Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Between the Lines: Bill in Combat Jan. 11 to Jan.30, 1945

The rest at Siersthal lasts for four days. The men shave, shower, write letters and even see a show. Most of all they sleep. For the first time in a month they are able to sleep the entire night through. The resting is temporarily interrupted when the Third Platoon is sent out on a combat patrol near their old position at the “Splinter Factory”. Their mission is to knock out an enemy machine gun nest that is threatening key positions along the battalion line. The job is well done. Not only are all the enemy killed, but the machine gun and ammunition are brought back to Siersthal by the patrol.

On January 15 Able relieves a company from the Third Battalion on the line above Glassenberg, where the CP is located. The Third Platoon and a part of the First are positioned along a ridge. The Fourth Platoon mans an outpost and prepares defensive mortar fire.

On January 23 the Company moves back to Enchenberg for a short rest. As the town is over-crowded, Able is moved back to Glassenberg the next day and takes residence in houses there.

About Letter 174

Writing from the relative safety of a French farmhouse Bill notes that, "The news has been full of odd things. Maybe with the Soviet offensive rolling forward so fast and furiously the Germans will let us come in on the Western Front. I hope so. This mess can't end too soon for me."

Letter 174- January 28, 1945

January 28, 1945

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Another day—another letter. I wish I could do that every day. It gets me down more if I can’t write than it does if I don’t get any mail because I know how you look forward to my letters. Today has been one of wonderment to us. The news has been full of odd things. In sectors where a few days back the Jerries were attacking like the very devil now seem abandoned. The news reports are very sketchy but something’s up for sure. Maybe with the Soviet offensive rolling forward so fast and furiously the Germans will let us come in on the Western Front. I hope so. This mess can’t end too soon for me. And then the Pacific, I’m afraid. Many of the fellows over here swear they’ll only go over there at the point of a gun. That’s just so much talk, I suppose but if I have to go, I imagine it will embitter me considerably. There are still too many men back in the states who’ve had no overseas service at all. From the way our new men talk they’ve got plenty of troops still back in the States. Oh, I don’t know. In some ways I feel that all of us should go and finish things up in a hurry and in others I feel like we ought to get a break and get to come home. It wouldn’t be too bad if we were able to get back to the States for 6 months and get about 30 days furlough, but all they can talk about is going home by way of the Suez Canal. (Old “Yoo Hoo” Ben Lear, you know.) I hate to think about it.

I received a letter from you today dated the 9th. It was V-Mail and it took 18 days to get here. Airmail comes in 10 to 14 days generally.

Well, that about does it. I’ll close with another request for a package—cookies, candy bars, anything.

Bestus Love,

About Letter 173

Able Company is back at rest as Bill reports that "I've been having a pretty soft time of it for the last several days. All I've done is eat, sleep and listen to the news of Russian advances." He gets paid and is hopeful that he will soon make PFC. and receive a $5.00 monthly raise. Bill gets "P.A. Rations" which include 2 cans of beer which he trades for candy.

Letter 173- January 27, 1945

January 27, 1945

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Here I am again. Still hanging around. I’ve been having a pretty soft time for the last several days and I should have written more letters than I have. I guess I’ve been more or less in the midst of the reaction one generally feels when he’s back resting. All I’ve done is eat, sleep and listen to the news of the Russian advances. So far they seem amazing but I still have my doubts as to whether the drive will end the war. Everyone out here expects the worst and hopes for the best. It saves a lot of heartbreaks.

I’ve now finished the last of the edible contents of the 3 packages I’ve thus far received—a few candied peanuts—Oh me. That reminds me. I sure owe a lot of letters. I got one from Richard, Jesse, Mrs. Levinson, and then there’s your letters. I’ll try to answer them all today. By the way, Jesse also sent me a radiogram—had me worried when I first saw it.

I finally got paid the other day—first time since October. I want to send that old $40.00 check home now but the only way I can do it is to endorse the check and mail it. I don’t like that but if I carry it with me much longer I’ll lose it for sure. I think I’ll put it in this letter—I will. $40.00.

The next time I get paid I should draw combat pay and it’s barely possible that I may make P.F.C. before long. That would be another $5.00. If and when all this comes about I’ll change that $15.00 class “E” allotment to $30.00 or $50.00. If I change my bond allotment to $7.50 I can do that and still have a few francs for P.X. rations.

By the way, we got P.A. rations yesterday—2 cans of beer, 3 cigars, 5 Butterfingers, a box of gumdrops, a box of hard candy, and 6 pieces of Whitman’s chocolates. It’s too cold for beer for me so I traded them for candy. We’re supposed to get those rations every week but ha! ha! Everybody gets everything—That is, everybody but the frontline infantryman. I haven’t been eating so badly of late, however. Even had French toast this morning and I managed to do a little inveigling here and there.

Better close now. I’ll write again as soon as I can.

Bestus Love,

Sunday, December 27, 2009

About Letter 172

Bill is back in a warm house "toasting myself by a fire and generally enjoying myself." He apologizes for a 9 day delay between letters saying, "one can't write a letter when he's covered with snow and ice and has a couple of inch thick mittens on his hands." The toasty fire is great but Bill notes that, "the best thing of all is catching up on my sleep. In a foxhole one sleeps 2 hours and then stands guard 2 hours. You know how that works out."

Letter 172- January 23, 1945

January 23, 1945
(Somewhere in France)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Hmm! It’s been 9 days since I’ve been able to write you a letter but I know you’ve been following the doings of the 7th. in the papers and know that the weather on this front has been miserable to say the least. We’re well equipped but one can’t write a letter when he’s covered with snow and ice and has a couple of inch thick mittens on his hands. Oh! This is a rough life. When this thing is over I’m going to slug the first bird who says “what did you do during the war?” Really. When I was in the Engineers I had no idea just how rotten a deal the Infantry got. I think the extra $10.00 they give us is a because there’s not one man in a thousand who wouldn’t give all his pay and more to be in any other branch. We have 10 times harder a life than anyone else. At least one can certainly be proud of being an Infantryman. Most people don’t realize it but the combat infantry badge means a “helluva” lot more than things like wings and so forth. One has to go through hell to get the former.

Now for some good news. My Christmas finally arrived. The day before yesterday I got a box of cookies from Grandma and Jess. Boy oh boy! That fruitcake was moist and as fresh as if it had just been made. It was delicious. The other box contained the compass, candy, gum, game, etc. it’s sure swell. The box from State College was full of cookies and I must say they were expertly packed. Not one was broken, although the box had obviously taken quite a beating. Half the box was full of Tollhouse cookies and the other half was full of ginger cookies with sugar icing. I passed out some cookies and a very few pieces of fruitcake to fellows who had given me some of their packages, but mainly I feasted myself on the contents. It was the best eats I’ve had since I left home.

Today I’m again back in a warm house toasting myself by a fire and generally enjoying myself. The best thing of all, however is catching up on my sleep. In a foxhole one sleeps 2 hours and then stands guard 2 hours. You know how that works out. No one gets any sleep at all. Even now I find myself waking up at regular intervals during the night. Lying on the cold ground really does your kidneys a lot of dirt too.

We’re supposed to get P.X. rations today—2 cans of beer, some candy bars and cigars, etc. I’ll probably trade my beer and cigars for candy. I like beer, but I like candy better and as for the lousy cigar……

We’re in the midst of a “helluva” lot of overoptimistic speculation on the outcome of the current Russian offensive. Rumors have been rampant for the last several days. As for myself I’m suspicious of all the claims that are being made. These things have blown up in my face too often.

I certainly wish they’d try a little harder to get some news to us. Battalion or somebody stole a radio somewhere and they get radio news but by the time it’s passed by word of mouth down to me it’s so garbled and exaggerated that it’s worthless.

Getting pretty near chow time so I’d better cut this short.

