess, and they don't have time to censor our mail. Believe it or not, Uncle Sam finally found a way to get some work out of me where you, Uncle Wilbur, and countless others failed. The news looks good or rather what we know of it and what we've seen of it. I don't know what the papers back home say about this division; the New York papers and radio have had many news releases. I do know what the Stars & Stripes says. We're a darn good outfit, one of the best, perhaps that's the reason they have us always on the go. When you read the history of this war, you will read of the 11thAD. I'm still receiving back mail, several of November 30 and the first of Dec., but my late mail isn't coming thru for I haven't received any letters written since the middle of February. I may send another package home of captured Jerry equipment. Bayonets, knives, field glasses, etc.. I see so much of the stuff now that it is of no interest and little value to me; perhaps later it will be. Right now, I'm sitting in German headquarters in a town in Germany writing. German uniforms, records, propaganda, and other equipment are scattered everywhere. I've written about everything but the weather. I don't guess I'll be divulging military secrets if I say the weather is too lovely to be doing the job we're having to do .
March 25. At long last Christmas packages are coming thru, altogether four. Now I have plenty of stationery, just don't have time to use it. I have four boxes of air mail stationery and some other that I got in German army headquarters of a town we were in. We're in a rest area, I guess, tho I don't believe it and it's hard to imagine. The quarters are all right except there isn't enough room for half the squad to sleep indoors and we're not working any, but we don't know what will happen from one hour to the next. But it's good to be away from the line for awhile.
March 27. (Vmail). I want you to do something for me-get the money out of my bank account. On June 1, I want you to have delivered to Charlotte an order of red gardenias (Mother knew I meant roses). A year ago, June 1, I was home on furlough. I won't be there this year so please send the remembrance for me. Gotta stop & get some coffee and doughnuts at the Red Cross.
April 6 (Vmail) I'm glad to have time to write again. This house we're staying in has electric lights and, best of all, a radio. This afternoon, I've been frying potatoes and listening to music from home via AEF network. And another thing, I got to take a bath this morning in a real tub. Kinda needed it too, the first one since the middle of February.
April 14. This is the first air mail letter I've written since the last of March. And during that time I wrote only 2 V mails. Looks like I'm getting lax in writing, but if you could have been with me a day you'd know the reason why. I'd like to settle down in some quiet place, eat a good meal, not C or K rations or something we've cooked ourselves, and sleep for forty-eight hours. Some out of the way place where there are no tanks, trucks, tracks, airplanes, or uniforms, but that is just a dream. The news is encouraging, I guess. I haven't heard any news lately, I just know what we're doing and if the other outfits are moving as we are, it should be encouraging. At present, I know the name of the town I'm in and that's all (I think this was written in Kulmbach, a town with 17 breweries where we stayed a few days). It must be Germany from the looks of the swastikas, pictures of Hitler, etc., but we've traveled far enough to be in Siberia or somewhere else. I just hope this thing doesn't last too much longer. At present, we're having a maintenance break. We're in houses; ours is up on the side of a hill overlooking a stream, swimming pool (where one day we found our driver, Tank, face down from too much beer and his pockets full of broken eggs which he had "liberated"), picnic grounds and a city. We've been "on the road" since the last of March. There were no Easter services for us, it was just another day (I do recall going through a city and hearing the church bells and we somehow figured out that it was Sunday and Easter). I've seen much of Germany, too much for me. In this part of Germany, the people are all pro-Nazi. With them I have no sympathy nor patience; if their town is burned down, that's tough. Our outfit liberated some American & English POW's quite some time ago and that was a wonderful feeling-seeing them as they were freed and rejoicing with them. One of the prisoners was a chaplain from Philadelphia, Mississippi. Some of the British had been prisoners since before Dunkirk. I've received all of my pay up until the first of April ($110) and I've mailed it all home.
April 15. Der Fatherland. (V mail). This is the third letter in the last twenty four hours. I don't want a chance to write to pass up for there have been so many days lately when I couldn't write. There'll be many of those days ahead, also. I'm feeling much better now for I caught up on my sleep last night. The rest was wonderful. How long I'll be here, I don't know-l always hope for the best. I'm mailing a package of trophies.
March 26 (Vmail) It's raining here today and this morning we had a battalion formation. The General awarded medals to some of the men and what made me mad, many who received them stay back until everything is made safe. This army burns me up, anyhow. The news is very encouraging, just hope it remains so. And as long as we stay this far back everything is all right.
March 27. (Letter to Mrs. Johnson, Paul's Mother) I received your letter just before I left the hospital and since leaving, I've been quite busy. The news lately has shown what we've been doing. There are many of us over here who were kids when we left home, but now I believe we've matured under the hardest of circumstances. Life, in many ways has been hard for us; perhaps it is for the best. When we return we'll know how to meet the hardships, and expect hardships, knowing that life is not always smiles land sunshine. Not that we have forgotten how to smile. And I have found strength in God, in prayers that I did not know earlier. There are atheists in foxholes, but most of us have found in Him comfort during the hardest days.
April 17 (Vmail) Another beautiful day and I've had plenty of time to enjoy it. I got up early, had the last shift of guard (that's another reason I'll be glad to get out of this army, no getting up in the middle of every night to pull guard). Today, we straightened up and cleaned up the half track, then we moved houses, and now we're temporarily on guard in the middle of the town. I also washed all my dirty clothes.
April 19. Der Reich (Vmail) Our work has slackened, but still keeps us busy. There is still fighting to be done and I'll probably see a share of it, but things are comparatively quiet here.
April 21. It's early morning, I've just finished breakfast and helped to clean this house we're staying in. I had intended to write last night, but some of the guys were sleeping in the room on the floor and they couldn't go to sleep until I got out of their way. To keep peace in the family over here, I had to give up my letter writing. I hope the busiest and roughest part over here is over. Of, course, all is not over yet, and a lot of work remains, but there is no place left for us to make another long drive. (Unfortunately, we were to run into opposition on the Austrian border and several in our outfit were seriously wounded). You asked if I had a happy Easter. It wasn't such a happy day and yet it wasn't too bad. We were driving as usual but we were in reserve so we didn't run into any trouble. I don't think I'll ever forget last Easter when I was out on the coast of California on beach patrol. We had to sleep with goggles and dust respirator on because of the sand and when I awoke in the morning, II was buried in the sand. Maybe next Easter will be a happier one, I hope so, any way. Back in the last town we had to guard the burgermeister (Mayor appointed by AMG) and his lawn was beautiful, Jonquils in bloom, but the most beautiful sight was a cherry tree in full bloom. The apple trees were budding out. We were supposed to sleep in two rooms of the house, but a drunk Lieutenant came in and said we were fraternizing and we'd have to move out into the yard. He called the AMG in and they moved us out even tho our orders were to sleep in the house. This is the army! I haven't received a letter from you in two weeks. The replacements seem to get their mail thru all right, but the old men feel lucky if they get a V mail at rare intervals. I read in the Stars & Stripes that Ernie Pyle was killed in a Jap ambush in the Pacific. We were all sorry to hear of his death for he was the only civilian who knew exactly what we go thru-the infantry, I mean. Division Headquarters is in town with us now so things must be safe here. That bunch lives all right with chow trucks, American Red Cross club mobiles, movies, clean clothes. At least, we get to see that some guys live all right over here. Keep on writing, I'll get your letters sometime next September.
