Sunday, December 26, 2010

About Letter 282

Bill is dating Rosemarie, a student nurse at the POW hospital. Her father is head of the Physics Dept. at the University of Giessen. Bill reassures Mudder that "It ain't love". He says that she is nice, well educated and strictly on the "up and up." Rosemarie is helping Bill with his German and he with her English. Bill's redeployment date seems to be getting closer and closer, but nothing is definite. He alludes to a clothing shortage at home and says that "before I spend fourteen dollars for a shirt I"ll wear old burlap."

Letter 282- March 1, 1946

Giessen, Germany (Hesse)
March 1, 1946

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Boy! Yesterday I received three letters from you. Two of them had been written on the 18th. of February and one on the 20th. That’s the fastest I’ve seen in a long time. I got quite a kick over the concern you had over my date. So I guess that I’ll have to tell you about it. In the first place don’t get excited; it ain’t love. Around Christmas time I met this girl, Rosemarie, up at the POW hospital. She’s a student nurse. Her father is head of the Physics dept. here at the University of Giessen and is slated for General Director of the University due to the fact that he was never a Nazi. Rosemarie is a very nice well educated girl and everything with her is strictly on the up and up. It’s rather rare that an American soldier can make acquaintance of a nice girl over here so I consider myself fortunate. Of course, remember that I don’t consider myself merely an average soldier. We’ve been going out to the dances that are held here in town and in general that’s about all. She’s not exceptionally pretty but she has a pleasing personality and is a very good conversationalist despite the rather odd kind of English she speaks. She’s the one who is teaching me German and I’m teaching her English. She claims that I’m too afraid to speak it for for fear of making mistakes, and she says I shouldn’t be because I speak it rather well. I hope so. At any rate don’t worry about it. You should see me dance a German waltz now—Yoost like I was borned in Wien.

The date for my leaving seems to be getting closer and closer but as yet I’ve heard nothing about it. Forty-nine pointers are leaving today so you can figure it out for yourself. During all this time I’ve been over here I’ve always expected the worst, but now I’m getting so I can’t sit still. I guess I’m just like a little kid getting ready to go to the circus. About every five minutes I say to myself, “I wonder how long it will be now” or “I ought to be on shipboard in about 45 days now.” Boy I just can’t wait. “The Conquering Hero Returns”. Oh Yes! I can see it now as I get off the boat. The first thing someone will say is- “Out of the way, Bum”. All kidding aside, that’s what I expect. At least I don’t have any illusions about how it’s going to be.

You claim that all the relatives want me to come and see them now that I’m out of the thing almost. Well, they can go straight to you know where. When I was over here fighting for them, Jessie was the only one who wrote to me and she managed to talk about almost nothing but how tough a time poor dear Bob was having flying all over the world weighed down with his Major leaves and responsibilities. That didn’t go very well on my empty frostbitten guts. In short, if they want to see me they can come to me. Maybe I shouldn’t feel that way but I do. All I want is to get back and see you. T’hell wit everybody else.

How’s the clothing situation now? I suppose I’ll be like the Krauts going around in a ragged uniform for years and years. Boy! Such a situation. I suppose the boys will be wondering around like a lot of Confederate irregulars or something. I’ll tell you one thing. Before I spend fourteen dollars for a shirt I’ll wear old burlap. I don’t see how they’ve got the damn nerve to ask prices like that. And for that jerk, Ben, he must think that money grows on trees or something--$600.00 for clothes. Yipe!

March certainly came in like a lion this year. This is a miserable day if ever I saw one. It’s supposed to be a good omen and I sure hope so. We’ve had only one day of decent weather since I can remember and it only served as an appetizer.

The picture was taken last week by Lt. Romano. From right to left, Weber my roommate, Schnappsie the Lt’s pooch, and old drizzlepuss himself. I really don’t know how I manage to look quite so stupid.

Well, that does it for today.

Best love,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

About Letter 281

Bill rereads last night's letter and says that he debated tearing it up. "It seemed to me to be terribly unbalanced and incoherent." He decided to send it, however, because it took him 3 hours to write and "it was one of the most difficult letters that I ever wrote." As Bill's redeployment nears he notes that "I've got the darndest curiosity about things at home" and "I can't wait to sink my teeth into a hamburger again."

