Wednesday, April 28, 2010

About Letter 219

The 100th has a big parade and tonight the men who fought to liberate Bitche are to be "knighted "the Sons of Bitche". At 3 am. the entire 7th Army is sent on a "witch hunt" to round up remnants of the Nazi Party said to be operating in the area. Bill is still awaiting word on his Bronze Star nomination.

Letter 217- July 20-21, 1945

July 20, 1945
(Derdingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This morning I wrote you a letter and one of the fellows mailed it by accident—it didn’t have a stamp on it. I suppose they’ll stamp “free” on the damn thing and you’ll get it sometime in 1946, I hope. Anyway this is a supplementary letter.

Glory be! Hallooya! Guess what I got today?—No don’t guess. You’ll be disappointed. It was a Christmas package with gum and books. It’s only been on its way since Nov. I’ll bet its seen more of the world than Eleanor.

Well, today we had our big parade and tonight Lt. Gen. Haslip is going to “knight” the 1st soldiers to enter Bitche. The Society of the Sons of Bitche is exclusive. Only those of us who fought there can belong and it’s the first such organization ever to exist in the U.S. Army. I should like to go to the ceremonies in Stuttgart but only 3 men from each platoon can go. Of course it’s mostly hocus-pocus now, but any organization that consists of 16 or 17 thousand combat soldiers might develop into something.

July 21, 1945
(Same place)
Dear Folks,

Since last night and the last paragraph the entire 7th Army has been on a “witch hunt”. They got us up at 3 A.M. this morning and commenced raiding all the towns in the area. The idea is that after 3 months of lax treatment the remnants of the Nazi Party would get cocky and careless. They did. However, there has been little activity in this area. The Nazis alienated too many Germans during the closing days of the war.

Flash! Rumor! Flash! One of our boys who went to Stuttgart last night came back with the intelligence that one mighty 1st bn. had won the Pres. Citation. Maybe I get another ribbon with a gold edge.

I’m still waiting on the Bronze Star but I have my doubts. The officers are all getting 4 and 5 awards apiece but the men who did the fighting get nothing. Same old army game. I’ll close on that sour note.

Best Love,

About Letter 216

Bill is recruited to work on the Regimental newspaper the 'Powderhorn" but to date hasn't heard from them. He vents his resentment toward Pfc. Frank Gurley the editor saying, "Maybe since I know Mr. Gurley, I'm a little prejudiced."

Letter 216- July 19, 1945

July 19, 1945
(Derdingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’m trying to write everyday now if possible or at least every other day. The mail situation here is terrible and it’s so damn ridiculous. They could make excuses while the war was going on and they were acceptable but for now there’s just no reason for it. It’s always the same in the army. There’s not a blooming thing a person can say or do. It’s just T.S. as far as the army is concerned.

I’m sending you a copy of the “Powderhorn”, our regimental newspaper. They came around the other day and signed me up to do some work for the paper but since then I’ve heard nothing about it.

Having read this issue I’m satisfied that I could do better. Some of it reeks with that self satisfied kind of humor that one often finds in the works of a self-supposed literary genius. I can just see the smirk on P.F.C. Frank Gurley’s face when he rereads that “Oh so cute” little opus “Hot sut Vaihingen”. A little of that sort of thing is not too objectionable but when they start shoveling the ---- about it. Well. That article is about 1/10 description of Vaihingen and 9/10 tribute to the amazingly humorous Mrs. Gurley. Maybe since I know Mr. Gurley, I’m a little prejudiced.

That’s all.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

About Letter 215

Bill's company has moved once again. They are now in Derdingen, Germany guarding Russian DP's (Displaced Persons). The men are busy practicing for a grand review conducted by Lt. Gen. Devers, Commander of the 6th. Army Group. The latest war rumor has Stalin about to hand over Japan's unconditional surrender to Truman, which to Bill "seems absurd".