April 28, Somewhere in Germany. We had a streak of luck here, getting a house for this is a very small town. But two squads from our platoon and a tank crew have an outpost right in front of the house. So we share the house and there's plenty of room to sleep-we always sleep on the floor any way. I was glad we had this house, as last night we had a storm, lightning, thunder, hail, and even a little snow. It may be spring back home, but here it's summer one day and winter the next. I wish I could hear some news, we don't have a radio, nor have we seen a Stars & Stripes in ages so we don't know what's going on. As far as I know, resistance has been light and the news has been good, but I'm expecting one more battle before this is over (prophetic as we ran into a group of fanatics, some just boys, at Weigsheid on the Austrian border)
May 7, 1945, Somewhere in Austria. This makes the sixth foreign country I've traveled in and the fourth I've fought in. And I've seen enough now to last a long, long time. I'm ready to see the USA. Because of security regulations, I cannot tell you just where I've been, but I can say it has been a long and tough drive. The western front has crumbled but it was because of hard driving without relenting on the part of the Americans that caused it to crumble. The weather lately has been our worst break. If a year ago someone had told me I'd see snow in the month of May, I'd have told that person he was crazy. But I saw just that. At night we would dig in and the next morning our foxholes would be covered with snow. When it wasn't snowing, a cold rain was falling. I've seen some beautiful scenery lately. Too bad I was too busy to get a picture of some of the scenes. Since we've been here, we've begun to hear the good news-that this thing is almost over. A week ago, I couldn't have believed it. The question is: where do we go from here? At present we're taking a break. How long will it last, I don't know. As usual I'm hoping for the best, but seldom do I find what I hope for. If they'd just let us bring our chow trucks up and have some real hot meals, everything would be all right. We're still doing our own cooking, rations mostly, although we have gotten pork chops and bread lately. Today rounds out twenty-two months of service for me and I'm not twenty years old yet. I just hope that by the time I'm twenty-one that this thing is over and I won't be living from one day to the next as we're doing now. I have two pistols, they're turned in to the supply truck as we're not allowed to carry them. Whether I'll ever see them or get them again, I don't know.
May 9, Austria (Vmail) We've heard the news for which the world and we have been awaiting for so long. The news came to us in a small Austrian village north of Linz, but it came rather as an anti climax and even today I find it hard to believe that this phase of the war is over. There were no celebrations or parties where we were. Instead we are wondering what the next move will be. I hope that our last drive is history and that we can settle down to somewhat of a normal life, but no one knows. We're taking it easy, but it's too good to last.
This is a good place to stop this part of the letters as the next letter was a long one and the pressure of combat was no longer present. Now the worry became-do I have to go to the SWPA (Southwest Pacific Area) for the invasion of Japan? In the meantime, I moved around from one outfit to another and spent most of that time running a PX and sometimes an added beer hall or entertainment hall for the troops. The hard part was behind; the war of nerves remained until the atomic bomb was dropped.
WAR IS OVER IN EUROPE, BUT NOT IN THE PACIFIC SO AS AN INFANTRYMAN WITHOUT ENOUGH POINTS I SWEAT OUT MY NEW ASSIGNMENT.
Austria, May 10, 1945. The stamps enclosed, quite a collection of German and Austrian, were left out of the last package I mailed to you. About the package: it contains two flags, keep the large one, the other is for Charlotte and you'll also find five rolls of film. The clippings enclosed were cut from the Army Times and are quite old now. We're taking it easy, we're located in a small Austrian farm village high in the mountains. It's a beautiful setting and we have ample opportunity to enjoy the scenery, but there is so much poverty here. The houses are filthy with the barns connected to the house and a manure pile in the front yard. The people are even dirty. I stay outside as much as possible. We've seen many beautiful sights lately, attractions that tourists from America would pay thousands of dollars to see. But the conditions under which we viewed these scenes were trying, to say the feast, and we didn't pause long enough to enjoy them. I'll never forget my first view of Linz from atop a mountain, from our place we could overlook Erfurt, Linz, the Danube, and the Danube Valley. Looming in the distance were the snow covered Alps. Very beautiful, but the 88's weren't nice! From the Rhine to the Danube were many memorable spots. I hope to enjoy them more someday as I am enjoying the view from here. The Saar Valley was the richest and nicest, but now that the war is over I like the snow covered peaks. None are close to here, but we’ve passed many recently. I've seen the richest part of Germany and the poorest, the industrial and the farming section, the mountains and the plains, all but Berlin. We covered a lot of territory in the First, Third, and Seventh Armies sectors. But as I've said before, I'm ready to see a little of home, but right now that means a through trip to the other side. I got paid a few days ago-thirty five dollars and for once I didn't send any money home in addition to the regular allotment. Please send the total of my bank balance. (Always worrying about money). Also send some food. Contrary to what propaganda tells you in the States, we do not receive ail the candy over here in the front lines. We never receive a regular candy bar that we can recognize and receive gum only at rare intervals. We're cooking our own chow so perhaps that's enough of an explanation of why I want packages from home. We're beginning to go garrison, by that, I mean we're having regular guard mounts, inspections, schedules, etc. I hate that kind of army life, but I much prefer it to combat!
May 10 to Dad. I know that today is your birthday, but I don't remember your age. Of the two though ifs better to remember the birthday. Last year, we both forgot each other's birthday. I've seen a lot in the last year and will probably see a lot more ere another year rolls around, but I hope it's not along the same line of work. The foremost question in everyone’s mind is: where do we go from here? Rumors expressing many answers can be heard, some we want to hear, many we do not. Of course, we are hoping for the army of occupation as returning to the States for an indefinite stay is completely out of the question. We're sweating out having to go to the Pacific. Our record is against us for it is a clean record, one to be proud of. We're a crack outfit and for those who are sitting behind desks who don't have to dodge the bullets, that's what they want, experience, experience! If they'd get off their fat rumps and see how the action really goes, they'd realize experience is obtained by fresh troops in their first battle. We deserve a break, heaven knows we haven't had one, but to expect a break from the army is an impossibility. The propaganda the army puts out sounds good if one doesn't know the truth. I know the truth and so .do my buddies, the handful that remain. Perhaps the army has cleaned out those in the States. We've been told this, but you can't show me a man in the army who cannot name several healthy individuals passing their time happily in the States with no combat credit. They're essential-that's a lot of bull! What about those in the rear echelon jobs in the theater of operations? The army is more interested in length of service and morale on the home front than they are in the front line soldiers.
