Wednesday, May 26, 2010

About Letter 228

Bill's hope for an early return to Los Angeles is dashed when he learns that the 100th. is not listed on the announcement. He states ruefully "Someone must stay in the Occupation over here. If there is no one to relieve us, I guess we will be stuck here indefinitely."

Letter 228- August 16, 1945

August 16, 1945
(Derdingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’ve received 10 letters from you during the past 2 days including your birthday card. I just couldn’t write though. On Friday we were supposed to have left for LeHavre. Today is Wed. Almost all the fellows have been writing to their people telling them when to expect them home. I guess I was one of the pessimists but I just couldn’t build up your hopes too high when every probability was that the end of the war would revert us to Army of Occupation. Well, it’s happened. This morning they announced the change and the 100th wasn’t among those mentioned for return to the states. It’s a heart breaker but the high point divisions should go home first. I know if I’d been over here 4 years I’d be mad if some guy who’d been over one only one year went home before me. However, the one thing that can and probably will wreck everything is the determination at home that the draft will be discontinued. Someone must stay in Occupation over here. If there is no one to relieve us, I guess we’ll be stuck here indefinitely. I still think that most of the people at home can’t think beyond the tips of their noses. It’s a pain, believe me.

The other day they picked the 2 most qualified men in the Company to compete for 4 regimental openings to go to college here in Europe. I was one of the 2. Guess how they picked the ones of us that were to go out of the 8 men chosen from this battalion. They had us draw numbers out of a hat. I was so disgusted I couldn’t even talk. Probably the 2 dumbest of the bunch drew the lucky number.

I’ve got to close now but tomorrow I write a really good letter in answer to the 10 that I received in the last 2 days.

Best Love,

About Letter 227

Bill has more questions than answers now that peace is at hand, "Is it peace or ain't it? Am I coming home soon or ain't I?" Rumor has it that the unit is going to Camp Roberts, California and Bill optimistically remarks that "Six weeks from today I could be in Los Angeles."

Letter 227- August 12, 1945

August 12, 1945
(Derdinger, Ger.)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Is it peace or ain’t it? Am I coming home soon or ain’t I? These are the questions of the moment. Unless something goes haywire now I’ll probably be home during the first week of Sept. Actually it won’t be definite until next week but they’re moving heaven and hell to take the Division out of Europe this month. Six weeks from today I could be in Los Angeles. But? And it’s a big but, things could be changed at any minute. If the folks at home continue to oppose peacetime conscription we may be stuck in the A. of O. category. The army would have no choice. Combat outfits should get to go home but if no one is here to replace us I’m afraid that we will be unable to do much else. Sometimes I don’t think people can think beyond the end of their noses. We’ve done our part. Others haven’t, yet we’re expected to do more while those who’ve never served don’t have to do even a little bit.

At any rate we’re supposed to be in Le Havre by the 27th of this month. Our battalion is supposed to leave the 1st due to its honors. The bn. is one of New York’s own and will probably parade there.

One rumor has it that we’re going to Camp Roberts, California. I hope so.

At Le Havre things will be confused I suppose, so don’t write anymore ‘til I write again.

Best Love,

Saturday, May 22, 2010

About the Planned Invasion of Japan

The number of casualties suffered by both the Allied Forces and Japanese during the island invasions of Okinawa and Iwo Jima are a good indicator of the potential bloodbath that awaited Bill and the other troops, air, and navy personnel had Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of Japan been necessary. The invasion of Okinawa cost the Allies over 50,000 casualties. The Japanese suffered more than 200,000 casualties, about half military and half civilian. At Iwo Jima 21,570 Japanese military personnel died. Only 216 were taken off the island alive as POW’s for a death rate of over 99%. Allied casualties, over 26,000, were more than twice that of the D-Day landings. By any objective measure a massive invasion of Japan would have dwarfed the Pacific Island landings.