Letter 215- July 17-18, 1945

July 17, 1945
(Dürtingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Nürtigen, Göppingen, Dürtingen, Blürtigen—I’m telling you I’ve got “ingens”. In Alsace it’s “berg”—Lemberg, Saarberg, Glassenburg, but here it’s “ingen”. Why can’t it be sumpin’ romantic like “Alt Schmats” or “Guzzlaufbien”? But no! It’s always “ingen”.—Phooey.

This may sound like bull but just as I wrote that last line I did get a letter from you, Dad, which keeps me from being altogether burned up at the mail situation.

Well, we’re guarding Russian D.P.’s again. We’ll be getting rid of them this week and it’s a good thing since the way they’ve been getting on their high horse lately somebody’s going to get hurt, and you know we wouldn’t let it be us. It’s too bad too, because actually the Russians are a rather likable lot. The trouble is that they’re emotionally so unstable.

(to be continued)

July 18, 1945

Dear Folks,

Yesterday I misspelled Derdingen and today I mispelled misspelled. Anyhow I didn’t get it right one of them times.

It’s a beautiful day to loaf—hot in the sun but cool in the shade so of course we have to go out in the sun and practice for a regimental parade or rather a review. The entire Regimental combat team will be there. In this war a regiment can act independently like a division. There will be 3 Infantry battalions with a full complement of jeeps, 1 service battalion, 1 medical company with ambulances and jeeps, on Engineer bn., one reconnaissance group (armored cars), cannon co. (75mm. howitzers) one bn. of field arty. (105mm. howitzers) and the anti-tank company (57mm. guns) plus 100 piece division band plus 100 piece 399th Infantry drum and bugle corps. The reviewing stand is surmounted by 3 flag bearers with white starred red banners forming 3 stars on a red background; the insignia of a Lt. Gen. (Devers is inspecting us). But get this; this is the “piece de resistance” or something. The Gen. flies up in a small plane, taxis up the reviewing stand, deposits himself and then the plane assumes an honor guard position along with the armored cars around the stand. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the pagents that Adolf used to put on before the war. I must admit, however that a marching regiment with a 200 piece band is a thing of beauty and majesty.

I suppose it’ll all have died by the time you get this, but tonight it would seem that the war in the Pacific is just about in the bag. I suppose such rumors are inevitable since we’ve made such progress in recent days. All day today it’s been—Stalin has or is about to hand over Japan’s unconditional surrender to Truman. To me that seems absurd but when one week the Japs are fighting so hard for Okinawa—suicide planes and such and the next we are bombing and shelling the heart of the Empire at will with no opposition at all I don’t know. They do some of the queerest things—surrender without having a shot fired at them, refuse to fight. “NICHTE VERSTAY”.

Well, that’s it.

Best Love,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

About Letter 214

In his second letter of the day Bill notes that they are moving back to the Heilbronn area tomorrow. He signs up for schooling. "If I'm extremely fortunate I might get to go to college in England." Bill notes that the "no fraternization policy" has ended. He encloses a letter from General Eisenhower to "ALL MEMBERS OF THE ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE" announcing that he is relinquishing Combined Command.

Letter 214- July 15, 1945(2)

July 15, 1945-2
(Vaihingen, Enz.)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This letter is in answer to 3 that I received from you today. The first two bawled me out for not writing and the last one said you’d received 2 letters from me. Some stuff. Really I haven’t been receiving your mail any better that you’ve been getting mine. I’ve been averaging about 2 letters a week and sometimes 3.

Well tomorrow we’re moving again. We’ve only been here in Vaihingen for about one week. This moving is becoming a pain in the neck. I guess it’s necessary though with the other outfits constantly moving out. This time it’s somewhere near Heilbronn. I wish we could get down to Lake Constance. The 10th Armored is down there now living the life of Reilly in all those resorts. Hummmm never can tell.

I’ve been pulling guard here 2 hours on—6 off. That sounds better than it actually is. Really it’s 3 hours awake and 5 asleep—if—you don’t have to fall out for one or another formation. “Ich habe kein verstat”.—“Nichts verstay”.