Best Love

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Between the Lines: Bill in Combat- Life in a Foxhole

Existence in a foxhole at this time became a series of rituals, the most important of which was conversation. Men learned to know each other extraordinarily well, for they talked of the past, the future, their plans, their friends and families, politics, sex, hobbies, and anything else they could think about to pass the time. Each man’s hole was his little home, and friends would pay regular social calls- bringing their canned rations if they wished to stay for dinner. Preparing each meal became a ritual. One always had to discuss the time to eat, which can of rations to eat, (if there was a choice), the best way of heating, etc. As always, mail was the big event of the day, and if men received packages, they would share them with men in neighboring holes. Everyone read avidly anything he could lay his hands on. The “Stars and Stripes” was eagerly pounced on each day. However, these things could not relieve the continuous tension of necessary vigil nor could they help pass the endless numbingly cold nights. Then there were the long periods of depression and utter discouragement. The longer the time stretched out, the dirtier, more discouraged and weary the men became. It was a happy morning on January 11, when Company A evacuated their foxholes and pulled off to go back to Siersthal.

About Letter 171

Bill is in a warm, dry place in Siersthal, France "staying close to the fire" and recouperating from 27 consecutive days spent in a foxhole. He gets a "verbal spanking" from the censor and must rewrite the letter. In closing Bill rereads his letter and exclaims, "I must admit I've never found anything so garbled and disjointed. Must be my state of mind."

Letter 171- January 12, 1945

January 12, 1945
(Somewhere in France)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This is the second letter that I’ve written to you today. The first I had to tear up because it contained too much information. Don’t feel cheated, however. There was nothing good in it. Since then I received 4 letters from you—an airmail and 3 V-Mails. As usual the airmail came the fastest. I’ve finally decided that the only way we should work this mail is for you to write all your letters airmail and in each one or every other one enclose an airmail envelope with stamp, address and special delivery stamp too if you feel it’s worthwhile—and a couple sheets of paper. In that way, I’ll be able to write under almost any circumstances.

Well, after the verbal spanking I got this morning I guess you’ll have to be satisfied with the information that I’m feeling O.K and am now in a warm safe place.

Still no packages from you and is my tongue hanging out. The army chow certainly doesn’t hit the spot and the very thought of fruitcake, cookies and candy makes my tongue hang down to my shoe tops.

Saturday 13, ’45 -cont.
(Somewhere in France)

Interruptions—always interruptions. Well, it’s another day and I’m still waiting around. Everybody seems to be getting packages but me. There’s no use complaining I know, but as long as they’ve been coming I’ve had something to look forward to. You have no idea how much it means to have something like that to look forward to—even if it does take a month of Sundays. If you will it would mean an awful lot to me if you would keep something in the way of packages coming out at regular intervals. I don’t want you using up ration points or anything but a little candy, cookies, or whatever you have would make things a lot nicer over here. I’ll keep the requests coming in.

It’s a nice sunny day and cold so I’m staying close to the fire.

Let’s see what else I can write about. I’ll look over your latest letter.

Oh! I’m glad to hear you make the acquaintance of the Cottles. I like them all very much.

That about does it for now. It seems that I’ve written on both sides of the paper and that’s bad if the Lt. wants to do any censoring.

I just reread this damn thing and I must admit I’ve never found anything so garbled and disjointed. Must be my state of mind—“non compsmentis” or sumpin’”.

I’ll write again tomorrow if possible.


PS. I brought the stamp from the states originally so this is the 4th. time across for it.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Between the Lines: Bill in Combat Dec.22, 1944-Jan.11, 1945

Just before Christmas, warm winter clothing arrives at the front. The weather by now is extremely cold and miserable. Practically all the men have trenchfoot to some degree.

On Christmas Day the men enjoy a hot meal. At midnight the Germans attack several positions. Company A has no trouble and even captures two enemy prisoners. On December 27 the Company CP is moved to Reyersviller. The men have now been existing in holes for fourteen days in brutally cold weather.

At exactly midnight on January 1, 1945, the Germans start the New Year with a banging attack. Against many units this attack is bitterly and fanatically fought by the Germans. With thin, long-stretched lines it is necessary for Company A to withdraw. It is a bitter pill to swallow- the first loss of ground to the enemy. During the general confusion of the withdrawal the First Platoon is cut off from the Company. The platoon is finally able to take cover in three houses in Reyersviller. The town is now held by the Germans, but miraculously under the cover of darkness the platoon manages to slip out of the houses through the rear and make its way back to the American lines and Company A.

The Company assumes a new position above the Reyersviller-Siersthal road. This position on the wooded hillside above the road comes under continuous fire from German artillery and mortars. There is so much shelling that the trees are reduced to splinters. The new position becomes know by the men as the “Splinter Factory.” The whole area is covered with two to three feet of snow. It is bitterly cold. The men have now been on the line in holes continuously for 27 days, living for most of the time on field rations. Everyone is bearded and dirty. Finally, on 11 January 1945 Able Company is relieved by F Company. The unbelieving but grateful men are marched back to Siersthal for a short rest.

About Letter 170

Bill writes to his worried parents after 10 days between letters. He says that "Really it was unavoidable. In 3 more days I will have spent an entire month in a foxhole on the lines." Bill describes his appearance saying, "You should see the beard I've got. About 3/8" long and red. It would be even redder if I wasn't so dirty. I look sompin' fierce."

Letter 170- January 10, 1945

January 10, 1945

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’m sending this airmail to you with the slight hope that it will make good time and save you a little worry. Even so it’ll be almost 10 days between letters for you and I realize that it’s an awfully long time. Really, however, it was unavoidable. In 3 more days I will have spent an entire month in a foxhole on the lines. It could have been worse but it certainly hasn’t been very pleasant. For the last 10 days the weather’s been godawful with cold and snow and to tell the truth I just couldn’t write. The mail I’ve received from you has been spotty for the last few days but in general it’s been coming pretty good. Yesterday I got V-Mails 50 & 51 from you Dad, however, I got a regular airmail from you, Mudder that was mailed Dec. 22 on Jan. 1. I think that about cinches it for airmail. T’ hell with V-Mail. I more or less have to use it out here but if they can’t do better than that there’s no reason why you should use the stuff. Still no packages but now’s about time to make a request. If you want I’d like to have those vitamin tablets and food anytime. Tell the postal people to let you send it or I’ll murder them personally. After all the waiting I’ve done on them already I don’t want any o their lip. I wouldn’t be surprised if packages mailed to this address wouldn’t get here before my Christmas stuff. If you think it would keep I’d like some of that orange bread. Oh! Hell you know what I like—candy, cookies, just almost anything good to eat. I won’t turn it down. Ha!

You should see the beard I’ve got. About 3/8 inch long and red. It would be even redder if my face wasn’t so dirty. You should really get a load of me. You’d probably disown me. I look sumpin’ fierce.

I’ve lots more to write but I’d better close for now. Hope everything’s “tolerble” with you.

Best Love,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

About Letter 169

Bill's disillusionment is beginning to show. He writes, "Daddy says that he is becoming more isolationistic. I'll bet not half so much as I. These Europeans want us here like I want hives. They just aren't like us."

Letter 169- December 29, 1944

December 29, 1944

Dear Mudder & Dad,

Received another letter from you this morning. They’re coming quite regularly now and they sure pep me up. The god awful thing about this war to me is the distance, both in time and space that I’m away from you. However, these letters are now arriving in 12 & 13 days and that’s OK.

Daddy says that he was becoming more isolationistic. I’ll bet not half so much as I. These Europeans want us here like I want hives. They just aren’t like us. They just live from day to day not caring who gives the orders as long as they don’t. I really don’t think we can establish any lasting peace over here.

That’s enough orating. No packages yet, dammit. I’m getting mad. Some of these bums back in rear echelon aren’t on the ball. If I had such a nice job like they I’d do something to deserve it.

Bestus Love,

About Letter 168

The war news continues to be bad. Bill cites a newspaper headline of December 25 which announces that "IN 3 DAYS NAZIS RETAKE LOSSES OF 3 MONTHS". He gloomily states that " It's just like a kick in the face."

Letter 168- December 28, 1944

December 28, 1944
(France; V-Mail)

Dearest Mudder & Dad,

Well, it’s 3 days after Christmas now. I’ve got a newspaper dated the 25th. here right now. “GERMANS 20 MILES FROM SEDAN.” “IN 3 DAYS NAZIS RETAKE LOSSES OF 3 MONTHS.” It’s just like a kick in the face. Even the pessimistic thought it would be over by late spring or early summer at the very worst, but now what? I hope things’ll be better by the time you get this.