The plan for the final defense of Japan was called “Ketsu-Go”. The most frightening aspect of the plan was the extensive use of suicide units. The planned suicide operations dwarfed the Kamikaze (divine wind) attacks on Allied naval forces made during the Pacific Campaign. As a part of Ketsu-Go the Japanese were building 20 suicide take-off airstrips in southern Kyushu in addition to 9 seaplane bases to be used in suicide missions as well. In Korea, Western Honshu and Shikoku there were 58 additional airfields to be used for massive suicide attacks. Despite their losses the Japanese still had almost 13,000 aircraft of all types with many being designated for Kamikaze operations.

In addition to airplane attacks, the Japanese had developed other forms of suicide operations. These included the “Okka”, a rocket-propelled bomb, much like the German V-1, but piloted to its final destination by a suicide pilot after being catapulted out of caves in Kyushu. Following the suicide air assaults the Japanese defense called for attacks on allied troop carriers by 300 two man Kairyu suicide submarines, packed with a 1,320 pound bomb in the nose. If the attacking troops succeeded in getting through these defenses they would face the Kaitens-human manned torpedoes over 60 feet long, each carrying a warhead of over 3,500 lbs. and capable of sinking the largest American naval vessels. These were to be used against our invasion fleet just off the beaches and were particularly feared by our navy because they were difficult to detect. If this failed to stop the attackers, the Japanese had almost 4,000 motorboats armed with high-explosive warheads to be used in nighttime attacks against troop carriers. Finally, the last line of maritime defense was the Japanese suicide frogmen called “Fukuryu”. These “crouching dragons” were divers armed with lunge mines, each capable of sinking landing crafts up to 950 tons. Thousands of these divers could stay submerged for up to 10 hours and were to thrust their explosive charges into the bottom of landing craft, in effect serving as human mines.

The principal goal of these special attack units of the air and sea was to shatter the invasion before the landing. The Japanese were convinced that by killing the combat troops aboard ships and sinking the attack transports and cargo vessels the Americans would back off or become so demoralized that they would accept a less than unconditional surrender and a more honorable face-saving end for the Japanese.

If the Allied forces were able to overcome all the Japanese efforts to forestall a landing and make it ashore to Japanese territory they would come face-to-face with an unimaginable array of defenses beyond those used on the Pacific islands, including poison gas and bacteriological warfare. Finally, there was the twenty-eight million strong civilian Japanese “National Volunteer Combat Force” many committed to fight to the death in the defense of their homeland.

It is no wonder that Bill was ready to proclaim the surrender of Japan as “the greatest day of my life.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

About Letter 226

It's the day after a second A-bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Bill exuberantly exclaims, "It is now 1800 hours of what might be the greatest day of my life; the end of this God awful war." The men anxiously await for an announcement on A.F.N. regarding the possible Japanese surrender. "We're all praying that this is it."

Letter 226- August 10, 1945

August 10, 1945
(Derdingen, Ger.)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

It is now 1800 hours of what might be the greatest day of my life; the end of this God awful war. As I write an announcer is speaking in German of the Japanese surrender offer. A.F.N. has announced that if Japan officially surrenders within the next few hours as is expected they will warn us by a 30 second sound pitch over the radio. I guess we’re all praying that this is it. I’ll underline that last phrase. It used to send chills running up and down my spine. It meant attack. Some of my letters must sound a little dramatic but it seems to be in the air.

I’m sure that never has anything happened so fast. Five days ago a year, maybe 2 years seemed inevitable in the Pacific but now it may be that in a few months when I come home that it will be for good. My mind is not conditioned for that kind of thinking. Anyway I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Well, “whatayouknow”?! I received your package with the shoes, etc. today. It was postmarked the 17th of July. Not bad, eh? I’ve got the shoes on now. It’s the first pair of Oxfords I’ve had on since I was last home on furlough 14 months ago. They feel funny but good.

Boy is there a storm raging outside. 3 days it’s been going on now, and in August too. Someone should take Europe weather and all, dump it into the toilet, and flush it down good.

This school we’re living in is a rather modernistic affair, “L” shaped, with one side practically all glass. As a result the cold comes right in and there’s no coal for the furnace. What a situation, what a country, wot a life. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Four months ago I would have thought this was heaven or better.