Well, yesterday I signed up for schooling over here. If I’m extremely fortunate I might get to go to college in England. Otherwise I’ll go to “battalion school” which is quite extensive but of a limited nature. Battalion school could be great if they do as E&I has planned, (Education and Information), but I’m afraid the brass will try to make of it an “after hours” affair, training all day and school at night. It won’t work. A man’s too tired at the end of a day. Anyway I’ll take a fling at it.

I’ve signed up for German and radio. Two subjects is all a person can carry at one time and I don’t believe those two will conflict with one another. Now that the “no fraternization policy” is being taken away it shouldn’t be too difficult for me to gain a working knowledge of the language rapidly.

Well, this about does it. Hope this mail situation straightens itself soon.

Best Love,

About Letter 213

Company A gets a "snazzy" new letterhead. "Regimental insignia is bursting forth all over the place these days." Bill's unit is scheduled to move tomorrow but he is skeptical about it. He makes the usual request for food and notes the BBC reports that the U.S. Fleet is shelling the "very daylights" out of Japan.

Letter 213- July 15, 1945

July 15, 1945
Dear Mudder and Dad,

Just get a load of that snazzy letterhead. Boy! Is old “Able” Company going highhat.

Regimental insignia is bursting forth all over the place these days. There’s one above the Co. C.P.’s door, at bn. C.P. and regt. They are about 8 by 6 feet in dimensions. Here the other day I crudely struggled to draw one of these for you and then they drag in the new stationery. How do you like this fine pointed pen. It would be swell if I only could write like a grownup rather than a five year old.

Well, they set moving day back again. Now it’s supposed to be Tues., that’s tomorrow, but I won’t depend on it. According to Stone our Jeep driver the place we’re going is better than this joint , but of course that’s not saying a great deal since we almost have to wear gas masks in this town.

Well, here it comes—how about a nice package from you all. You know what I want, candy, cookies, fruit juice, gum and so forth. And Dad, see if you can get me a new webb belt up at school. My old one was so caked up with French and German mud that it’s almost “kaput.” Socks and hankerchefs would also be appreciated. The supply room here can’t get anything for us so everyone is writing home for even G.I. stuff. Some situation, eh?

I hear over the B.B.C. this morning that the fleet is now becoming bold enough to sail right up to Japan proper and shell the very living daylights out of them. They’d better surrender while they still have something to surrender.

That’s about all for now.

Best Love,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

About Letter 212

Bill is guarding a Russian camp and "we are having a time. Last evening a bunch of them got drunk and a fight ensued. You should have seen me holding 2 of them apart." He draws a humorous sketch to commemorate the occasion.

Letter 212- July 11, 1945

July 11, 1945
(Vaihingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Well, while I’m waiting to go on guard duty I’ll at least start this letter. I suppose you saw in the paper that “Ye olde 100th Division” is slated to stay in the E.T.O. until the first of next year at any rate. I’m perfectly satisfied with that arrangement.

I’ve been sick as the devil for the last few days—diarrhia. I probably spelled that wrong. Today I finally got something for it. Hope it does some good since I’m getting tired of living in the bathroom.

I’m guarding a Russian camp and we are having a time. Last evening a bunch of them got drunk and a fight ensued. You should have seen me holding 2 of them apart. They were trying to hit one another but succeeded only in hitting me. They were both husky but the way Russians fight nobody could get hurt. They stand sideways to one another and strike out with the backsides of their forearms. I suppressed a desire to knock their heads together. After we calmed them down they wanted us to drink some Schnapps with them. Wot a bunch.

(sketch here)

Gotta go now. I’ll write again later.

Best Love,

About Letter 211

Bill is proudly wearing his new Combat Infantryman Badge. He is "the envy of the regiment". One guy offered him $20.00 for the badge and Bill "laughed right in his face." He is pulling a lot of guard duty and says that they are "having a little trouble with the Russians here."