"Everything for the front" is a slogan that sounds good, but never showed anything material. I'm an infantryman, always have been and I'm proud of it. I'm supposed to be rough and tough, able to take it. In some respects, I am, but there's such a thing as getting a "bellyful". If a man is able to go thru one war and emerge in one piece physically, he should have a break. Tell the army that and let them laugh in your face. Perhaps we will get army of occupation-if so, I wont complain no matter how long I remain over here. If I do get such a break, I plan to continue my education.
Just call the stamps I sent in the last package your birthday present and I'll call all of those packages you've sent to me my birthday present. I received the wallet & knife and was glad to get both. Packages of food are a heaven-send, though, because we've only had one meal cooked by our chow truck since crossing the Rhine. They can't obtain rations to cook, but we get plenty of C and K rations. I see the army has finally decided to do something about the food the POW's are receiving in the US. Shame on the army. Don't they want a well fed cadre for WWIII? Americans have a short memory, the Germans know that, but there is something that will always live in my memory, pictures of my best buddies. I've seen many SS troops go thru on their way home. If I had my way, they'd be six feet under, the rest of the infantry will agree with me in part. I've seen recently liberated POW's, and we've talked to French & Russian slave laborers. The most vivid imagination can not picture the things that have gone on in Germany. Civilians know the truth and yet they go around with a smile on their face. Americans "ghut", Russians," nix". More power to the Russians, they fought for revenge. While in some of our brief and rare rest periods, I've been under AMGOT. They should return to their law practice or else read a book on the true Germany. Sounds like I'm fed up, I am, and the above is my opinion. If it wasn't for faith, I don't know what the doughboy would do.
May 11 (Vmail). Today has been a day of leisure. This morning we cleaned out and straightened up the halftrack and that is always a job. We have to carry all our equipment, clothes, bed rolls, extra food, ammunition; everything the squad possesses has to be carried in or on the track. The Red Cross girls and club mobile were around, serving coffee and doughnuts. This afternoon we went down and listened to records for awhile. Reminded us all of home. It's quite warm here and we're beginning to take sun baths.
May 13. Today is Mother's Day. Not until I attended services this morning did I know that it was Mother's Day. Maybe someday I'll catch up with the time and remember which day is which. The Mother's Day card made a round trip to the ETO. Such cards are unobtainable over here. Charlotte sent it to me in March; to her goes the thanks for being so thoughtful. My birthday is in five days and I just wish I could be at home for angel food cake and strawberry ice cream. In fact, if I could get home, I'd settle for corn bread and milk. I've got a lot to be thankful for this birthday. Yesterday we were told how the point system for discharge works. Eighty-five points are needed for immediate discharge-perhaps later the requirements will be lowered. What happens to those who have fewer points wasn't told so I'm just holding my breath, hoping and praying. I have 45, or just half enough-one for each month of service, an additional one for each month overseas, five for each battle star, medal, and decoration (combat infantry badge doesn't count), twelve for each child (no help here). No credit in any way is given for combat time which is one of the rawest deals a raw dealing war department has given out. I attended services for the first time in three weeks. This is the first Sunday I've been able to respect since leaving the hospital. Even Christmas and Easter we were on the road and Easter we were driving (by driving, I mean lashing out a column of tanks, halftracks, and motorized equipment toward an objective deep in enemy territory and miles ahead of the regular infantry). But I started to tell about church. It was held outside in the shade and today is a beautiful day. Just a simple service given by a chaplain from the Division. Our regular chaplain (who has a silver star) is absent and I haven't seen him in some time. We still have to carry our weapons everywhere we go, including church, but we don't have to wear the steel helmet, just the liner. I'm about out of stationery and now that we won't be taking any more towns it will be impossible to pick up any. Since arriving here on the continent, I've received stationery once up here in the infantry. Other outfits get it thru their PX'es. Please send food. The kitchen cooked one day and then they couldn't get any more rations so again we're cooking our own. (l"ll bet the rear echelon is eating well). We've picked up food until now. In a couple of places we got a case of five hundred eggs, usually we've been able to find eggs. But I can eat a dozen a day and yell for more. I've had six for breakfast more than once. In one town where we liberated the English and American POW's, we got milk, butter, and cheese from a creamery.
May 12 (Vmail). Last night we played volley ball. We've carried the ball and net with us since England in the half track that we've used after the first day of battle. Today, I plan to go down to a nearby stream and take a bath. That's the only way I've been able to take one. Today has been another beautiful and sunny day and we've done little work. I just wish that these people would move this manure pile from the front door, because this kind of weather brings out the fragrance.
May 15 (Vmail) Well, I've made it safely thru one war and you can't imagine just how grand it is to rest, relax, soak up sunshine and not be on the alert. This dodging shrapnel and bullets(tain't’ no fun. We're located high in the mountains of Austria, just spend our time loafing and, in my opinion, it's well deserved. These people are the poorest and the least learned in the sanitary code of any people I've ever seen.
May 16. Since the war is over and censorship regulations somewhat relaxed, I guess it is all right to tell you that I'm not in an anti-tank squad. The first day of battle we fired around forty rounds from our gun and as far as I know that's all the shells that were fired in our platoon. Two weeks later the guns were taken away and the anti-tank squads became mortar squads, each squad going to a different platoon. In the regular infantry, the mortar squad usually sets up behind the lines and a person in a mortar squad is better off than a member of a rifle squad. This is the armored infantry, though, and in this we're just another rifle squad for I've only set the mortar up one time and never fired it in combat. At present, I'm gunner which corresponds to assistant squad leader. The homes that we stayed in were neat, fairly well furnished, but lacking always some of the comforts we consider necessary. There was very little style in any of them. We had several nice homes, modern and well furnished, but the Austrians have absolutely nothing including a knowledge of the health and sanitary codes. The woman who lives here cooks her potatoes in batches with the unwashed peeling on; when they're done she puts them in a bucket, mashes them up and they sit by the doorway until eaten which takes several days. All that time the flies enjoy a field day. This is not characteristic of the Germans.
May 19 (Vmail). Yesterday was my birthday and I must admit it was quite different from any other birthday-C rations and liver for dinner last night and I still do not like liver. But I ate it. We have moved and now are living in the field in pup tents. It's as hot as I've seen it in a long time and no shade trees to crawl under. I don't know how long we'll be here; we're supposed to move into houses, but battalion says they can't move the people out of the homes. Which, of course, is not the truth. We're camped near a town that our company took. Battalion headquarters and part of an infantry outfit are in town. But this is the army.
May 27. (Vmail). I've been quite busy getting a battalion PX ready to open here. We open up tomorrow and I hope later to have plenty of time on my hands to do lots of things, I'm on Detached Service (DS), which means I don't fall out for company formations, training, or duties. I'm my own boss except for the sergeant and Lt. in charge. Perhaps I've gotten my first break since coming into the army.