Letter 281- February 25, 1946

Giessen, Germany (Hesse)
February 25, 1946

Dear Mudder and Dad,

After I finished last night’s letter I reread the damn thing and debated whether or not to tear it up. It seemed to me terribly unbalanced and inher—that is incoherent. However, since it was one of the most difficult letters that I ever wrote and I had spent about three hours on it I decided that I’d send it anyway. I hope that you don’t think it is too insane or merely the usual blah that fills young kids minds. At any rate I promised that I wouldn’t say any more about it and I won’t.

Today is the most glorious sunshiney day that I’ve seen in Europe. The sun is so bright that I think I’m back home. It’s quite warm after the snowstorms that we’ve had the past week and this is the first day since I can remember that I’ve been able to hang out my bedding. It’s really swell. I didn’t know that Germany was capable of such weather. I guess I shouldn’t complain about Germany though. The weather here is about ten times better than it is in England and “sunny France” is not much better than England. By the way, Giessen means gushing rain literally so I guess the weather here is not exactly like the Mohave Desert—That’s Mojave isn’t it?

There seems to be some indications that our company may fold up before very long and I don’t know where we’ll go. I’ve always hoped to stay right here until I get my travel orders but it looks now as if we may move. Of course, it takes so long for these birds at our center to do anything that God knows when they’ll get going. This past week I’ve spent most of my time closing out our DEF files so that leaves us with nothing to do. I only wish that they’d be a little more definite about what they are going to do. There are people I would like to see before I leave and I’m always afraid that we’ll get a sudden order to leave while all our clothes are being washed or some such thing. It’s the usual procedure.

We’re waiting on pins and needles around here to see what the point business is going to be next. The next change will make it possible for me to know exactly what they are going to do as far as I’m concerned. They may wait until the Ides of March and then take everyone with 45 points and above or they may take 48 and 49 pointers first and others later. According to the paper today they’ve got the redeployment schedule behind time again.

Just lately I’ve got the darndest curiosity about things at home. I really can’t wait to get back and see how things are. According to the way the fellows who just got here talk things must be in one helluva pickle. I don’t mean that things are bad but that everything is in a big hubbub. I’m beginning to realize now that I’ve been in Europe too long to really have a good picture of things back there. I remember looking back from the Queen Mary as Sandy Hook disappeared and I wondered how long it would be until I saw the ole U.S. again. Now as the time draws near I’m getting restless as hell. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a hamburger again. Oh Boy! I guess I’m getting a little ahead of myself but I still can hardly wait.

I guess that’s all for right now. Sooooo

Best Love,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

About Letter 280

In this extraordinary letter Bill gives Mudder and Dad a "dose of my philosophy" regarding post war politics and economics. He also discusses with some shame and disgust "a lot of things I've seen and done in this war that I've never mentioned to you because I thought that you'd rather not hear about them.

Letter 280- February 24, 1946

Giessen/Lahn- Gross Hessen
24 Februar 1946

Liebe Mutter und Vater-

Na, heute ist Sonntag und hier bin ich jetzt in Deutschland. Jeder Tag sage ich zu mir, “Wie lange”. Immer noch weiss ich nichts. Ich will zu Hause komen. Das ist all und das ist alles. Vielleicht habe ich zu viel Ungedulden.

Ju, heute ist Sonntag aber ich muss noch arbeiten. Es gibt drei Berichter dass ich muss vor zehn Uhr schreiben. Die Arbeit des Oberfeldwebels nie endet. (Ha! Ha!)