Letter 211- July 10, 1945

July 10, 1945
(Vaihingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I received the two badges from “Mattsons” last night and I certainly am proud to wear the big one. I think I’m the envy of the regiment already. Fellows I don’t even know often approach me on the street and say, “where in the world did you get the snazzy C.I.B. One guy offered me $20.00 for it today. I laughed right in his face. I wouldn’t part with it for “nothings”, posilutely. I think the little one is cute too, so I’m enclosing it in this letter.

If I’m going to get this all in an airmail envelope I’d better not write much.

Pulling a lot of guard duty now. Having a little trouble with Russians here. The French gave them arms and let them do as they pleased. Situation is all right now.

Best Love,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

About Letter 210

Bill's company helps relieve the French occupiers in the Village of Vaihingen, about 20 miles north of Stuttgart. The streets are narrow with poor garbage and sewage disposal. "Everywhere one sees in big black letters EINTRITT VERBOTEN-TYPHUS." Overlooking the town is a 1000 year old castle or "schloss". Urged on by a cheering crowd, Bill and a friend climb the castle tower and reset a huge clock that was off by 6 hours "for as long as anyone could remember."

Letter 210- July 8, 1945

July 8, 1945
(Vaihingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Well, we’ve moved again. And what a hole we are in this time. Vaihingen is nothing more than a large village about 15 or 20 miles north of Stuttgart. It’s all very ancient buildings European style narrow streets with poor garbage and sewage disposal. Everywhere one sees in big black letters “EINTRITT VERBOTEN—TYPHUS.” Of course the troops are safe enough. We all get regular typhus shots and have our own water supply, but still even if you’re immune yourself you don’t like to dwell in a pest hole.

Overlooking the town is a castle or “schloss” about 1000 years old; very picturesque if I may use that word which abhorred one Dr. Ross so much. On the tower is a huge clock which can be seen all over town. Yesterday a friend of mine and myself climbed the tower and set the clock which was 6 hours off. The people in town were watching us and we received hearty congratulations on our return. Evidentially it always had been wrong as long as anyone could remember. What a country. There was a little fighting but not much damage here—too bad.

We are relieving the French and the inhabitants are very glad to see us. Everyone greets me pleasantly even if it is in a somewhat subservient manner. I guess they’ve groveled in the dirt for so long now that it’s all they know how to do.

I received you letter in which you said you were sending my C.I.B. along now. I’ll bet it’s a nice one if it’s better than the issued one. I’ll guard it with my life.

You asked why this is the Powderhorn regt. This is our Regt. Insignia:

(sketch here)

It’s silver and powder blue like the C.I.B.

I’m enclosing another coin in this letter. No, I’ll make it two—an old American nickel—1857 and a KREUZER? Dated 1765. I believe that if you looked up coins of the Holy Roman Empire you might get a lead on the coin you already have.

Well, that’s all.

Best Love,

PS. I have 3 large old silver coins 1676-1690 inscribed “Marian Grosch”
Was ist das?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

About Letter 209

Bill picks up a copy of the 6th. Corps newspaper the "Beachhead News" and is dumbfounded to see a picture of himself sitting atop an M-4 Sherman tank racing across the Rhineland. Reality is setting in and it looks as if Bill won't make it home before "next July 4th." (1946)

Letter 209- July 5, 1945

July 5, 1945
(Nürtgen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I is regusted. Today after waiting for one whole week for a single letter from you—and all in vain, I get two in which I’m berated as an unfilial offspring. I don’t know what the score is but I do know this is at least my third letter this week and that last week I wrote between 2 and 4 letters. That’s no kidding. Maybe after you wrote those letters of the 27th of June you did get some of my letters. I hope so.

The last few days we’ve been practicing for a regimental review. It’s sure a pain as every day is either ungodly hot or cold to the same extent.

We got a nice beer hall and as time goes on things begin to look better and better, but we move around so much that you no sooner get things all fixed up than you have to leave it all behind. That is laundry facilities and so forth.

Well, I see where you’d wished that I could be home for Christmas. Well, next July 4th would be a more likely date. If a few high officers are to be believed I couldn’t possibly get home before next Easter. However if the war in the Pacific should end sometime before then I don’t know.