May 28. Our PX is ready to open and we open at 5. We don't have much of a stock as many things are unobtainable and the items that we do have are not in quantity. We plan to run a company through a night and tonight is C Company. Each man has a ration card that lists the items and the number of each he can buy each week, or each two weeks. We spend the remainder of the day and week cleaning up, taking inventory, checking cash returns (and in German marks we're quite likely to err. This is the third money system I've had to learn), breaking down stock, etc. There won't be much work except on the three nights we operate. Frankly, I wish we had a real stock including everything the Gl's might want and in quantity for I'd much rather stay busy. Perhaps you wonder how I managed to get the job. One day I was going past the orderly room when I saw a sign on the bulletin board saying one man needed for the PX. So I applied for the job. For experience, I gave three years as a grocery clerk. I didn't tell them that it was part time work, though. In other words, I've caught on to this army game-also told them that I had plenty of bookkeeping which is correct, almost.
May 29. We opened the PX last night and waited on C Company in less than three hours. That means we ran one hundred men thru each hour. Thank goodness there were no women customers. There isn't much stock left on C Company's shelves, just a little shaving cream, tooth powder, a few sewing kits, and four razors. Not that we are super salesmen, the guys just want to buy something, want to spend their money. This is the first time many have had a chance to spend money except in poker games and for stamps since last December. After we finished we had to check receipts, sales tickets, inventory. Since this is a non profit adventure we can't afford to come up short. I got to sleep around twelve and slept until nine. Every third night I have to sleep up here as a guard and last night was my night. Not a bad job at all! As for the rumor about us going to the Pacific: first, you can hear any kind of rumor; second, don't believe them; and third, we probably will go. I don't have enough points (49) to keep me out of the war, but if I go I'll get a furlough home, re-training, and re-equipping in the States. So it will be several months yet, I hope. Infantry divisions have priority and many are on their way. After they get over, armor will follow and we'll probably be one of the armored divisions, not because we were late in reaching combat, but because of the excellent record we have over here. Several armored divisions came into combat after we did, but they haven't done as much fighting.
May 31. Today was pay day-in Austrian shillings, invasion money, which gives us a fourth monetary system to learn. I collected my usual $35.90. I'm going to discontinue the allotment for bonds if ever I get where I can. If you try to get any thing done thru our personnel section, it takes months and just isn't worth the effort. The CWO in charge of personnel is too busy trying to figure out how to get a cluster for his bronze star and we're busy trying to find out how he got a bronze star in the first place. The only time he was up with us, we didn't hear a shot fired! Tonight is my night to sleep at the PX which means that I missed the movie that is being shown, the first one that has been shown for us since crossing the Rhine.
June 1 (Vmail). A year ago I was aboard the train en route home. A lot has happened since then including many thousands of miles of "traveling". Just wish I could turn back the clock a year and again be at home, but if it would mean going throughthe past five months again, then I'll give up the trip home..
Aigen, Austria, June 2, 1945. Today, we've been quite busy. All the stock for both PX'es came in and we had to break it down for the two PX'es and then for our three companies, put it on the shelves, clean up, check price lists and inventory, make out new price and availability lists, and a lot of other little jobs. The beer and cokes came in and we had to hustle out and get them distributed to the three companies and collect for it. Tonight, the companies are having parties and I think I'll go down to C Company's. Perhaps I made it sound as if I had worked hard today. Actually, I haven't been busy all day and I'd much rather stay busy than loaf around. This morning I got up at 6:30, something unusual for me. Since my squad has been on a road block, I've been sleeping with another squad, a squad that is practically all rebels. Since I've been with them I haven't gotten up a morning for breakfast. This morning the gang devised a way to make me crawl out of the bed roll. They got a cup of water and held it over my head, then began threatening. I laughed at their threats until it was too late and I got wet. The Colonel came around inspecting this morning. He dropped in here while we were quite busy with boxes and supplies all over the floor, but he ignored the mess, seemed quite interested in how we were working the PX and complimented us. Get the May 4 and May 7 issues of the New York Post for articles about the 11thAD.
June 3. The enclosed clippings are from the Army Times. On the day the 63rd hit the Rhine at Andernach, we hit it at Brohl. We were CCB, they were CCA. I wish I could get all the issues of Army Times as there have been many 11th AD articles.
June 6. A year ago today was D Day, and a year ago today these people were Heiling Hitler, and still believing that they would conquer the world. Perhaps they still do and believe the same, but at least it's not as widespread as it once was. I seriously doubt though if a year ago today things were as peaceful here as it is today. On June 6, 1944, I heard the news of D Day on the car radio. Thank goodness, I was at home and didn't help establish that beach head, because I saw enough fighting and bloodshed during the five months I was here. Perhaps the next anniversary of D Day will see total peace-maybe another year will see me at home, at least, for a furlough. We know nothing about our future role, whether it will be army of occupation or the Pacific. If we do go to the Pacific, I'm almost assured of a furlough home. If, on the other hand, we are army of occupation, there'll be ho furlough, maybe passes to London, Paris, or the Riviera. We'd probably be here until the fighting is over, the veterans of the ETO & Pacific are discharged and that will be awhile. Neither outlook is very pleasant, but I'll take the army of occupation. It would mean I wouldn't see you for a long, long time, but I'll take that before dodging shrapnel, bullets, etc. again. We're moving to another town, Reid. We are in Russian territory so we're moving back further. Reid is about 90 kilometers from here, near Passau. I hope we can set up the PX there and I think we will. The Lt. in charge is in Nuremberg after our beer ration and won't be back until tonight.
June 10. Reid, Austria. We are moved, got up at four and it was a beautiful morning, but I was too sleepy to notice anything except the sun was up. We moved out at 6:30 and the next six hours were an endless trail of dust and heat. The first part was over territory for which we had fought as German helmets and crosses emphasized. It brought back memories, most of them unpleasant. That was the territory in which I was squad leader, a very brief career lasting until the original squad leader returned after the war was over. At Weigsheid on the border, we swung south, traveling thru Passau. For a long time we were parallel with the Blue Danube. It is a beautiful river, but I see no reason to call it blue. Passau is an old and beautiful town built on bluffs and cliffs at the junction of the Danube and Inn Rivers, but it shows in many places the ravages of war, but, all in all, it is in better shape than many thru which our troops passed. We crossed the Inn on a huge pontoon bridge reminding me of the one over the Rhine, but this time no huge smoke screen. We pulled into a field, lined up and pitched our pup tents. Immediately after getting the tents up, we went down to a little creek nearby and cooled off. The creek, in reality a swift, clear, and cool mountain stream was only a foot deep in places, but that was enough to bathe and cool off. Friday night, the bottom dropped out of the sky accompanied by wind, lightning, and thunder. I lay awake a long time soaking up the water that poured under the tent, but finally gave up the whole job as futile. That was the hardest rain I've seen since being on the continent, even harder than the one at Cherbourg.