Most of the boys went to a show in Stuttgart tonight but personally the long, cold truck ride didn’t appeal to me & since the pending big news (I hope) was so interesting I decided to stay here. I should have liked to have gone though at that. The play is the Broadway hit, “Kiss and Tell”.

Thanks for the package.

Best Love,

Saturday, May 15, 2010

About Letter 225

The news of the Atomic Bomb drop on Hiroshima hits Bill's squad room like an 88 barrage. "The complexion of the war has gone from a hard fight ahead to the possible collapse of Japan in days." Before the men's enthusiasm wanes an announcer breaks into the radio program to declare that the Russians have entered the war. The men await "even bigger news" set to be announced at 11:00.

Letter 225- August 9, 1945

Thursday, August 9, 1945
(Derdingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Three nights ago I walked downstairs, dropped a letter to you in the mailbox, walked back to my squad room. Then I thought I was dreaming. The boys were standing about the room with mouths agape and issuing forth from the radio were the excited statements of an A.F.N. announcer. It sounded like the contents of an ordinary science-fiction magazine. “ATOMIC BOMB DESTROYS JAP CITY” . I don’t believe any of us believed it at first but as news flashes continued to pour in we became wild with excitement. It was really something. While we were still so enthused over our wonderful and terrible new weapon last night another excited announcer broke into a program to tell us the Russians had entered the war.

In 3 days, even less, the complexion of the war has gone from a hard fight ahead to the possible collapse of Japan in days.

During the years when Japan was committing such atrocities I often wondered when she would “pay the piper”. For her 2500 years of treachery she is paying a terrible price; Extinction.

The Seventh Army today suppressed the 100th Div. newspaper, “The Century Sentinel”. It was silly because everyone in the Div. knew what the contents were; our sailing date—between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1—Oct. 6 is the consensus of opinion.

Boy! Even as I read over the paragraph above the news came pouring in. At 11:00 some bigger news is supposed to come in.

I’m getting mail okay now, but you must be having a tough time of it. That little Combat Badge should be home by now.

I sure hope they don’t decide to send us to the Pacific via Siberia. I think some awfully morbid stuff, don’t I?

That’s all for now.

Best Love,

About Letter 224

Rumor has it that Bill's unit will leave for home in late October and be in the Pacific by late January. Bill says that "I feel sorry for the Japs even if they do act so brutal. I've seen what total war is on this side and it's only a taste of what Japan is so blindly walking into." He has yet to hear of the monumental event that occurs on this historic date.

Letter 224- August 6, 1945

August 6, 1945
(Derdingen, Ger.)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

To be perfectly frank I don’t feel like writing tonight but I owe you a letter and so here it is. There is really quite a bit to write about but it’s so hazy and indefinite that I just don’t. Sometime this week we are supposed to be alerted. That simply means that we’ll be told where and when we’ll be leaving. Semi-official rumor has it that we’ll leave France for home in late October and will be in the Pacific by late January. However the latter part of that is merely supposition. I know because everyone here from his own experience knows troops can’t be moved that quickly. Ships don’t go that fast. However the first part of the report is probably true. This, of course is way ahead of schedule but events in the Pacific are moving so fast that it is inevitable. My only fear is that Japan will begin to go to pieces so rapidly that we will be sent direct. There’s not much chance of it but it’s always a possibility. However, there’s a good chance that I’ll be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Let’s just pray that Japan folds before I even get home from here.

I feel sorry for the Japs even if they do act so brutal. I’ve seen what total war is on this side and it’s only a taste of what Japan is blindly walking into. The feeling here rightly or wrongly is that Russia has something up her sleeve. Russians in this area are out and out in declaring that Russia will jump all over the DESPISED JAPS at the right time. The Germans claim Japan is insane for not accepting our generous offer and say Germany would have surrendered in ’43 to such terms.