Now don’t laugh. I’m doing the best I can. It’s common knowledge that I’m an expert at murdering the English language so you can imagine what kind of torture I can impose on the German language. Honestly though I get quite a kick out of this. I like German much better than French or anything else I’ve studied and I’m going to take it when I get back to school. An old German University professor here in Giessen told me yesterday that it would be worthwhile to learn German if for no other reason than to read Goethe. I do like it and I’m making at least a little headway with it so I think I’ll keep right on with it when I get home. When I get home you’ll probably be surprised by the different things which interest me now as compared with what I thought about before. For one thing there is one thing that I’ve been interested in ever since I got over here and that is economics. It always seemed like something good to know but boring to me before but after watching the European muddle for awhile I decided that it’s really important and that all people ought to have a better knowledge of it than they do. I’ll tell you something. It may seem silly to you but ever since the war ended I’ve been trying to get the slant of the average European on everything in general. I believe that the average GI will leave Europe knowing no more about these people and their problems than he ever did. That’s not so much a tribute to American ignorance as it is to American arrogance. One thing that I hear so much is, “These Limeys or these Frogs or these Krauts or these Polskies or Russkies are so damn dumb.” Sometimes I wonder if we’re not the dumb ones. Anyway it always gets back to the same old story—economics. I know that I’m not making any revelations as this stuff has been hashed over a thousand times by everybody and his sister but everyday now I read about this political mess with its spheres of influence talk stressing national characteristics as opposed to the “common brotherhood of man” etc. and I realize more and more that all the talk that is going on is nothing more than rather skillful evasion of the real problem. The other night I heard a translation of a speech by Joseph Stalin. Among the mountain of bullcrap which he threw was that old pearl of wisdom about the causes of war being the unequal distribution of raw materials and markets in the world. So as not to sound like a Communist I’ll say that I’m not opposed to the economic “stranglehold” as long as it gets results, but it doesn’t. There is the trouble—there I go again. Maybe I ought to get a soapbox. I think about this stuff a lot these days and somehow I can’t seem to write a letter without getting this stuff in. I’m sorry but when I was fighting I figured that I was fighting for some kind of a better world. I suppose that I had to think that I was fighting for a little more than the right to go home as did most fellows up there and now when I see all this I feel a little bitter—not cynical as most GI’s mind you but nevertheless bitter.

I don’t know what you’ll think about what I’m going to say but I’ve given you a dose of my philosophy in nearly every letter that I’ve written lately so I might as well tell you everything I know and think for once and for all. There are a lot of things that I’ve seen and done in this war that I’ve never mentioned to you because I thought that you’d rather not hear about them but now I’ll tell you the whole story insofar as it concerns what I believe.

One day last April I stood on a street in Stuttgart with a group of the fellows and saw a French soldier hit a pregnant German woman in the belly with the butt of his rifle. A couple of men in our group laughed but most of us were horrified, yet none of us did a thing. From that day until this I’ve felt like a rotten coward for that one thing. We all said among ourselves that the bastard ought to be strung up but none of us had the Moral Courage to do a damned thing about it. I thought up on line that I had guts because I could face machine-gun fire but 99 men out of every hundred have that kind of courage. It’s a rare few that have the other kind. Also I liked to think that I was a civilized human being because I could kill and yet detest killing but now I realize what a rotten egotist I was. I still don’t know whether what I did was right or wrong but I don’t believe I have the right to pat myself on the back. I believe that this is true of all men including Germans and Japs. We actually live in an ideal situation so we have a tendency to think that everyone else is a rat if they show weakness toward their own sins. Here in Germany I’ve talked with a lot of people and I did the same in England and France and my conclusions are always the same. That is that people in general everywhere are pretty much the same. But also everywhere people are morally weak. Just as I deplored what that French soldier did and yet did nothing myself for fear of getting in trouble the Germans deplored what some of their own people did but did nothing. One German said to me, “Yes, I knew that such and such was wrong but I had my wife and children to think about.” I was about to make a remark when it just struck me. Just what would I do in such a spot? Nothing. There are things that American soldiers have done that you can be sure I will never tell my grandchildren about. More than one German prisoner captured by my outfit was told to run then was shot down “trying to escape”. At the time I tried to tell myself that he probably deserved it or something of that sort but wasn’t that the same thing the Germans told themselves? Yes, and it was still murder, and I condoned murder because I didn’t have the guts to say anything.

Well now to get back to what I was talking about in the first place. Just as Germany tried to conquer the world by force of arms we’re trying to do the same economically. Oh I’m not well enough informed to say whether this is true everywhere but I can see it here. It’s always been England’s big stick (no German ever told to me just in case you believe the newspapers when they claim the GI’s are being swayed by the Frauleins). Anyway I don’t think it’ll work. It just stirs up the same old hate and drives people into the arms of guys like Hitler. In the twenties the Nazis use to say times must get bad or the cause is lost. We’re well on our way toward making bad times here in Germany already and paradoxically it seems we’re even supplying the Nazis if what the Reader’s Digest is true. Anyway I’ve learned from living over here that a hungry man is a dangerous man no matter whether he’s a German or a Russian or an American. If he sees his children go hungry he’ll do anything or accept any scheme to save them. I don’t believe it would make any difference what nationalities were involved. In fact if Germany or France or any of these other hemmed-in countries were populated or over-populated with Americans instead of the ones who are here there would even be more hell to pay. But there you are—economics.