Saturday morning, I moved into a German school house, more recently used as army headquarters by the German's. Our PX supplies are stored awaiting the rear echelon to move out. I'm on detached service again, but I'm still a member of the company, even if I'm not with them for duty. I have a four mile round trip to chow for every meal. I'm on one side of town and the company on the other. Most of the time I can catch a ride, at least part of the way. I attended church this morning and for once services were held in a church and not a theater. The church was filled and communion was held. Our area is across the road from Corps Hdqtrs. Red Cross has its doughnut bakery and headquarters there so after chow I went over & got some coffee and doughnuts. The area is off limits to us, but I had on a rain coat that covered my patch and purple heart and rumpled OD's so I could pass for rear echelon. We plan to open a large PX & beer hall in a café in the middle of town.
June 13.1 was sick all day yesterday-food poisoning, I guess. I went to bed early last night to sleep it off and almost succeeded. I'm kinda woozy, but was able to do a day's work. We have our PX set up and it is quite a nice place. We have an enlisted men's club, PX, and beer hall combined-Club Five By Five (for 55th Battalion). We have chairs in the auditorium for 150 men to read, write, or drink beer. We also have seating room around the sides to take care of another 150 men. We have a large and modern stage and hope to have a Gl orchestra once a week. We have already arranged for other shows with German talent. The main room will be open nine to nine; the PX (that's my worry) will be open from Monday thru Thursday from 1 to 5, one company each afternoon. The beer hall will also have one company a night. I have some pictures taken in the little town north east of Linz. Most are of a 3rd platoon retreat-l was color guard. Some urchin stole my camera, film, and tobacco pouch in Aigen. My squad had to go on a road block and my things were left unguarded.
June 17. (Letter to my Dad; I never wrote a separate letter to Mother, but once in awhile did to Dad). As for Japan, you can bomb her 'til doom's day and it won't stop her (how wrong I was, but I knew nothing of an atomic bomb). Granted it does hamper production and affect morale, but the only air force I'd give 2 cents for is the TAP, Tactical Air Force, that gives close support for the tanks and infantry and strafes supply lines. Air force is all you hear or read about. For one thing, most of the correspondents never get any further than the airdromes. Another thing, they've got several thousand men whose job it is to ballyhoo the air force and then the large aircraft factories ballyhoo them too in their advertisements. You'd think the air force alone won the war. I know they get the cream of the crop, but I've been in contact with many transferred from their ground crews. They don't like the infantry, to say the least, for they never did an honest day's work until they entered the infantry. I give due credit to the pilots and other combat men with one reservation-they get too many dam' medals for doing what we do, and what do we get? A combat infantry badge that they even give to the cooks in battalion hdqtrs. For them it doesn't take long to get 85 points or rotation; even if you are in the ground crew there are always Presidential Citations, battle stars, bronze stars, etc. They do a good job, but during the last days of war we saw many more German than American planes. You read everywhere the Luftwaffe was kaput, but tell me where the 12 planes came from in the middle of April. Twelve at one time over us. We have an assist chalked up on our track and so do several others.
I'll probably be there, but not right away. Infantry divisions will move out first, then the armored divisions. The 8th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 16th, and maybe the 14th should precede us, but they probably won't. I should be home on furlough around Christmas time. So add a cluster to the purple heart and another theater ribbon. Don't worry about me-I'm just as rational, just as "human" as when I left. I haven't changed except for gaining a lot of experience I would not have otherwise gained, and learning a lot about human nature that otherwise I would not have known. I just hope I'm a better man for what I've been thru-spiritually, mentally, physically, and morally. Sometimes I wonder. I love home even more now, but it will be hard to settle down. I've changed my way of thinking, but not the wrong way. I've learned this world is much larger in some respects and much smaller in other ways than I had previously imagined. I dislike the army for it is the most undemocratic organization that can be found in a nation founded on democratic principles. That's not a units fault, but because of the little men in places of control. A square deal and a clean break are hard to find, but my view of the army is limited.
June 17. Haven't heard from Jack, Dick, Gerard, or Doc lately. Gerard was sent to the States. You know, he got hit by the same round that got me, a 120mm mortar. Doc's on his way back, I hear and Dick & Jack have limited assignment in France. I'm still kicking around in the same harness. Last night I went fishing, but it turned out to be a hike to find a fishing spot and when we found a spot, rain began to fall so we hiked back. Someone stole all my fishing equipment except for a bamboo fishing pole, but I found a place to buy some pre-war fishing equipment. There's plenty of trout around here in the mountain streams. When I got back last night I had a cold, cold Coke( I tie strings on Cokes and lower them in a cold stream) and played a few games of gin rummy. This morning I went to church. There was such a crowd I almost didn't get a seat. I enjoyed the hymns, all those male voices blending and I was on the first pew where I could hear it all. After the service Chaplain Olson explained that each week a collection is taken to pay the operating expenses as we have taken over the church completely. Tonight I'm watching the German civilians practicing; they will put on a show for us Monday thru Thursday.
June 20. This letter is filled with PX news. Most of my work is done in the afternoon, but I have to be around at night and it's impossible for me to write with a couple of hundred Gl's wandering around and an orchestra playing. I sleep late in the morning, and when I do get up we have to clean this place and that's quite a job for there are always glasses and empty bottles, cigarette butts, etc. We now have a janitor so that takes a lot off us. We run the companies thru in the afternoon and we've had a floor show every night-same show, different crowd. We have a juggler, sword swallower, balance acts, contortionist, a tight rope walker (she's out of practice as she has been in a concentration camp for six years) and a comedy act. It isn't a smash, but it's all right. We also have a Gl orchestra, they're getting better.
June 21. The armored divisions might be disbanded, at least some of them, and go as separate units for replacement in the Pacific. I hope I don't see any action there, but if I do in all probability it will be with another outfit. Past glories amount to nil, but harder work in the future. There's certainly no place for 16 armored divisions. I'll stay here for two years before going there for three months, even with 30 days at home. Combat is nothing but a living hell. Sometimes you don't wonder about tomorrow, but the next minute.
Sunday, June 24. It's a beautiful, sunny, and quiet Sunday afternoon and I'm sitting in the shade under a tree, writing and enjoying the day. The PX is open this afternoon, but I don't have any work to do until tonight. I went to an Abbot & Costello movie, I had to sit in the balcony and it was hot and the machine usually breaks down half way thru each reel. I finally got my combat infantry badge I was awarded it in January, but I was in the hospital. A formation was held at Augen and I was busy in the PX so I missed again. Finally got it today. I missed church this morning. Told the janitor to wake me and evidently I answered him, but I didn't wake up until 11. The janitor is an Austrian who spent six years in a concentration camp because he refused to serve in the German army. He's still weak and can't do much hard work. He stays busy and is happy go lucky; like everyone else over here wants to go to America. And so do I! He speaks no English and our command of German is small, but I'm learning and I can usually make myself understood by using my hands and what German words I know. Later, one of the kitchen crew came up after five gallons of beer. I got it for him and rode back down to the kitchen to see what I could find to eat. Ended up with ten wings and two of us ate all of them. I remember back when we were driving and could get eggs. I could eat six or more at a time. Think you can fill me up?