Next Saturday we’re going to some little town about 60 miles away and fire weapons and have a general review of basic training insofar as weapons and marksmanship is concerned. By the way, I’m burned up because they say here they have no verification of my being an Expert Rifleman.

That’s about all. I hope my mail is coming through better now.

Best Love,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

About Letter 223

Tomorrow the "Red Raiders", the 1st. Battalion of the 399th. Infantry Regiment are set to receive the Presidential Citation for their action at Bitche. Bill notes that "Naturally we are all pretty proud." He closes with his usual plea for goodies from home.

Letter 223- August 2, 1945

August 2, 1945
(Derdingen, Ger.)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’ve just finished a letter to you by throwing it into the waste basket. I just can’t seem to write anything decent tonight. Last night it was the same way and likewise the night before. I guess I’m in some sort of a “funk”. Again. It could be the radio blaring a blood and thunder radio story in my ear. I don’t know.

How about a nice package of candy, fruit juice, tuna or the like? I’m so hungry these days it’s horrible. The food here is not too bad but—.

Tomorrow is a big day for the 1st. battalion or “Red Raiders” as we are more commonly known. Tomorrow we get the PRESIDENTIAL CITATION. Naturally we are all pretty proud. As you know it is the highest award a unit can receive. There’s also a rumor that we’re going to get the French “Croix de Foi” for the action at Bitche. At the festivities tomorrow, which by the way last all day, we’re going to have beer and donuts, coffee, wine, snacks etc. I’ve got to close now as one Cecil Moninger is pestering me to go have a beer with him.

They caught me before I was ready in the picture.

How do you like the cake?

OK. I’m coming, Monty!

Best Love,

Saturday, May 8, 2010

About Letter 222

It's Sunday and Bill visits an historical Romanesque church in Derdingen. "The oldest parts of the church are 900 years old." He describes the history of the area. "In the 1500's this part of Germany was the stomping grounds for the infamous Count Von Sickengen and other robber barons." Bill's resentments toward the brass boil over in a long tirade. "Everything I write now is sincere and blunt, even the language. You know that I've never kissed anyone's ass, and I won't ever."

Letter 222- July 29, 1945

July 29, 1945
(Derdingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I just lost two games of ping-pong to the captain so I guess I had better write a letter. I might as well write about what’s going on today to start with. This morning (Sunday) I arose late—just in time to eat and then hop on the truck going to church. I didn’t have time to shave and as luck would have it the chaplain comes to me and starts a pleasant conversation. I must have looked like a bum and felt rather embarrassed. I don’t know why; he’s seen me look worse.

The church was rather interesting. It was, I imagine, the height of Romanesque architecture in Germany as opposed to the Gothic (the Cathedral of Cologne). The massive columns and low rounded arches were impressive if not as beautiful and delicate as the Gothic and what is more it is so grotesquely ornamented. In 1560 Reformists took over the church and removed the unsightly statues and idols. The oldest parts of the church are 900 years old and the newest, not counting the Lutheran cleanup, is about 750 years old.

This afternoon I went to the movies in Vailingen. Pheww!
Of late I’ve been learning much about this part of Germany. In the 1500’s this was the stamping grounds for the infamous (or famous) Count Von Sickengen and other “robber barons”. Some of the bloodiest battles of the 30 Years War were fought here. Even now the population is ½ Protestant and ½ Catholic.

In Vailingen Friedrich Schwan was hanged in 1760. I never heard of him but evidently he was more or less of a German Robin Hood. Many industries in the area are named after him.

Next week promises to be a humdinger. A new intensified training schedule (if you can’t read this I don’t blame you), school courses, we get the Pres. Citation, a dinner of some sort, and maybe a movie. God! I’ll swear they don’t know what in the devil to do. We work ourselves to death making ourselves comfortable because we are supposed to stay here for good then—blooey! Pack up! Let’s go!

I haven’t heard any more about my Bronze Star. I guess not all the rear echelon has theirs yet. I am due to get a Good Conduct, though not the ribbon. I guess that’s all a frontline soldier is entitled to—that and getting his head blown off.