I picked this copy of the “Beachhead News” up the other day and was surprised to see the entire paper was devoted to the activities of the 100th, but I was dumbfounded to see myself sitting atop an M-4 Sherman Tank racing across the Rhineland. It was quite something. The “Beachhead News” is the 6th Corps newspaper.

How about a nice package of candy, crackers, cookies—anything. I’m going to send these requests often now since the food situation here isn’t so hot. You won’t be able to act on all of them but at least you’ll have plenty of requests on hand. Packages are coming through pretty fast now so send me a couple of German grammars. What I really want is the light tan book “Deutsch für Aufanger” and a pocket dictionary. Also I would like my military oxfords. These boots are awfully hard on the dogs.

Well that does it.

Best Love,

About Letter 208

Bill hasn't received any mail in 4 days. To make matters worse he is hungry..."How about a package with candy bars, cookies, etc." He sends his folks pictures taken last week in Goppingen.

Letter 208- July 2, 1945

July 2, 1945
(Nürtigen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

“I ya in da depps uv despair”. I haven’t received any mail from you for 4 days. Woe is me. Properly speaking—I don’t like it! I can’t for the life of me figure out how they work this mail; 6 in one day then nothing for 4 days.

This probably won’t be much of a letter because I’m supposed to be paid in a few minutes but I wanted to send you something with the pictures I received today. The prints are not so good in Germany these days but I know you’d like to have them anyway. Most of them were taken in Göppingen last week while I was getting ready to go on guard.

How about a package with candy bars, cookies, etc. I’m horribly hungry these days and packages seem to be coming through in quite a hurry. If the bozo at the post office gives you any trouble tell him I’m a rough, tough guy in the E.T.O. with beaucoup Jerries to my credit. I won’t mind adding one postal clerk to my record when I get home. Mean, ain’t I?

How do you like the Beach Head News or haven’t you received it yet?
Well, gotta go now. I’ll write again tomorrow or on the 4th at least.

Best Love,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

About Letter 207

Bill gets some advise about O.C.S from his friend, Lt. Landis the Battalion liason officer. If things go the way Bill hopes his unit could be transfered to Continental Security Reserve on the West Coast, near his hometown. O.C.S. would be..."Wham! Someplace like Okinawa." The Division starts it's educational program August 1 using German factories and chemical plants as schools. "The American conqueror is putting the spoils of war to good use."

Letter 207- June 28, 1945

June 28, 1945
(Nürtigen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Well, today has been a red letter day for me—6 no less. Just about the time I was beginning to get disgusted too. I hadn’t had any for several days then bingo!

I’ll get down to brass tacks to start with. The day I wrote you that last letter in which I said I was going to see about O.C.S. I ran into an old friend of mine who is battalion liaison officer (liaison between battalion C.O. and regimental C.O., Lt. Landis). He used to be our executive officer. I asked his advice on the matter and he said for me to hold off because he had some inside dope that we might remain here some length of time. Today he told me he had seen the assistant of the division and we aren’t leaving this area for some time, maybe not until next spring and if we do leave it won’t be for several months at worst, and the division will go into continental security reserve presumably on the West Coast. In short I may be stationed permanently on the West Coast. If I do go to O.C.S. it’s the Officer’s Replacement Pool in about 4 months at best and then—Wham! Someplace like Okinawa. At any rate we’re due to find out exactly what the score is sometime next week.

A hint of what we’re to hear lies in the fact that the div. is going to start it’s educational program August 1. I don’t believe they’d do this if they thought we’d be leaving within a month.

The program is going to be very complete. We have even taken over the services of German industrial experts to teach mechanical engineering students new German techniques developed during the war, German factories to serve as shops for machinist students, German chemical plants and research laboratories for the same purpose. The American conqueror is putting the spoils of war to good use. If the plan us correctly carried out some of our people should go home with knowledge and experience that would be of inestimable value at home. Some common soldier would know things that our nation’s scientists would be eager to learn. What all this leads to obvious. I certainly hope I get the chance to share in all this.

Well, that’s about all.

Best Love,