June 26th. Saw a grand show last night, one of the best I've seen in years, "To Have and Have Not" with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Missed the floor show here which the guys enjoyed, but I saw him practicing his juggling act and I'll see him tonight. We have the division Special Services band with us. We also had the "Cabinas", a Special Services quintet, headed up by Don Casanova (what a name) formerly with Xavier Cugat's band. We're having regular movies at the theater. We're settling down to a routine and I still like the job, but I expect to be an infantry replacement in the Pacific; forty-nine points aren't enough to keep me here. We're being issued (Eisenhower) battle jackets. Perhaps you've seen them. They're really OD blouses cut on a jacket pattern. They're a departure from former uniforms.
July 2. I have some pictures taken back at Kempenich, Kircheinholander, and Kulmbach to send you. Joe Waddle from Nashville took the pictures and sent the negatives home from Paris. His Mother made a set and she is going to have some more made. I also have a set of pictures taken at Mauthausen, the notorious concentration camp near Linz. B Company of the 55th took the camp. I warn you these pictures are gruesome, the dead stacked like cord wood, an open grave, the incinerators, and other shots. But turning our backs on these pictures would be turning our backs on the German people and all that they have done. These pictures will change your opinion of the German race. Rumors are flying fast and furious. There is no need for me to get worried for it won't affect my future one bit. We have no PX supplies because of a change in Corps. We will be open at night to sell beer. I wish we had supplies, for although this means rest for me, it's tough on the guys for there is no corner drugstore here. I hope to go to Gmunden, the 11th's rest center Wednesday, but something can happen so I'm never sure until the day roils around. We have 325 men and are drawing rations for 275, but at least it's not C or K rations. The usual fare is stew and beans. This supply problem is a mess.
July 4,1945. Yesterday, I received two packages, one from you and one from the Kizers. They couldn't have come at a better time as yesterday we had beans, a K ration, and coffee for supper. We simply are not getting supplies of any kind in-food, PX, clothing, or what have you. The Inspector General has been called in to see where the food is going. Until the I.G. completes his inspection, we go without. In the first place, neither I nor anyone else believes the story about the I.G. Our supply is simply falling down on the job as they have been doing all along. They're more interested in conducting a life becoming a gentleman by act of congress than in getting the needed material to us. Perhaps that is their privilege, for the army has some funny and undemocratic ways, including privileges. Maybe I'm just letting off steam. Pardon me if I am, for Gen. Patton has said I'm not supposed to.
He is a good leader. Maybe and certainly in the long run his type of warfare saved thousands of lives, but as a man, I'd better tell you my opinion in person. We made a name for him, "Blood & Guts", our blood, his guts. It seems fairly certain we'll leave here the last of August or first of September. Rumor has it for Rheims, the redeployment center, then LeHavre, USA, and finally, the Pacific-all men with less than 85 points. Our battalion could go as a unit since 99 ½% have less than 85 points. The few with over 85 are old air corps men transferred in as replacements. I'll bet there are few infantrymen with 85 points. Today, I had the hotel prepare my lunch for me from the packages. A good meal! The packages were perfect: food, food, and food. We're having a stage show here tonight, a professional show from Vienna with 40 people in the cast, including a 15 piece all girl orchestra. We had a crew up here to move out all the tables and put in chairs. I wonder what a USO show looks like over here. I haven't seen one yet though I've read a lot about them. I though they might play to combat units once the war was over, but evidently, those in the rear echelons are more in need of entertainment-after all, they had a tough time during the war, to hear them tell it & believe you me they tell it like one time a plane came over or they went without hot chow for a week. It was tough! Doc is back & Jack Sims is on his way back from the hospital. Dick is stationed at Rheims on limited assignment because of the nature of his wounds. All the old squad wear the purple heart.
Sunday, July 9. Friday was the second anniversary (if you want to call it such) of my induction into the army, but I didn't remember it until tonight when I asked someone the date of today. I'm more interested in what's ahead than what's behind, anyway. I've got a new job here at the PX, I'm cashier. We lost all but three men. Around one third of the battalion is shipping out tomorrow morning and among the group are several of my buddies that I went thru Roberts, CPS (College of Puget Sound), and combat with. There’s no order or system for selecting those that left, some high point men, some low point, some who had been with the 11th since it was founded, some who were replacements in March, some were riflemen, others mortar men, etc. Another shipment leaves Thursday. Rumor is that only a mere handful of men and the name will remain after next week. I cannot venture a guess if I'll be among them. I worked my head off this week-end, breaking down rations, selling beer, cashiering in the PX, and tonight cashier for the beer sales. This afternoon we got some help and that took some of the load off the three of us. I overslept again and didn't go to church. I'm sorry I didn't get to go for that one hour on Sunday is such a relief for us. Everyone likes Chaplain Olson & it is good to know that some things do remain the same in a world such as we have today. It looks like I will not get to go to Gmunden as I will be busy teaching the new guys what we've learned from experience. I got a package from Charlotte and among the contents was Bill Mauldin's book, "Up Front" and I've never enjoyed a book more. It tells just how we think, say, and do, and how we feel.
July 11. I'm glad you are going to spend the rest of the summer in Red Banks, though I know it will be lonesome for Dad. This family of ours cannot seem to stay together in one place for any lenght of time. Maybe the Kizers are kinda dark from gypsy blood. And speaking of gypsies, we've had a group of them putting on a stage show in the PX, dancers, an orchestra, singers, acrobats and a balancing act. Tonight was their last performance so the PX crew slung their carbines & stood guard, on the stage, their dressing room, the office, and the door. Nothing has been reported as missing. Our janitor got mad at the kids as after the performance they came around emptying the ash trays. Cigarettes are precious here-even we need some-but the butt that we throw away, the Kraut strips for the tobacco. The janitor has exclusive rights to emptying the trays and the kids were cutting in on his monopoly. He ran them out. I'm entitled to wear two gold overseas bars on my left sleeve and a green bar high up on both sleeves to denote men who have led a squad in combat, plus purple heart, good conduct, ETO ribbons & three battle stars, and a combat infantry badge over my left blouse pocket. I've got a comfortable bed now with inner spring mattress (one reason why I think I'll move soon, I'm getting the comforts of home). This morning for the first time in a long, long time, I got up at 6 and went down to the company for chow, two boiled eggs, bread, and coffee. I came back to the PX & some guys from B Company brought hot cake batter with raisins. We had them prepared in the hotel here. By the way, who is cutting the grass?