Still no packages although mail is coming through fine. The weather continues cold but sunny so life isn’t too miserable. Haven’t been feeling so well today, however. Same cold thing I was in the hospital at Abbot with. I guess I’m not getting enough of the right kind of food. Hope you both are well.

Best Love,

Friday, December 11, 2009

About Letter 167

Bill continues his previous letter. With nothing else to do he reviews his financial situation and discovers that, " I counted $66.00 more than when I left the states." He adds that, "I now make $70.00 a month and have absolutely nothing on which I can spend it."

Letter 167- December 26, 1944-2

December 26, 1944-2
(France; V-Mail)
(part two)

Dear Folks,

I received your # 36 letter of Dec. 8th. Mudder, and you’re pretty near right about my finances. I counted $66.00 more than I had when I left the states plus the $7.00 aunt Marge sent makes me a millionaire, especially when one considers that I now make $70.00 a month and have absolutely nothing on which I can spend it.

The V-Mail comes about as fast as does airmail this way but I like airmail better. I would write airmail myself but I have no envelopes and my stamps are all ruined. If you send me any more stamps or stationery send also some sort of stiff waterproof case for me to carry them in. That’s about all.

Bestus Love,

About Letter 166

It's the day after Christmas. The men get a Christmas day meal that Bill says, "for the front lines wasn't too bad." The weather was clear and sunny, but cold. In the evening Bill manages to get 2 cans of American beer and some cocktail peanuts.

Letter 166- December 26, 1944

December 26, 1944
(France; V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This probably won’t be a very long letter because it’s still pretty cold and my fingers will probably get stiff. Yesterday was Christmas, of course; but one would hardly know it. Still, for the front lines it wasn’t too bad. It was clear and sunny all day though the temp. hardly got above 32◦ all day long. We had a nice Crhistmas dinner (look how I spelled that) but there wasn’t enough. I got a neck. We had enough potatoes, cranberries, beets, raison pie, bread and butter, apple butter, & hard candy, however. Later in the evening I got 2 cans of American beer & some cocktail peanuts. Beer and peanuts is a good combination and I really enjoyed it. Then this morning I got a chance to buy 7 bars of American candy; Hershey almonds, Butterfingers, etc.—the first since I left England. I’ve only one bar left. You guessed it, no packages yet. However, one of the other kids got a nice fruitcake and gave me two nice pieces, and to overwork “nice” completely, I think it was damned “nice” of him. I figure that whenever the package comes that’s Christmas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

About Letter 165

In a rare and perhaps unguarded moment Bill make an allusion to the "dangerous life" he is living. He says that the war news is the "worst I've heard yet" .... "RUNSTEDT 35 MILES INSIDE BELGIUM."

Letter 165- December 24, 1944-2

December 24, 1944-2
(France; V-Mail)

(part 2)
Dear Mudder and Dad,

In case you didn’t get part one, I’m feeling fine “all stuff like that there.”

Received a letter from Jess the other day in which she said now I was living “dangerously” like Bob Hughes. I had to laugh at that. I don’t know what Bob’s doing but I only wish I were living his dangerous life. I know she means well, however. She said she sent a couple of packages. I thought that was nice.

I just received the latest news. “RUNSTEDT 35 MILES INSIDE BELGIUM.” That’s bad. The worst I’ve heard yet. Please write as much as possible—what you had for dinner—if it was washday—anything. Well, all my love.


About Letter 164

It's the day before Christmas and Bill is still "up on the lines" on the ridges above the Citadel of Bitche. The weather has become very cold as the men await word on the "big German drive up north."

Letter 164- December 24, 1944

December 24, 1944
(France; V-mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Yes, it’s the day before Christmas, and I’m still up on the lines. I had some hope for being back for tomorrow but I guess that’s too much to expect. The weather’s become very cold during the last few days but I have enough heavy clothing to get by. I received three letters from you during the last 2 days—I should say 4, dated the 6, 7, & 9 of Dec. and the 21 of Oct. Two letters from you dad, were numbers 21 & 43. You can see how the mail’s coming in. I know you’ll be disappointed but I still haven’t received any packages. Considering how long ago you sent them, it’s a damn shame. I wish I knew whether or not we’re winning this war. The news we get is three or four days old and with all the hush-hush about the big German drive up north it’s getting me down. “The American soldier is the best informed in the world.”----------PFFFFT.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

About Letter 163

Bill has been at the front for about 20 days now, the past week in " a wet, cold foxhole." He tells his folks that " I'm what is called a Combat Infantryman."

Letter 163- December 21, 1944

December 21, 1944
(France; V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Just a note to let you know I’m still all right. All week we’ve been laying around. Yes, I’ve been lying in a nice wet, cold foxhole. I haven’t mentioned it before but I’ve been at the front for about 20 days now. I’m what is called a Combat Infantryman. You know, one of those guys who wears a badge and gets $70.00 a month. To me that extra $10.00 seems grimly ironic. I’ve not been anywhere I could spend one lousy franc for the last month.

I see where the war news has been rather bad for the last few days. I guess this winter’s going to be pretty rough. Well….

Best Love,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Between the Lines: Bill in Combat Dec.14-21, 1944

On the morning of December 14 Company A. is ordered to move out toward Bitche. The march is made in the morning by way of Lemberg and the heights outside of Bitche are taken without opposition. The company digs in. About noon a patrol from the Second Platoon is sent into the city. After successfully penetrating the outskirts of Bitche the patrol is detected by the enemy, fired upon, and forced to withdraw, leaving one man behind and listed as Missing in Action. The patrol captures two prisoners and returns to report that the enemy defensive positions are strong with many troops. The Company remains on the surrounding hills and helps set up an observation post in the 1st. Battalion sector which gives a remarkably clear view of Bitche and the primary objective on a prominent hill at the center of town called the Citadel.

The Company is well dug in. The weather is cold. The men expect to attack the next morning. The attack does not come and everyone expects the order will come at dusk. Again the attack doesn’t come and the infantrymen must stay in position, in foxholes as much as 50 yards apart.

Once again, on the morning of Dec. 16 the men expect to launch an attack at daybreak and once again there is no attack. The men are surprised that an assault is not forthcoming. Instead they remain entrenched along the ridges above Bitche with a terrific yardage of front to cover defensively.

Unbeknownst to the men of Bill’s Company the reason for the 100th Division’s drive stopping outside Bitche is the now famous “Battle of the Bulge” up north. Because of the strength shifted to the north, the Seventh Army must take over a part of the Third Army’s sector and go strictly on the defensive.

About Letter 162

The weather is cold but fairly clear. Reports are that "evidently the Jerries are taking it on the chin." Bill reports that he is well.

Letter 162- December 16, 1944

December 16, 1944
(France; V-Mail))

Dear Mudder and Dad,

In the last 2 days I’ve received seven letters from you. The last one was dated on November 11. They had been addressed to the 210th. and forwarded directly to this division. You have just no idea how much they meant to me. I know it hasn’t been your fault and that you have been making a great effort in letter writing, but when I go so long without mail I feel as if I were lost or something.

The weather’s been cold and fairly clear for the last few days and evidently the Jerries are taking it on the chin. If it’ll only stay this way for a while the Krauts are licked.

That’s about all I have to say for now. I’m well.

Bestus Love,

About Letter 161

Co. A is using the pause in combat to train. "All morning we ran up and down hill putting on a demonstration for the rest of the battalion" Bill remarks, adding that it was tiring, but "one can never learn too much when it comes to war."

Letter 161- December 13, 1944

December 13, 1944
(France; V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

If this doesn’t look like my handwriting it’s because I cut my thumb and am holding my pen between my second and third fingers.

Not much to write today except that they’ve got us back in training. All morning we ran up and down hill putting on a demonstration for the rest of the battalion. It was very instructive but tiring. However, one can never learn too much when it comes to war sooo--.

It hasn’t rained all day today and yesterday evening the sun shone for a couple of hours. I still can’t believe it.