You mentioned Leon jumping from P.F.C. to S/Sgt in one of your recent letters and why. I’m going to tell you something. I never said it before because it sounds like an excuse—but it isn’t. Everything I write now is sincere and blunt, even the language. You know that I’ve never kissed anybody’s ass, and I won’t ever. I’ve never been outspoken and I’ve soft-pedaled because I’m no fool, but I won’t grovel in front of any man. In most outfits if you don’t you’ll never wear stripes or anything else (including Bronze Stars). I know in life one must give a little to get a little but here one must throw away all ones pride to get a few scraps.

I’ve seen officers and non-coms turn yellow in the line and I didn’t bother to conceal my feelings. Even the “Great Hero”, Lt. Bull has felt my tongue—and not only mine. At the time what I said may have saved lives so I’m not sorry even if I don’t wear stripes today.

Moreover, I’m not the only one who suffered. To understand everything one must know something of the composition of the 100th Division. When this division came overseas in November the bulk of its personnel (Infantry privates) were A.S.T.P. men ranging in age from 18 to 21 years old. The officers and non-coms were old cadre men ranging in age from 28 to 35 years old on the average. There was a great deal of misapprehension about the soldierly qualities of “the kids”. Well, the kids did all right and the 100th became a crack outfit but the old demon jealousy did its work. The older men resented the younger. As a result we’ve been cheated. Leon Ore of my platoon was the 2nd in command of a squad for 3 months of fighting yet he was thrown out in favor of an older non-com replacement who never saw a day’s action. Ore was only 19 years old and never groveled. However, not all the non-com replacements got good jobs—only those who kissed somebody’s ass.

As I read the above over I realize it is pretty strong. I’m not riled up and I’m not drunk, but facts are facts and that’s all.

To get to something more pleasant—how about a package of candy, cookies, sardines, spread or just anything you can get aholt of. My hunger is all consuming. Help!

Best Love,

About Letter 221

Bill goes to Stuttgart and sees the Jack Benny U.S.O. Show. "Benny played the violin and good-no kiddin'." Even though Stuttgart is partially destroyed it is swell compared to Derdingen where the outstanding feature is "aroma d' excretion bovine." Also Stuttgart is loaded with American girls.

Letter 221- July 27, 1945

July 27, 1945
(Derdinger, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

It’s been 3 days since I’ve written but that’s because we’ve been hitting it pretty hot and heavy. I.G. inspection and all that. Last night, however, I really had a swell time. I went to the Jack Benny U.S.O. Show in Stuttgart and the opening of the snazzy new Red Cross Club there.

The Benny Show played in the “Sportstadium” and I really enjoyed it. Benny, Martha Tilden, Ingrid Bergman, and Larry Adler made up the cast and were supported by the 16th Armored Swing Band which was very good. Martha Tilden sang a song called “I Wanna Get Married” which I thought was very cute.

Some of Benny’s gags sounded like they were written by an irate Combat Infantryman. I noticed some of the “brass” fidgeted a little uneasily in their seats at some of them. The crowd of course went wild. Benny played the violin and good—no kiddin’. I don’t think Kreistler has anything to worry about but he was O.K.

After the show was over we went to the new Red Cross joint. Really O.K. That 397th gang are stationed there and are really getting the breaks. Stuttgart, even though partially destroyed is pretty swell when compared with Derdingen in which the foremost and most outstanding feature is “aroma d’ excretion bovine.” I never saw so many American girls in one place since I left the states. Wished I was stationed in Stuttgart. American girls look so much better than the Frauleins.

“Be sure to read the next thrilling installment.”

Best Love,

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

About Letter 220

Bill is hoping that they will get the motion picture projector working by the afternoon. He has signed up for classes in German, basic radio and English Lit. The men are getting ready for an inspector general's inspection.

Letter 220- July 24, 1945

July 24, 1945
(Derdingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

It’s a bright sunshiny day—cool but with a promise of heat for the afternoon. It’s Tuesday but we’re having church services today. Last weekend we had no holiday. There’s really not much going on as usual but it’s not too bad a day. Maybe by this afternoon they’ll have the motion picture projector working and we can have a movie.