July 22. Here are the details of how I ended up in the hospital. On Dec 31 near Bastogne a small farm village was the setting. The mission of the 11th was to secure the northern flank of the Bastogne-Neufchateau highway to prevent the 4th Armored from being cut off when they went to relieve the 101st Airborne in Bastogne. The Germans chose to make a stand in this area. Leading to the village was one road thru a forest. The forest was strewn with schu (anti-personnel) mines, which caused many casualties before our company got thru the woods. Tanks were helping us but the attack was not coordinated & also the tanks were having trouble with mines. Our anti tank platoon did not dismount & go thru the woods, but stayed back til the company reached the hill overlooking the town. We were called up to the hill overlooking the town to fire on several buildings where machine guns & snipers were located. We fired around 40 rounds & no one was injured in the crew though some snipers came close. Then the company started into the town & we went with them on halftracks. When we reached the town, the German's opened up with mortars (81 's & 120's). I was getting up out of the track when a120 exploded knocking me off. I didn't get any of the shrapnel (one of those unexplainable things as another was wounded by that round & one killed), but received full force of the concussion as houses on the opposite side from me caused it all to come my way. I fell on my arm, but did not know I broke it though it did feel funny. I helped put our gun in & out of action til we were forced to withdraw because of a counter attack. Our track was out of action & we blew up our gun. That afternoon & night I dug a fox hole, but with one arm. I thought it was sprained the next morning. I tried to hold up my rifle and found it impossible so I went to the medic & to the aid station where they told me I had a fractured arm. And that's that. Except that New Year's was a very miserable night with no overcoats or blankets and my arm hurt until it became numb. Last night we had a USO troupe and it was marvelous, the first USO show that I've seen over here. Real American girls, dancing, singing, orchestra, etc. The troupe was very tired for they've been on the go constantly with little sleep, missing meals, riding in Gl trucks. Three had been ordered to the hospital for rest and tore up the orders. One of the three fainted and fell off the stage. She was not seriously injured. They told us the show was for the Gl's and would not put the show on if there were a reserved section up front for officers. One of them said that she knew we had a difficult time over here & they were glad to do anything they could.. Jack Sims is back with us.
July 23. We have a new PX officer, a WO(jg) who is long on discipline & as he never heard the crack of a bullet in combat, he still carries that authoritarian air. He does know the business, he's quite qualified, but seems to forget that he was once an EM., a fact many officers are prone to forget. I remember him when he was a buck sergeant at Cooke, he has changed. Dad, I get so fed up with non-coms who use their stripes to get out of work & delight in giving orders and officers who think the army is a class system comparable to the feudal system of old England. The Colonel of this battalion was a former floor clerk for a dry goods company in Patterson, N.J. I could fill a 200 page letter with little incidents such characters pull. For every good officer here there are two bad ones, but none of us, though, is perfect. Many men have already left were to form a separate group of men to be attached to one of the divisions on the way to the Pacific. A small group leaves tomorrow & other shipments will follow at irregular intervals. There is no system for choosing men so I don't know when my name will appear, maybe tomorrow, maybe a month from now. I'm young, have few points, long on combat experience, and have no dependents, so it's just a t.s. case. Just call us the lost generation-not enough will remain to fill the Republican seats in the Miss. State Senate. I'd like to settle down for a year and take life easy, but probably I've got gypsy blood in me now so I won't wanna stay still. I could handle a double schedule at Ole Miss, but I don't intend to for the first two years because I want to have a little fun that I've missed.
July 28. I'm keeping busy, but not working hard, read a lot, played ping pong and stayed close to the PX. This morning our janitor was arrested by the Austrian police force which works under the American Military Government. Why he was arrested, we don't know-they had a long list of names. Evidently it was something he did years ago, but he spent five years in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp under the Nazi's so it seems he has paid for his crimes, whatever they are and he is still weak from malnutrition. Our Captain who is responsible for the PX is trying to get him released. I don't know what will happen, but I do know we'll miss him because he sweeps and mops, cleans our rooms, washes for us and does a hundred little, but essential jobs. I had a chance this week to go before the OCS Board and apply for OCS. That doesn't mean I'd make it, but I'd have a good chance. I had almost the same chance in Cooke and didn't take it. I don't care to be an infantry officer-) want one thing from the army and that is a discharge and as an officer I'd have to have 135 points, at least in the ETO. I'd go to the Pacific as an infantry platoon leader, well, I wouldn't like that. You may think I'm foolish, but that's my opinion and I'm the one it affects. An officer has many advantages over an EM, but I don't envy them enough to become one of them. In our battalion one can associate with a better group when associating with EM's. I'm still mad because I didn't get my stripes for leading my squad in combat, but it seems all the chevrons went to another company. That company has 7 tech-sgts., we have 3, 45 T-5's, we have 25. They have s/sgts. as squad leaders, assistant squad leaders, and even riflemen, whereas we have pfc squad leaders. Our driver went all thru combat from Jan 1, when the original driver was wounded, and he has yet to receive his T-5 stripes. But one accomplishes nothing in getting disgusted with the army even though I get so fed up at times I can't help it. I also had a chance to go to Florence, Italy for a month's free schooling in history. It can't amount to much, just a chance to see another country (in retrospect, that was one of the dumbest choices I ever made). In a month what would I learn and I'd lose my job here at the PX. ASTP is still bright in my memory and I remember what happened to us there. Very few of the ASTP crowd volunteered. Rumors are we’ll be moved closer to Division Headquarters at Gmunden, that some of us will be shipped out, and others say the division will be shipped back.
