Saturday, January 22, 2011

Letter 286- March 11, 1946

Giessen, Germany (Hesse)
March 11, 1946

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’m writing you today to tell you to stop writing to me. By the time you get this letter I should be well on my way home. Yesterday we were informed that we would be leaving for our carrier unit or casual packet sometime this week. The fact of the matter is that we may leave tomorrow or we may leave sometime late this week. At any rate it can’t be much longer than that. There is a large shipment of troops leaving port on the 28th or 29th of this month and if I’m lucky I will be with that shipment. Of course, everything is too indefinite to tell for sure. That’s the same old thing that makes me love the army so damn much. You never can tell when they’re going to do something. A fellow will get ready to go somewhere ten times only to have the date set back and then when he expects it the least they come rushing in with the orders for him to be ready to move in about five minutes.

Anyway they called yesterday morning and wanted to know if any of us wanted to stay over here. I like the way they go at it. They call up and with an unusual sweetness of voice say that if we wish there is no reason why we have to go. Ha! This army kicks you in the pants for years and then they think that you will fall in love with them if they merely pat you on the back once.

I received a letter from you yesterday dated the 27th of Feb. which made pretty good time considering how the mails usually go over here. I doubt very much that you waited a whole week between letters, but that’s the way I usually get them. So they wrote to you about the book of the Regt. during combat. I really want one of those but the dirty so and so who wrote to you also wrote to me and I already ordered one. It shouldn’t be too long now before I get a book from division also. It is 400 pages and is called “The Story of the Century”. With all three of the books that we will have you should have a pretty good idea what in hell I did over here. What’s more I should get an idea what in hell I did over here. I’ve often wondered just what in the devil was going on.

Yesterday they said that we’d be leaving here Tuesday or Wednesday so I spent a good part of the day saying goodbye to people I know around here. The first thing that those who are German said was, “I wish I were going too, you lucky guy.” Of course that’s the same thing the Americans said too. In fact I have a sneaking suspicion that these people are slightly envious of me around here. Now, however, it seems that I may be stuck around here for some time to come—maybe a week or so. It’s really hard to say.

I really have a hard time believing that this can be true. I’ve nothing but bad news for so long that I’m not conditioned to good news. I need some sort of refresher course in it or something.

The weather at last is beginning to break up around this neck of the woods. You might know it. It’ll probably be nice as can be from the time that I leave until next winter. Right now the weather is warm and just a bit foggy. It’s a lot like home about this time of year. For all my complaining though this has not been a hard winter for Germany. We’ve had very little snow and not enough cold to really make things bad. It really would have been bad if it had. The people here are not starving yet but they are not eating as well as the people in the other parts of Europe no matter what these idiot reporters for PM and other such publications say. The only thing is that they don’t moan about it so much. They’re just happy that things are as good as they are.

Well, I guess that about does it for now.

Best Love,


  1. I have not read The Story of the Century, but I suspect it's scope and accuracy were limited by its proximity to the war. There was no opportunity to examine other sources of information particularly classified data and German accounts.

    I have just embarked on the second edition of the history of the American Volunteer Group - The Flying Tigers - which could only be told at some distance from the actual events. I suspect that "Story" could benefit from some updating. But many of the players have passed so much is lost.

  2. Yes, "The Story of the Century" is a detailed account of the day to day action on the ground. It is impressively produced with photographs and maps and fairly well written. It is a homage to the members of the 100th Infantry Division and not an academic endeavor. It is one of three unit histories I inherited from my father. The regimental history is entitled "399th in Action-with the 100th Infantry Division" and the company history "Able in Combat".

    I am particularly struck by Bill's comment that by reading these histories "I should get an idea of what the hell I did over here. I've often wondered just what in the devil was going on." It seems that confusion is the first element of battle.

  3. For a more up to date history of the action I recommend "When the Odds Were Even- The Vosges Mountain Campaign, October 1944-January 1945" by Keith E. Bonn. The author is a West Point graduate, former Ranger and has a PhD in History from the University of Chicago. This work is a detailed analysis of the military tactics of the campaign which provides an opportunity to analyze a rare situation in the Western theater whereby both sides were fairly evenly matched.

  4. It's ironic Greg that our father's memoirs are somewhat similar in that they both are returning home. I look forward to reading his accounts of returning home. That's where I am with my dad's blog. Liz

  5. Hi Elizabeth! Yes, homecoming must have been sweet for these men who faced death and survived. The next post, Letter 287 is the final letter in the collection. Beyond that there are 2 telegrams and that is it. I will end with a brief postscript and the project will be done.

    This has been a rewarding experience for me. I have learned so much about the sacrifices our fighting men made during this epic struggle, and along the way I have learned much about my father, who he was and what made him tick. I will be forever grateful that his wonderful letters survived and that I had the opportunity to share them with the world at large via this blog. I am sure you are experiencing the same thing with your great blog "The Charlie-Boy Chronicles: A World War II Pilot’s Story".



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