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!