Saturday, May 8, 2010

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,


  1. I'm intrigued by Bill's comments about the composition of the 100th Division. As the Army expanded it pulled out cadres of senior, supposedly capable, people to form new units. Men who were privates or sergeants found themselves sergeants or captains based on experience and not on competence. Given what Bill says about the division between the "old" men and the "young" men I can understand how matters social and political can impact the performance of a unit. In combat things tend to shake out, at some cost, but off the line the old stuff returns. Throw in the constant flow of replacements and unit cohesion becomes elusive.

    Today the Army deploys and rotates men as units to preserve cohesion.

  2. It certainly seems that Bill's Occupation duty is a letdown from combat in the sense that the "esprit de corps" that sustains a unit during the day to day struggle to survive has been lost. The base practicality of war is increasingly replaced by politics. At least at this time the war continues in the Pacific (although not for very long) and that is a unifying force.

    I find this letter to be a fascinating glimpse into my father's personality. He certainly had a keen eye of observation and understood politics on both a personal and global level. He never "kissed anyone's ass". This made him a man of integrity, but I believe it prevented him from achieving the level of success in his civilian careers that his skills warranted. The same phenomenon existed in his army career where he never rose above the level of Pfc.


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