No mail for 3 days now. It wouldn’t be so bad if the postal people didn’t brag so much about getting the mail through. Just like Hollywood, bragging about the new movies they send overseas. The one I saw last night I saw before I came in the army.

End of paper.

Best Love,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

About Letter 160

In this, his third letter of the day from a schoolhouse in St. Louis les Bitche, Bill is down in the dumps after reading "Stars and Stripes". The war seems to be dragging on and reports indicate that the Germans are "training new armies and producing great stores of equipment." Unbeknownst to Bill the great German Ardennes offensive is just 4 days away.

Letter 160- December 12, 1944-3

December 12, 1944-3
(France; V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I said I’d write this afternoon if I received any mail from you. Well, I didn’t but I’ll write anyway. I have just finished reading the Stars and Stripes for yesterday and as a result I’m pretty far down in the dumps. We don’t seem to be getting anywhere with this war. They talk about Germany training new armies and producing great stores of equipment. Out drives seem so damned slow and to top that they talk of Japan fighting on for years. I get so damned sick of it all. Last September it sounded like everything was over but the shouting, but since then as each day goes by the prospects of a long war becomes clearer. We tell one another that it’ll be over by Christmas, etc. but I don’t believe that any of us really think so.

Well, they’re calling us out for some kind of a demonstration. It’s always “sumpin.”

I think I’ll write Jess and see if I can get a rise out of them.

Best Love,

About Letter 159

Bill continues to enjoy several days of rest with his unit in a schoolhouse at St. Louis les Bitche, France. He gets a hot bath exclaiming, "Hot water-oh boy! What luxury!"

Letter 159- December 12, 1944-2

December 12, 1944-2
(France; V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Yesterday I wrote you a letter and dated it the 12th. I was wrong so here’s another dated the 12th. It seems that we may stay in the place for several days so I guess I’ll be able to catch up a little with my letter writing. We’re situated in a schoolhouse so I’m able to obtain ink, paper, pencils and all other necessary paraphernalia (did I spell that right?). We’re not doing much of anything at all except catching up on our sleep, eating and writing.

Everybody’s getting back mail so I think those packages might come along any time—I hope, I hope. If I receive anything this afternoon I’ll write again.

Need I mention the weather?

Yesterday I got another bath. Hot water—oh boy! What luxury! Now, if I could only get some clean clothes.

My space here now is just about gone so I’ll have to close.

Best Love’

Saturday, November 21, 2009

About Letter 158

Bill writes from St. Louis les Bitche where Company A. rests for several days following nine days of combat. He apologies for not writing saying, "it's really impossible to do so under the circumstances." With contempt he notes that "The Jerries won't fight in the open country. They like to fight in towns where they can stay in warm houses while our men freeze outside of towns in foxholes."

Letter 158- December 12, 1944

December 12, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

It’s been too long since I wrote my last letter, I know; but it’s really impossible to do better under the circumstances. The officer who does the censoring hasn’t the time and the facilities are practically nil. I’ll do the best I can but I can almost promise that it won’t be good enough.

After all this time I finally got some mail from you—4 letters. You know how I must feel. Maybe I’ll get some packages soon now. We’re having our first snow in this part of France now. Just sloppy miserable weather all the time. Jimmy Chune wasn’t fooling.

When this damn thing is over I think I will go to Death Valley and live so I won’t ever have to see any rain.

Only a few more days until Christmas now. It’s hard to think of Christmas over here away from home. As far as I’m concerned it just isn’t anything at all. Oh well! A lot of people over here think it’ll be over by then. I figure that it’s always better to look on the brighter side of things. It would be a swell Christmas present.

Did you get my Christmas card? The regt. passed them out. I thought that was rather nice.
I haven’t heard any news for quite some time again. I believe that no one knows less about the war than the poor G.I. that fights the damn thing.

Well, excuse this terrible writing but a pen will cut right through this lousy paper.

This part of France is very pretty if a person gets his mind off his sore feet long enough to notice it. It’s much like the forest country in California except for the large number of little towns. The towns themselves would be very picturesque if it wasn’t for the fact that they’ve had the hell knocked out of them. The Jerries won’t fight in the open country. They like to fight in towns where they can stay in warm cellars while our men freeze outside of towns in foxholes—the polecats.

Well, I’ll close now. I’ll write again as soon as I can.

Best Love,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Between the Lines: Bill in Combat Dec.1-12, 1944

The first day of December is clear and sunny. Bill’s unit, Company A, First Battalion, 399th. Infantry Regiment, 100th. Infantry Division, U.S. Seventh Army is in reserve resting in Schneckenbusch, a small town outside of Saarbourg, France. Bill is one of a number of Replacement Soldiers who join the 399th during this time. He uses the break to send home a Christmas card and acclimate himself to his new surroundings.

At dawn of December 3 the Regiment moves out northward across the Lorrainian Plains toward the Little Vosges Mountains. Ahead lay the Maginot and Siegfried Lines. The Regiment rolls northward for three days fighting horizontal rainstorms in addition to enemy mortar and artillery. Bill and Company A spend the night of December 4th in the village of Petersbach, taking over houses for the night.

Chow is served promptly at 0700 on the morning of December 5 and at 0730 Company A moves out toward Tiffenbach. They encounter small arms fire along the way taking no casualties and no prisoners. The night is spent in Tiffenbach.

After a hot breakfast in the morning of December 6 Bill moves out along the road to Wingen. The day’s march is relatively uneventful and Company A is billeted in Wingen for the night.

On the morning of 7 December Bill’s Company makes a long climb up the hill toward Goetzenbrock which they reach at noon. The platoons are moved into buildings to await further orders when they are hit by a barrage of German 88’s. It is the first heavy shelling Bill is to experience in combat. Fortunately there are no casualties. Ahead lay Lemberg.

The following morning, December 8, 1944, after eating hot chow Bill moves out under intermittent shelling from 88’s. The objective for the day is to move onto the high ground southwest of Lemberg and secure it. Flak guns and mortars smash onto the road where the troops advance. Adding to the difficulties booby traps and mines are encountered. Despite casualties Company A secures its position and digs in along the ridge near Lemberg where it will spend an exceptionally dark, cold and wet night. The official Division history will note that this position was “captured and held against great odds.”

At noon, the ninth of December, the Company is relieved by elements of the 398th Infantry. After a four hour rest Bill and his fellow infantrymen move south of the St. Louis-Lemberg Road in the attack on Lemberg, entering the town at dusk. The enemy, occupying unsecured high ground rakes the troops with heavy fire of all kinds. Company A engages in house-to-house fighting with the German defenders. Under strength, the unit can only progress so far, and finally establishes outpost houses for the remainder of the night. During the night, “Jerry” snipers and burp gunners, aided by the illumination of burning buildings, sweep the streets with gunfire.

On the morning of 10 December the Company moves through Lemberg clearing it of snipers and taking prisoners. The remainder of the day is spent in houses on the north edge of town. Interdictory fire from enemy 88’s continue throughout the day and into the night.

At 1600 the next afternoon Company A (Able Company) receives orders to move to the rear for rest and reorganization. The nights of December 11 and 12 are spent in houses in St. Louis les Bitche. It is here that Bill writes his next several letters as he rests, reorganizes and trains for the drive on the bastion of the Maginot Line, the city fortress of Bitche.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

About Letter 157

Still enjoying the comforts of a warm building as Company A remains in reserve, Bill sends home an official 399th. Infantry Regiment Christmas card along with a 20 franc note as a souvenir.

Letter 157- December 1, 1944

December 1, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Here’s hoping this is my last Christmas away from you. The 20 francs (enclosed) are for a souvenir. That’s about all it’s good for.

(Christmas card)

France 1944

Merry Christmas
Happy New Year


399th. INF. REGT

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

About Letter 156

Bill thinks it's "swell" that he is finally with his outfit, Company A, 399th. Infantry Regiment. He says, "I was getting awfully tired of being a replacement." The weather is foul as usual but Bill says, "I'm inside a warm building so I don't give a hoot and holler."

Letter 156- November 29, 1944

November 29, 1944
(France V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Still a movin’ around and I haven’t the slightest idea where I’m going. It’s sure swell to be with an outfit, however. I was getting awfully tired of being a replacement.