I’ll tell you something that I’ve noticed here in Germany. Even though they’ve been utterly crushed in this war they are the only people I’ve seen in Europe who actually aspire to a better life. By this I mean they are the only ones that I’ve seen who really seem to want those things that we are always working for like automobiles, refrigerators, new clothes, homes, etc. If you speak to them about such things their eyes light up like electric lights. You won’t find that among the French or English or anyone else over here for that matter. They’re satisfied with what they’ve got and I believe that fact irks the Germans a great deal.

In short I wonder if we’re doing the right thing over here. It’s very easy to sit back in Washington and write off millions of people as scum unworthy of anything better in life than the role of a dangerous prisoner. I don’t say that we should just step out and let everything go to hell again but it seems to me that lowering the standard of living is just asking for trouble.

I probably didn’t get over the way I wanted to but soon now I’ll be coming home and I’ll be able to talk it over with you anyway.

I guess you can get out the shovels now. Anyway I promise that I won’t write anymore of this stuff again. I’ve got it pretty well out of my system.

I’ll try to write you a really good letter tomorrow night so for tonight I guess that’s all.

Best Love,

Saturday, December 4, 2010

About Letter 279

Bill takes over First Sgt. duties for the Company which are mostly making out reports and answering the phone. "I think that I got the job mainly because I can spell better than the rest of the boys." He is now expecting to leave Germany no later than the first week in March. He wins a watch at the PX which "would cost about $30 in the states."

Letter 279- February 19, 1946

Giessen, Germany (Hesse)
February 19, 1946

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Today I took over my first duties as First Sgt. in this Company. Sergeant Conrad received his orders that he leave tomorrow morning bright and early so that leaves me suddenly with a new job. It won’t be too difficult since I’ve been Co. clerk for quite some time now and because we haven’t got a DEF left in the Company. Unless I miss my guess though we’ll have one before the week is out. One company down the line is getting five-hundred in before next week and that’s a helluva lot of prisoners for one officer and seven men to handle. My guess is that we will probably move down into town somewhere and acquire a company. I’d be just as happy if we didn’t but that’s the way it goes. On the other hand there is talk that we’ll be transferred to another Labor Supervision Area. I prefer not but there’s no reason to fret since I doubt whether I’ll be here long enough for it to make any difference at all. I don’t see at all how we can be here after the first week of March and I wouldn’t be surprised if we leave before then. The only thing wrong with that picture is that once we do move into the pipeline there is a lot of rigamarole and weeks of waiting before we actually get on the boat. They have a program called “The Privates Meet the Generals” broadcast from Frankfurt once a week and they made the statement that it takes about eight weeks to go from the beginning to the end of the pipeline so that’s about it.

The job of being First Sgt. around here is merely making out the various reports and answering the phone. I think that I got the job mainly because I can spell better than the rest of the boys. Anyway it means I won’t have to drive anymore and that’s okay with me. I’ve had enough jouncing around in that truck to last me a lifetime.

I received some more back mail today so I guess that the post office boys are really scared. I though there for awhile that you’d given such a scare that they’d be sending my mail by special courier in an armored car or something. I don’t know what you wrote in that last letter but it sure must have been good. It seems to have accomplished more than the protests of everyone in the ETO for the last two years.

Did I tell you that I won a watch in the PX? I shouldn’t say that because I had to pay $9.00 for it but the same watch would cost about $30 in the states. I really got it at a good time since the mainspring on my other watch had broken only two days before. My other watch is really a damn good watch so I didn’t want to take a chance on sending it to a jeweler over here, not that they are not good jewelers but rather that they don’t have anything to work with these days. My other watch only cost me $16.00 but since then I’ve found out that they retail for around $50.00 at home.

That’s about all for tonight. I hope that everything is “prime” at home. If you see Lee tell him I’d like to talk to him too. You just put two Infantrymen together and we can chin anyone else under the table.

Best Love,