August 3. We packed up our PX stock, checked the inventory, closed the books, and loaded all our supplies and equipment, beer kegs, etc. along with our personal equipment on two large Heine trucks and when we reached here there was no building selected for our PX, not even a room to store our equipment or a place to sleep. In four days we have moved three times and at present are located in a semi permanent spot. We'll move again as soon as a suitable building is found. We're in the same building with battalion supply and service company's kitchen and supply room. C Company is two miles from town and B Company even further. Each are guarding a stockade filled with SS'ers and they don't take a chance. Nineteen towers surround the stockade & each tower has a machine gun and a huge spotlight.. The prisoners have a 10 foot high wire fence and around the bottom are rolls of barbed wire. The guys pull four hours on guard and eight hours off every day. It's so monotonous any type of work would be preferred. I'm extremely lucky to have the PX job. When I first volunteered for it everyone told me I would be sorry for it would be a headache and a lot of hard work. Now they're jealous because I have such a good deal, but in the army one looks out for himself. We may have to set up a rolling PX. Last night I strolled around town and found just the place for the PX and beer hall if we can get the café from the AMG. C Company is desperately in need of men to pull guard and there's a possibility that I'll have to return to the company, but in all probability I won't since I was one of the original crew and I know the job inside out. This town isn't much to brag about, but the scenery is beautiful. We're located at the beginning of a large lake which curves thru the mountains to Gmunden at the upped end. Here at Ebensee huge mountains rise on all sides of us, some tree covered like the Smokies, others are barren. A mile from town is a cable car, which runs to a hotel located on top of a huge mountain. From this hotel one can see many lakes and in the distance the mighty rugged Alps. This is resort land and its beauty is breathtaking. We're not enjoying it like a tourist would, but we're not paying either. I went down to Gmunden to get our PX rations, but the trip was in vain as the truck with the division's rations was just pulling in from Nuremberg. For me the trip was not in vain as I had a chance to enjoy a beautiful drive. The road winds along the base of the mountains, bordered on one side by the lake, sometimes so close that the water laps against the side of the road. Part of the road goes thru the mountains with tunnels and snow sheds, at other times small valleys border the road. Early in the morning the lake is blue and hazy and clouds hide the mountain tops. Rumor has it the 26th division will relieve us here in three weeks, we'll be in strategic reserve for the 13 AD which is Pacific bound, or that we'll go in small groups to other units. No one knows and those who do know are not talking. The army is like a grab bag and all depends upon luck & breaks. Some day I may be lucky, but I doubt it, I mean lucky on assignment, for I realize how lucky I am coming thru this thing so far unharmed. I'm sending an operational report, the places marked are where my company was engaged. The 11th took all the places on the map and many others, such as Linz where the 26th came in three hours after us and got the credit or Worms on the other side of the Rhine. At Worms one outfit was sent to make contact with the 4th AD which was supposed to be in command there. When they reached there the Krauts were in command so they called for assistance and CC B captured the town Two days later, the 4th asked for permission to enter town and they received credit for capturing Worms. Incidentally, in the last days of the war, we saw three German planes to every American plane.
Aug. 10. Sunday, I rode up on the cable car to the top of Feurkogel which is 1623 meters high and from which we can get a good view of Ebensee and the valley in which we live, all the way to Gmunden. The ride takes 14 minutes for the two mile trip and over most of the route the ground is a thousand yards below. Sunday was the first clear, warm, & sunny day since we've had since I've been here and I'd been waiting for such a day. The station is about two miles from here and we walked to there. There was quite a line of civilians, but American soldiers walk to the head of the line. By coincidence, I ran into Jack Sims and a couple of other guys originally from my platoon at Cooke. We could also see Lake Hammersee and the town of Attersee and in the far distance, Salzburg. On a clear day Italy can be seen thru the Brenner Pass, but there was a haze that prevented us from seeing Italy. The news sure sounds wonderful now with Russia invading Manchuria and the new atomic bomb. Perhaps the war will end sooner than I thought with this new bomb. However, it isn't over yet and I 'm looking forward to another year in the army. Not that I want such a thing, but I don't think it will be possible to get out any sooner with 55 points.
Ebensee, August. I took yesterday off for a day of rest and was not awakened until eleven o’clock. We have no Protestant services here in Ebensee. Today, I've been on the go since six o'clock, breaking down rations, delivering cigarettes and cokes to all the companies, selling supplies to B and C Companies and tonight to Service Company. I've also had to turn in some equipment including my carbine so that meant a cleaning job. I have a large box to send home (42"x5"x9") that includes: 2 bayonets, a Kraut & a French;2 swords or perhaps one is a saber; 2 German rifles; and 1 Italian carbine. The total weight is around 50 pounds. How long we'll remain here is the question on everyone's lips and we're staying glued to the radio hoping and praying that the war is over. We all feel the same way about it so there is no reason to go into a discussion about the effect of the news on us. Our battalion is breaking up, probably we'll go to the 8th AD which is scheduled for shipment to the States this winter.
August 15. Last night at 1:30 I heard the news that all the world has been eagerly awaiting. I'm afraid the joyful celebrations that characterized VJ day in the western world was not present here. As yet, I've heard no whoops, haven't seen a soldier in the slightest way tight (of course, there's nothing here to drink) and today was no different from last Wednesday. Don't get me wrong-that I do not I welcome peace, that a load has been taken from my shoulders, that life doesn't actually appear rosier. Quite the contrary, peace means more to me than to those who are going wild celebrating. I find it hard to believe that final victory has come, just as I found it hard to believe that Germany had called it quits. VE day of course meant more to me because it was the cease fire affecting us. We rolled until the whistle was blown over here ending it all. I can't explain it-the way I feel over V day. To tell the truth V day won't come until I can throw this uniform into a burning pile of rubbish. Now I'm "sweating out" a discharge. How long will it be before I can wear white shirts, loud ties, and sport coats, til I can enter Ole Miss? You've heard the news about separations. President Truman said 5,000,000 in a year. Wonder if I'll be among the five million. I'm hoping & praying I am, because as far as I'm concerned I've done my share. I wasn't back in a rear echelon or base section, or even in a headquarters fighting this war. I saw enough fighting to live with me forever in my memories. The army didn't take long after my 18th birthday to grab me, just wish they could release me that fast. Today is the 3rd anniversary of the 11th AD and AFN Radio Munich had a 15 minute program saluting the Thunderbolt Division. Here's some of the things they said-The 11th was given credit for blunting the tip of the Bulge and relieving the pressure on Bastogne. Driving 6 miles in 5 days against the best soldiers Hitler had, SS'ers and parachute troops. We landed in Cherbourg the day the offensive was launched, Dec. 16. In one week we drove 500 miles to Belgium, the whole division, tanks, artillery, halftracks, 15,000 men and thousands of vehicles. The 11th spearheaded the 3rd Army into Houffalize, capturing that message center and road junction and meeting the 1st Army (that officially closed the bulge). By then the 11th was a veteran outfit-you learn in a hurry. Then the Siegfried (I wasn't there) and the first drive to the Rhine after one of our toughest battles at the Kyle River. From there to the Rhine in 24 hours, capturing 5500 prisoners and huge quantities of supplies and weapons, from rifles to 155's. Of the 5500 prisoners, 8 of us guarded 2000. Then down to help the 7th Army by hitting the Krauts in the rear. There the 11th captured Worms on the Rhine and captured another 5000 prisoners. Then across the Rhine spearheading the 3rd Army along with the 4th AD. The third was spearheading all armies, capturing 7th and 1st Army objectives. Tanks had to guard our convoy of gas and ammo trucks; that was all the supplies that came to us at the front. There were a lot of towns, Coburg, Kulmbach, Bayreuth, Graffenwohr, and the largest poison gas dump in Germany. The first American troops in Austria, Linz captured and the first troops of the Third to meet the Russians-1800 combat miles, 76,229 prisoners captured. More prisoners than the entire American Army captured in WWI. How much equipment we captured or destroyed can never be counted. Now you know why I feel the way I do about the 11th. As for the future of the 11th, I don't know. We're turning in all our half tracks and most of our equipment. It’s over, but I'm not home and the uncertainties remain as to when I would get home. More moves, other divisions, more PX duty and a relatively easy life remained until January, 1946. I realize this section was rather long, but it was the first time I had been able to write much in six months and there was more combat news than during combat.