It’s another of those sloppy, dark, rainy days so typical over here. Fortunately I’m inside a warm building so I don’t give a hoot and holler.

I’m all out of touch with the news again and as always when soldiers can’t get news rumor runs rampant. Entire German armies have surrendered. The Wehrmacht is supposed to give up to a man on Dec. 1 etc., etc.

No mail yet. It’s better than a month now. I should start getting it before long. Sure am lonesome for a letter. As soon as I get one or two I’ll be able to write a decent letter.
I am feeling fine. I’ll write as often as possible.

Best Love,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

About Bill's Battleground-The Vosges Mountains

The Vosges Mountain range constituted the toughest terrain on the Western Front of WWII. In the south the High Vosges rise to peaks of four thousand feet or more. Combined with the Low Vosges to the north the mountain chain runs parallel to the Rhine River along the broad, flat Alsatian Plain for about ninety miles, becoming ever more rugged as they descend to the northern terminus near the Lauter River.

The Low Vosges where Bill fought combined with the Rhine River created a highly defensible natural barrier for the German forces arrayed against the Allied invaders. The mountain peaks afforded outstanding long-range fields of fire in all directions. Thick vegetation also compounded the American’s difficulties. The vast forests provided concealment to the Germans. Since they were ensconced on the commanding high ground and the Americans were advancing from the low areas the vegetation clearly favored the defender in infantry combat.

Adding to the misery of Bill and his fellow infantrymen was the physical demands of mountainous terrain on the human body. The typical G.I carried about forty-two pounds of equipment. With this load, maneuver up the 15 to 30 percent slopes of the Vosges range induced physical stress that was literally hundreds of times greater than that created by fighting in the relatively flat terrain of Normandy, Belgium or central France. Such a situation clearly favored the sedentary and sheltered conditions of the defenders.

Despite the many obstacles Bill and his fellow soldiers faced in three months of savage fighting, the U.S. Seventh Army did what no army in the history of modern warfare had ever done before—conquer an enemy defending the Vosges Mountains.

Friday, November 13, 2009

About Letter 155

Bill is transported by a "40 and 8" train to his permanent unit saying,"If I never hear one of those rattletraps again it'll be too soon." He gets his first bath in France. He asks, "I wonder where Hitler is? That's becoming a big question."

Letter 155- November 26, 1944

France November 26, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I figure I’ll write this so that you’ll be sure and get my new address.

Co. “A” 399th. Inf. A.P.O. 447
c/o P.M. New York, N.Y.

This is about the forth letter I’ve sent with this address. I know damned well that at least one should get through pretty fast. I’ll try and send this one Airmail Special.

Well, things are beginning to speed up again over here. Everyone is talking about getting the war over by Christmas. I hope so, but after the letdown we got in Sept.when everyone thought there was nothing left but the cheering has left me a little wary.

The weather is as bad as ever. It’s too bad because everyone thinks that a couple of weeks of bombing weather would just about wash Jerry up.

I wonder where Hitler is? That’s becoming a big question. I wonder if those dumb Krauts ever think about it.

The other day I got my first bath in France. Wow! Did I need it. Facilities over here are not all that’s desired. There’s at least on consolation. Everyone else is just as dirty as me.

When the war is over there’s one thing I don’t want you to mention and that’s a “40 and 8”. If I never hear one of those rattletraps again it’ll be too soon.

That about does it. I feel well and “stuff like that there”. Please write as soon as possible.

Best Love

About the 100th. Infantry Division

The 100th Infantry Division, known also as “The Century Division” was activated on November 15, 1942 at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. It was organized around the 397th, 398th, and 399th Infantry Regiments and supported by various artillery, engineer, medical, M.P, quartermaster, ordinance, reconnaissance, and signal supporting units.

The division sailed for Europe on October 6, 1944 and arrived at Marseille, France on October 20. There it was made part of VI Corps of the Seventh United States Army.

As soon as the Division was prepared for combat, it moved into the Meurthe-et-Moselle region, and sent its first elements into combat at St. Remy in the Vosges Mountains on 1 November 1944. On 5 November the Century Division assumed control of the sector and prepared to further engage the enemy. The attack jumped off on 12 November, and the division drove against the German Winter Line in the Vosges Mountains. The 100th took Bertrichamps and Clairupt, pierced the German line, and seized Raon-l'√Čtape and Saint-Blaise between 16 November and 26 November.

In late November the division moved into the Vosges region. Elements assisted in holding the Saverne Gap bridgehead while the bulk of the division went into reserve. The unit was relieved from assignment to VI Corps and transferred to the US XV Corps on 27 November 1944. It then moved into the Moselle region. At this time Bill was transferred from his Replacement Soldier unit and permanently attached to Company A, 399th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

About Letter 154

In a private letter to Dad, Bill advises that "tomorrow I'm going into combat." He tells him that "you know better than I how mother would take it." In closing Bill tells his father, "don't worry. From now on I'm going to do a 'helluva' lot of plain and fancy taking care of myself."

Letter 154- November 25, 1944-3

November 25, 1944-3
(France V-Mail)

Dear Dad,

Tomorrow I’m going into combat. As I gather things are pretty rough in this sector right now. That about covers all I know, but I do want you to know how things stand. You know better than I how mother would take it.

I have already written another V-Mail home and will try and get an airmail off if possible. Don’t worry. From now on I’m going to do a “helluva” lot of plain and fancy taking care of myself.

Best Love,

P.S. You keep my car running good.

About Letter 153

Bill says "things are moving awfully fast now." He is somewhere in eastern France. He cautions that he may not write very often.

Letter 153- November 25, 1944-2

November 25, 1944-2
(France V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This is my permanent address:

[Co. “A” 399th. Inf.
A.P.O 446]

I can’t say what Division I’m with yet or exactly where. Generally, I am in eastern France. I can tell you where I’ve been recently. I landed at Le Harve. We were some of the first American troops in there. From Le Harve we went to Belgium and finally to Givet. On the border from there we came here. I hope all the above was O.K. They said so.

Lots of love. I’m a little pressed for time so I’d better close. Don’t worry if I don’t write very often. Things are moving awfully fast now.

Best Love,

About Letter 152

Bill writes on the back of "some French Kid's homework." He is permanently attached to Co. A, 399th. Infantry Regiment.

Letter 152- November 25, 1944

November 25, 1944

Dear Folks,

You can see from the good stationery that I wrote this on the spur of the moment. Those numbers on the other side are some French kid’s homework.
This is really just a copy of a V-Mail letter I wrote early this evening. All I have to say is I’m with an outfit somewhere. My permanent address is:

[Co. “A” 399th. Inf. A.P.O. 447
c/o P.M. New York]

Best Love,

Saturday, November 7, 2009

About the U. S. Seventh Army

The U. S. Seventh Army was the first American formation of Field Army size to see combat in World War II. The Army was formed on 10 July 1943 to provide headquarters for American forces in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. During the campaign, it was commanded by (Then) Lieutenant General George S. Patton. It landed on the left flank of the Allied forces. The Seventh Army’s role in the plan for conquering Sicily was envisaged as being a protecting force for the left wing of the British Eighth under Gen. Bernard Montgomery. In the end, it played a far more important role. Most of Sicily was liberated by American forces, and Patton's Army rendezvoused with that of Montgomery in capturing the crucial city of Messina, Italy, the nearest point on Sicily to the mainland of Italy.

After the Sicily operation the Seventh Army was taken out of the frontline and transferred into the 6th Army Group. Its next action was the invasion of the south of France, code named Operation Dragoon on August 15, 1944 (Bill's 19th. birthday). This was conceived as a help to Eisenhower's forces fighting in Normandy by outflanking German forces in France.

Dragoon was instrumental in the rapid liberation of Southern France and providing new supply ports. It was successful as an amphibious assault. Three divisions of the Seventh Army landed. The assault forces included units of the French First Army. With French and American forces established ashore in significant numbers, the Seventh Army and the French First Army were placed under 6th. Army Group headquarters. This Army Group took up its position on the right wing of the forces on the Western Front.