I’m still sweating out mail from you, but that’s all. I wish I knew what’s holding it up.

I’m reading those books you sent me way last November now. They sure help kill time anyway. As soon as this school starts up we will be a lot happier.

I signed up for German, basic radio and English lit. We can probably take only 2 courses but we get 2 hours instruction in 2 courses 5 or 6 days each week.

I guess we’ve got a few hectic days ahead of us. Now we’re getting ready for an inspector general’s inspection. The entire thing seems rather silly as we do not have all the facilities that are necessary over here. For instance I don’t have the regular bed make-up. I have 1 G.I. blanket and a bright red comforter. The latter I lie on because my mattress is burlap covered.

Gotta go now.


About Letter 219

Bill's boring life as an Occupation soldier is getting him down. Classes begin August 1 and he is hoping things will be better then. The last 2 days have been spent "raiding towns for contraband, arms, S.S. men, Gestapo, and so forth."

Letter 219- July 23, 1945

July 23, 1945
(Derdingen, Germany)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Am I disgusted. This life is sure getting me down. I’m so bored that it hurts. We don’t do anything but guard etc. but there’s nothing to keep a man occupied. August 1 we begin classes and then things should be better but now I’m in a blue funk. Of course it’s better than going to the Pacific, but for a young man just to sit day in and day out is no good. Training certainly isn’t very interesting yet we must do something. I don’t know but in some ways I feel sorry for the army of occupation. The Germans behave themselves well but are “joost” too friendly. They’ll really play up to you as long as you’ve got the guns. We’re too easy on ‘em. I guess we just can’t help it.

The mail situation still stinks but I’m trying to write as much as I can anyway.

It’s now 9:25 in the evening but the sun has only just gone down. At 11:00 I’ve got to go on guard. Two hours just hiking around. During the day we have clothing check and such nonsense and during the last two days we’re been raiding towns for contraband, arms, S.S. men, Gestapo, and so forth. It’s a pain in the neck.

The rumor was rampant today that Russia declared war on Japan. I didn’t think so. The radio said nothing.

Not much else of interest so I’ll close.

Best Love,


Saturday, May 1, 2010

About Letter 218

It's been hot, but a midnight storm breaks the heat. Today is the grand review and the men must wear ties and Eisenhower jackets. Rationing is becoming "acute" and Bill is down to his last pack of cigarettes. He is "still working on my educational plans". In closing Bill makes his usual plaintive request for "the usual things: candy, cookies and so forth."

Letter 218- July 20, 1945 (2)

July 20, 1945-2
(Derdinger, Ger.)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Boy! Has it been warm around here. Up until 12:00 last night it was so hot that no one could sleep but then we had a storm and now it’s cool and not the least bit sticky or dusty. Thank “Golt” for that. Today we’re having our review and we must wear ties and Eisenhower jackets. If it had been a day like yesterday we’d have been roasted alive. As it is it’ll be a swell day for the review.

No mail again from you and I don’t like it even a little bit. In fact I might be led to say that confidentially it -----. Don’t you think so? I’m thinking of trying to write a letter every day now and number them like you do, just to see if the results are just as confusing.

The ration situation here is becoming acute. I’m down to my last pack of cigarettes. Last week D. Co. didn’t get their rations and this week they only got candy rations. I’m beginning to feel like a civilian. Old. Maybe they’re breaking us into civilian life the hard way.

Gee, it’s hard to write a letter when one’s not getting any mail. I can’t seem to think of one decent thing.

I’m still working on this educational plan. Probably by the time they get their fannies in gear the war’ll be over and my kids will be ready to get their education. That’s the war though.

How about a package, the usual thing: candy, cookies and so forth and please send me a couple of combs. My hair is going in 14 different directions. They have combs in Germany but if you put one in your pocket you’ll have a pocket full of teeth.

That’s –30—.

Best Love,