The Seventh Army succeeded in fighting its way through the heavily defended natural geography of the Vosges Mountains, and emerged onto the Alsatian Plain in late November, 1944. About this time Bill was permanently attached to the U.S Seventh Army.

About Letter 151

Bill is assigned to the U.S. Seventh Army. He can say no more but hopes to give his permanent A.P.O. with his next letter. He spends his second Thanksgiving away from home.

Letter 151- November 24, 1944

November 24, 1944
(France V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

You see again it’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to write you. By the address you’ll see that I’ve moved again. I’ll be moving again soon but by the time you get this letter I probably will be with a regular outfit. Don’t write this address as my next letter will probably give my permanent A.P.O, etc.

I can say, however, that I’m with the Seventh Army. They’ll probably censor that but I was told it was O.K.

Had a pretty nice Thanksgiving yesterday—no kidding. All the turkey and trimmings I could eat and an orchestra to boot. I also went to church and a movie in the evening. Not bad for France, Huh? Almost a month since I got any mail from you. Sure’ll be glad when it catches up with me.


About Letter 150

It's Saturday and Bill is undergoing "the same silly training we had in England." The paper says that " the big drive is on with 6 or 7 armies going at once." As usual Bill is dreaming of boxes from home.

Letter 150- November 18, 1944

November 18, 1944
(France V—Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Today’s Sat. and we’re supposed to have a holiday tomorrow. So far this week we’ve had the same silly training we had in England. Anything to get a guy all wet and muddy. Then after hiking about 15 miles during a day we came back to a meal that wouldn’t fill a cavity. All of which makes me think more about those boxes. I’ll probably get them sometime next Easter but I still can’t help drooling.

From what we read in the paper it looks like the big drive is on with 6 or seven armies going at once. I’ll bet there are a lot of “Krauts” who wish they’d never been born now. I hear that Wall St. is betting 100 to 1 that it’ll be over after the holidays. Hope so!

Best Love,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

About Letter 149

Bill says "It sure is an interesting place where I'm stationed....and you don't know anything about it. " He sarcastically remarks that "I guess your not interested anyway" as the Captain told the men that the home folks only want to know that the soldiers are well. "Baloney" according to Bill.

Letter 149- November 16, 1944

November 16, 1944
(France V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

It’s sure an interesting place where I’m now stationed. Every day I learn more and more of interest and you don’t know anything about it. I guess you aren’t interested anyway. The Capt. said all the people at home want to hear is that the soldiers are well—baloney, huh?

We had a movie here last night. It was “The Impatient Years” with Jean Arthur—very good but the lousy French electricity made the damned thing fail about every 10 minutes. I’ve got to go on K.P. tomorrow so goodnight.


Best Love,


About Letter 148

Bill is finally deployed to France. In this, his second letter from the continent he comments, "Podunk would look better." Rumor has it that "Patton is going at it hot and heavy again."

Letter 148- November 14, 1944

November 14, 1944
(France V-Mail)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This is my second letter to you from France. I believe I’ll start numbering my letters too. Things are getting a little more settled here. This place certainly is not my idea of heaven. It could be a “helluva” lot worse, however. These letters from overseas are as informative as hell, aren’t they? There’s one thing I can say though and that is, don’t ever let anyone sell you on a trip to Europe. Podunk would look better.

I haven’t heard any news for about a week now, only rumors. The war could be over for all I know. Fat chance, huh? According to the last rumor that wafted my way Gen. Patton is going at it hot and heavy again. I hope so. The war sure has lasted a lot longer than any of us would have thought possible last Sept. I guess it could last for a long time yet.

Chances are that it’ll be quite some time before I get any mail from you. Sure am getting lonely for some.

Best Love,

Sunday, November 1, 2009

About Letter 147

Bill's unit is moving out. Due to censorship he cannot provide any details saying, "as usual we're obliged not to say where or when or how." Bill attends a British vaudeville show he discribes as "so rotten it was pitiful."

Letter 147- November 2, 1944

November 2, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’m sending this air-mail special delivery in the forlorn hope that it’ll catch up with my last letter. I rather doubt whether or not it will. You see the censoring and mail handling is mixed up now so it’s impossible to get mail through in very great quantity or with any regularity. I have received only two letters from you recently—the last being no. 17. I had letters 18 and 19 several days before.

We’re going to be moved out. As usual we’re obliged not to say where or when or how so there’s not a “helluva” lot if elaboration that I can go into.

Haven’t done much lately outside of the usual routine. I’ve washed clothes and gone to a couple of shows in the evening. The other night I went to a vaudeville show (British). It was strictly from hunger. It was so rotten it was pitiful.

I’ve got to cut this short for the sake of the censor.

Best Love,

About Letter 146

Bill sends home an early Christmas present. He wraps it in in a seperate note with a message to the censor saying, "Censor-Please rewrap."

Letter 146- November 1, 1944

November 1, 1944

Dear Mudder,

This is just something by way of a souvenir and a minor Christmas present. Hope you like it. It isn’t much but it’s about the best I could do considering the marvelous choice of stuff they’ve got over here.

Well, Merry Christmas and stuff like that there.

Best Love,

(wrapped note here)

About Letter 145

Christmas packages are beginning to arrive in the Company but Bill has yet to receive one. To cheer himself up he goes to a movie but it doesn't seem to do the trick. He closes saying "you don't want to hear any more morbid stuff so I'll sign off now."

Letter 145- October 29, 1945

October 29, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Today or rather I should say tonight is Sunday. I didn’t write a letter yesterday because I knew they wouldn’t send out the mail ‘till Monday anyhow.

This evening I went out to the movies to see if I couldn’t cheer myself up a little. I didn’t particularly want to sit around and mope either. I’ve got K.P. tomorrow now and that doesn’t make me feel any too happy anyhow.

Christmas packages are beginning to arrive in the company now but I haven’t received any. They’ve got to come soon.

I did receive two letters from you yesterday, however-#18 and 19. They were both postmarked the 17th. You didn’t ask much in the way of questions so there’s not much to answer.

As usual there’s not much doing these days. It’s maddening never to be able to do anything I personally want to do. Really this army gets more and more difficult to stomach every day. Always being told when and how you can do a thing, the boredom, the everlasting inefficiency and stupidity. Maybe I’ve got too sensitive a nature or something but I’m so goddam sick and tired of it. I can imagine how those in the fighting must feel.

I’m going to try and send something home for Christmas. I don’t know how or what but I think it’ll make me feel better.

You don’t want to hear any more morbid stuff so I’ll sign off now. Hope you are in better humor than I.

Best Love

P.S. Got the rest of the stamps.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

About Letter 144

War news from the Pacific is good. MacArthur has "returned" to the Philippines and the Allies have defeated the Japanese in a series of major naval battles at Leyte Gulf. Bill is hoping for Dewey to defeat Roosevelt in the upcoming election and laments that he can't get more election news. Tonight he has a "night problem."

Letter 144- October 27, 1944

October 27, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

The army is sure doing it’s damndest to try and keep me from doing my letter writing. Tonight we’ve got a night problem. You know—going out into black night and fogging around with a compass. If I don’t fall in a hole somewhere and break my leg, I’ll be doing okay.

Well, it won’t be long ‘til the holiday season. I know, Thanksgiving is still some time away, but we’re beginning to think about getting cards and so forth. All of which makes the poor mistreated soldier more homesick than ever—if that is possible.

It’ll be just about election time when you get this, from what the papers say Dewey is making some pretty strong speeches. I hope they make some effect. There’s not much known over here, but it seems to be thought that Roosevelt will win by a very narrow margin. I wish that I were closer and knew a little more of what is going on.

Well, (too many wells around here) I seems we’ve won a great battle in the Philippines. Even the British papers give it top billing. They say that it will shorten the Pacific war considerably. I hope so. Maybe then I could get home before I have a gray beard draggin’ on the floor.

I sure hope those packages come soon. I’m getting hungry for some good food and stuff.

We’re going to have to fall out in a few minutes so I’ll close now.

Bestus Love,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

About Letter 143

Bill is planning to see an on post exhibit of a captured German 88 mm gun, considered to be Germany's most deadly weapon. He also plans to go to the cinema with Fred Roberts. It's foggy but Bill says "that's better'n rain."

Letter 143-October 26, 1944

October 26,

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Haven’t received any mail from you for several days. I’ll probably get a whole lot of it at once again. I don’t like it but that’s the way it goes. This won’t be the long letter I promised last night but it’s this way. Fred Roberts is here and wants me to go over to the cinema with him. Also I want to see an exhibition of captured enemy equipment that they have on the post. I especially want to see the German 88 mm gun, which we consider Germany’s most deadly weapon.

The rain hasn’t been so bad of late. There’s a “hellova” lot of fog but that’s better’n rain. It’s still no good, however.

Well, Fred is here and he’s a pesting me to hurry so I’ll have to quit. This is no letter but you said to write even if only a word or two.

Best Love,

About Letter 142

The army is conducting a periodic "E.T.O. Roundup"-the picking up of AWOL soldiers, so Bill is on restriction. He says there is a terrific air of expectancy. "Everyone feels it but no one knows what it is."

Letter 142- October 25, 1944

October 25, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Well, here I am again. Wot a pest, huh? I’m now going to attempt to write a letter despite a rather noisy poker game being fought out right next to me. If you suddenly find a full house or two in this letter, you’ll know I got a little “confoozed”.

Life is just as boring as ever around here and to make things worse we’re restricted due to the periodical “E.T.O. Roundups”—picking up AWOL’s. so, “as fer usual” there’s not much to write about. Some fellows can think up the most interesting pack of lies to put in their letters but I just can’t do it. T’aint right.

I just went up for a shower and is that an ordeal? Definitely. The night air is cold enough, but in that shower-room which is full of holes and cracks for the wind to whistle through anyway—you can imagine. It’s like a nudist colony in Siberia--I wanna come home. I ain’t never gonna like this war. I wonder how many others share my feelings.

There’s a terrific air of expectancy all over around here now. Everyone feels it but no one knows what it is. The front has been pretty quiet for some time now and there seems to be a terrific turmoil going on inside Germany. I think something’ll pop soon now. Just a hunch—but.

That about does it. Not much news but I try to write a letter every night now. Tomorrow I’ll start answering all those back letters again.

Hope you are all well and say hello to the neighbors for me.

Best Love,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

About Letter 141

Bill learns that his close friend, Horton Grant has died. He laments the irony that "young people who have never done any harm are dying by the thousands all over the world" while scoundrels like Baron Toyama, "the head of the notorious Black Dragon society peacefully pass away at the ripe old age of 93."

Letter 141- October 24, 1944

October 24, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I received your letters of the 12th. of Oct. and the 14th. I must say that I was shocked to hear of the death of Horton Grant. I believe I was closer to him than anyone else at Harvard. Honest to god, I can’t figure this damned world out at times. A nice kid like that has to die before he even starts to live while the very scum of the earth goes on and on. I noticed by the papers the other day that Baron Toyama, head of the notorious “Black Dragon” society, had peacefully passed away at the ripe old age of 93, I believe. There’s a man who has dedicated his entire life to unheard of violence and terror goes like that at that age. Why he didn’t even have to witness Japan’s coming anguish and destruction. Meanwhile, young people who have never done any harm are dying by the thousands all over the world, some of them like Horton even without the slightest reason. At times I find it difficult to retain my belief in the right.

To turn to happier thoughts—your letters are beginning to arrive pretty regularly now. It’s too good to be true, I know but they’re coming in about 10 days.

The weather was quite cold today but it didn’t rain. I like that better. I haven’t been doing anything spectacular lately as per usual. I went to a show last night—old picture. In the army nothing exciting happens ‘till on hits the fighting, and then it’s too damned exciting.

Well, the bottom of the page gives me a chance to sign off.

Best Love,

Friday, October 16, 2009

About Letter 140

Bill gets news from home. Family friend Bob Brewer is wounded in battle. His folks, who are both smokers cannot get cigarettes. Bill say that the soldiers in his company get 7-10 packs a week yet millions of packs are rotting on the docks for lack of transportation. He encloses a Bill Mauldin cartoon.

Letter 140- October 23, 1944

October 23, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Due to circumstances far beyond my control but much to my liking, the company doesn’t have to train today. Therefore this letter is being written in the early morning instead of in the evening as usual.

To start off with the weather as is customary—it stinks. An ice cold wind is blowing puffs of equally cold rain in about 8 directions at once. It’s really “mizzleble”. I’m sure glad I’m inside by a nice warm fire instead of battling with the elements.

I got your letter of the eleventh, Dad. You know more about Chester than I ever did. However, about that strawberry and cream complexion; that must have been before malnutrition set in. I did see those timbered houses and cathedral.

I was sorry to hear that Bob Brewer got wounded. The face and neck is a hellova place to get it too.

Boy I’m sure glad to see Hanson get it. That S.O.B. should. When I think of all the guys over here in far worse shape than that rat I really boil.

That’s a “hellova’ note that you can’t get cigarettes. We can get about 7 packs a week, sometimes 10. That’s not bad. Here’s the rub. According to Stars and Stripes there’s god knows how many millions of packs sitting on the docks over here rotting for lack of transportation. Ridiculous, isn’t it? I received the stamps. Thanks a lot.

About that allotment, it’s a $15.00 class “E” allotment. I took it out at Camp Reynolds. I don’t need much money over here—nothing to buy!

I’ll write again soon.

Best Love,

About Letter 139

It's a rainy, dark and gloomy day. Bill has spent it washing clothes and plans to go see a movie tonight to "keep from going nuts." He has spent a week looking for a Christmas card to send home with no success.

Letter 139

October 22, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I promised you I’d write a nice long letter tonight, but sure don’t feel like it now. I’ve been washing all day long and now I feel like a limp wet rag. Washing heavy stuff like fatigues in a pail is no soft job. I plan to go to the movies tonight not that there’s anything worth seeing but I gotta do sumpin’ to keep from going nuts. It hasn’t been much of a day; rainy, dark, gloomy. It’s not unusual but still I never feel like doing anything. To be truthful I ain’t never gonna like this country. I really feel sorry for the British. They’re stuck with it.

I’ve been trying to get some Christmas cards for about a week now but the P.X. seems to be out. I’ll probably be able to get some by tomorrow. Better close now. Not much of a letter but I’m in “sortofa” funk.

Best Love,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

About Letter 138

Bill sends Mudder and Dad cartoon clippings of "Sad Sack and his erstwhile contemporary Hubert." He says that the men are jubilant over the news of the invasion of the Philippines. He asks about the Presidential campaign and promises to write again tomorrow.

Letter 138- October 21, 1944

October 21, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I don’t have a “hellova” lot of time to write tonight. I just got off of K.P. and it’s pretty late. It was an easy day, but I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. It was silly too. There was no reason in the world why I shouldn’t have slept until 5:00 anyway but you know the army “Hurry up and wait.” By the way, have you heard the “daffynition” of a chow line? It’s the man behind the man behind the man, etc., etc. I’ve got a couple cartoons I’m going to put a couple of cartoons. That last sentence shows what the E.T.O. has done to me. Another few months and they’ll send me home a babbling idiot with a section eight. Anyhow I think you’re acquainted with the “Sad Sack” but I don’t know if you know his erstwhile contemporary, “Hubert”.

I have to go over and see if I can buy some stationary before the P.X. closes that is if it hasn’t shut down already.

We’re all pretty jubalent? jubilunt? jubilent? (None of ‘em look right) over the news of the invasion of the Phillipines? Philippines? (Why can’t I learn to spell?) The papers over here with the exception of the ‘Stars and Stripes” hardly mention it, but we understand it’s really big and months ahead of schedule.

How’s the campaign coming? That does it. I’ll write again tomorrow.

Best Love,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

About Letter 137

American G.I's are instructed "not to write anything malicious about our British allies", but Bill nevertheless offers his take on the British. The papers note that the U-boats are again active.

Letter 137- October 20, 1944

October 20, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

It’s not yet noon but since I’m barracks orderly and I’ve finished my work I thought I’d might as well start anyway. After looking over all the letters I’ve received during the last few days I hardly know where to start at all. Well now let’s see. To go all the way back to Sept. 5 most of the questions you ask have been answered by the time I get the letter. About the V-mail, however, it comes about as fast as the fastest ordinary airmail, and the typing comes out fine. I don’t like it as well as regular airmail by far but according to the Stars and Stripes the approaching winter weather is going to cut down air travel across the Atlantic so that only V-mail will be sure of getting there.

I’m glad to know you got that diamond. It must be very pretty.

Next is dad’s letter of Sept. 9, #6. There’s only one thing that I’ve been intending to write about for a month now but it’s always slipped my mind. I got several letters from you referring to a letter you evidently sent me which Mrs. Ferber was sending this Mrs. Brotherhood. I always thought that I’d get the thing in a few days and then I’d know what’s what . I still haven’t got it, however. Now that my mail is catching up with me I might get it but so far “nuttin’”.

You said you’d like to know more about the people, their attitude toward us, and so forth. That’s hard to say. We’re not supposed to write anything malicious about our British allies but that’s more of at request than an order.

The people themselves seem quite different from Americans. That famous British reserve generally annoys Americans and that doesn’t help matters any. However, one must remember that most G.I.’s don’t make very hot ambassadors of good will. The only thing that annoys me about them is that insular attitude of “Hell we don’t need you.” Actually their attitude toward us is rather derisive. They take us for being rather stupid. It’s easy to laugh at this. Britishers who have ever been to America certainly don’t feel that way. British food is quite unimaginative; however wartime restrictions may have much to do with that—never enough salt.

With letter number 7 comes the first news about the swell Christmas packages you’re sending. Drool! I note by the papers that the U-boats are out again. Dammit, if they sink even one package I’ll murder the whole German navy personally.

I’m having one devil of a time finding out about these language courses. Everything’s mixed up over here and nobody knows anything. I’m going to classes at the Red Cross but that’s all so far.
Yes, Fred Roberts is here. I saw him for the 1st. time in several weeks last night. He’s still in the Engineers it seems.

Letter No. 9—“Chow”. I’ll finish this tonight or tomorrow.

Best Love,


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

About Letter 136

The walking tour of London continues. Bill sees Westminster Abby, Bond St. and the Houses of Parliament. Upon arriving at the Parliament the famous Big Ben thunders out 12 times signalling the noon hour. Bill promises to touch on a few details of the Abby in his next letter.

Letter 136- October 19, 1944

October 19, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Over the last two days I’ve received “FOURTEEN” letters from you. Imagine! They dated all the way from Sept. 6 to Oct. 7. No wonder I haven’t got much mail, damn their “ornary” hides anyway. Talk about material for letter writing. Whooee! I think I’ll finish up about going to London first.

I told you about where I went prior to leaving for the Houses of Parliament & the Abbey. I guess it’s unfortunate that I could see only the outside of many of these famous places. No. 10 Downing St. and so forth. From the outside most places look like absolutely “nottinks” at all. There’s so much that is shabby. The famous Bond St. where all the snazzy clothes come from is slightly reminiscent of East Los Angeles St. at home. In fact, all London reminded me of the East Side. You just can’t compare Europe to the United States. It’s just a dump by comparison. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of interest here.

I arrived at the Houses of Parliament just as the clock in St. Stevens that houses the famous Big Ben started chiming. Then the bell itself thundered out 12 times—really sumpin’. I understand that the bell itself is slightly cracked and that’s what gives it that peculiar sound. We then walked out onto Westminster Bridge and looked up and down the Themes—muddy ditch. We could see just about all London from there. Next we walked around the place. The guide pointed out the ancient Westminster palace and the 19th. century buildings that surround it. Then we crossed over to a small square which lies in the “L” formed by the Parliament buildings and the Abbey. The dominating figure in the square is a large statue of Abraham Lincoln no less. We all had our picture taken there but later when I came to buy one the bloke was gone. It would have been nice with me, Lincoln and Big Ben in it.

Then we crossed over to the Abbey which again doesn’t look like much from the outside. However, once inside it’s beautiful. The first thing one becomes aware of is the high vaulted roof formed by a series of pointed arches. Its 102 ft. from floor to the highest part of the ceiling. It’s rather gloomy and when I mentioned it to the guide he said it was because there’s 700 years of London smoke and grime on the walls. Most people think the place is built of stone but actually its dirty marble. Just as one enters the door he sees the tomb of Britain’s unknown soldier set in the floor—the Congressional Medal of Honor hangs on the wall nearby. In walls and floor are buried everybody under the sun and there’s all kinds of statues and plaques to let you know it. More than once I found myself standing on top of Gladstone or William Pitt. Unfortunately much of the stuff around the alter is sandbagged and out of sight. That’s about all now. I’ll touch a few details in my next letter.

Best Love,

Friday, October 2, 2009

About Letter 135

Bill continues his narrative of sightseeing in London. He takes a free G.I. tour conducted by an old retired English major, "a typical Col. Blimp but without the walrus mustache." Among the sites he visits are Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Scotland Yard, St. James Palace and No. 10 Downing St.

Letter 135- October 18, 1944

October 18, 1944

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Today we had some more unusual weather—it rained; unusual for anyplace but England. I’m beginning to get that old water logged feeling.

I was telling you about my trip to London wasn’t I? Well I got up about 7:30 the next morning and went down to breakfast. Funny thing about European elevators or lifts as they call them over here. They take you up but you have to walk down. Anyhoo, they weren’t ready to serve so I decided to go out and buy a newspaper. It was Sunday so the streets were plenty dead at that time in the morning. I no more than got out the door, however, than I was mobbed by 3 bozos selling medals, ribbons and various other uniform decorations. I’m entitled to wear an E.T.O. ribbon and a good conduct ribbon but I wasn’t going to let those birds soak me 3 times what they were worth. Not all Yanks are dumbells and not all Yanks are millionaires. It was a nice day oddly enough—sunny with just a trace of haze so after I bought my paper I started to walk down Knightsbridge toward the center of town. I didn’t go far for fear of being lost, and anyway I didn’t have long until breakfast. As I went into the dining room I noticed that there was a tour of London to start about 9:45. We had potatoes and bacon, bread and butter, and some really good black coffee for breakfast. After that I sat in the lounge reading and listening to the American Armed Forces Network broadcast until time for the tour. Most clubs conduct “taxi tours”, but ours was a free tour √† la “Shanks mare.” It doesn’t sound so good but it was swell. We had an old retired English major for a guide. He was a typical Col. Blimp but without the walrus moustache. You know, striped pants, gray spats, homburg hat, all the appearances of a conservative gentleman slightly run down at the heels.

Well, we started off—about 15 of us down Knightsbridge toward Piccadilly Circus. The old boy turned out to be quite a card and he turned out to be a damn good guide. He pointed out some of the clubs the old French Embassy and some of the homes of the nobility and royalty—From the outside they looked like nothing at all. Next we went through Hyde Park and to Wellington’s monument. Not much interesting there except the World War artillery monument which is an almost exact replica of a huge field piece in stone. The statues around it were all sandbagged. From there we passed the Palace Guarders. Although the fence is gone they still lock the gate every night at 12:00. British tradition. Phfft! We then walked around Buckingham Palace. It does look like Grand Central Station. The old boy explained the changing of the guard. They still change the guard—no fancy uniforms though (not Sunday). They’re not supposed to change it at all but they figured that they ought to put on some show for visiting G.I.’s so I imagine the guards who have to do the parading love us for it. They hate us anyway so what’s the difference? From there we went to Trafalgar Square. Everything Canadian in Britain, banks, etc. stands on one corner of that square. I noticed George Washington, a gift of Virginia on another corner. I’ll bet they appreciated that. Then we started down Whitehall where we saw the various gov’t. office, war office, Scotland Yard, etc.—No. 10 Downing St., the Monument to World War I’s unknown British soldier and down to the Houses of Parliament and the Abby. I also saw St. James Palace, which looked like Lincoln heights Vail, I believe. Those palaces are the least impressive things of all. I’ll show more details in my next letter. Gotta take a bath now.

Best Love,