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One Soldier's Letters --
December 17, 1944
I am deep in the heart of a German cellar trying to get this letter written by candlelight so excuse the scrawling. There really isn't much to say except that I'm scared to death but otherwise okay. About the only thing I can tell you is that my outfit is fighting with the U.S. Ninth Army and that the going has been pretty tough. Everything else is military information and of course is censored.
Itrange how people change when they face death at any moment. The boys become more serious, much closer to each other. and a lot of them learn to pray. If there is a hell on earth Germany is it. Villages are crumbled to dust and everywhere is the wreckage of vehicles, roads, and even the fields are torn and mutilated. Up front the battle continues day by day and horribly mangled bodies of men line every road and field where our doughboys have passed through. These are the boys who deserve every honor and the admiration of everyone. Their job is the toughest 䯠face the enemy with cold steel and drive him out.
January 11, 1945
I received your letter of Dec. 27 and since we got a half-day rest I'm devoting the time to writing. Yes, I suppose that people back home do worry about the boys over here. Not to mention how we worry.
Germany is getting to be a very cold, snow-covered, miserable battlefield but at least the white snow camouflages some of the forgotten bodies and other scars of war. The only consolation is that the Jerries have it just as bad or I should say worse. I saw a jeep trailer full of dead Jerries with the blood still fresh and brilliant crimson. Our infantry boys are a tough, straight shooting outfit as Jerry is finding out. It's a hard life at the front and many times we don't get much rest. We were up here for 36 days and got a 48 hour "rest" and hot showers. We had passes to a town in Holland and we saw a couple of American movies, whistled at all the Dutch girls (who are all learning to speak English for some unknown reason) and I had the first dish of ice cream since leaving the States. But it was soon over and we piled on the trucks and headed for the front again.
Some of the boys tried to get your name and address after seeing your picture but the bolder ones I killed with a club and the others finally gave up. Besides, they're wolves and being one myself I was merely protecting my property. No kidding I really would appreciate some photos because I'm sure you must have changed after all these months. (Prettier than ever, I know.)
Is there a meat shortage in the States yet? We shoot everything from deer to duckling for our chow. I even milked a German cow one day.
January 29, 1945
I received 2 of your letters but was unable to answer because it's been a very busy week for us. You asked about a special pal �best friend was killed only a few hours after I received your letters. Up here life is counted day by day and minute by minute because at any time Death may pick your name out of the grab bag.
Last week my division was planning a big attack and the Germans must have heard about it because before our boys could attack the Jerries just retreated and left everything. Our boys just walked through almost a hundred concrete pillboxes and occupied the town without any loss of men. Our Engineer company was right out in front clearing mines, repairing roads and preparing tank routes. It was the kind of victory we'd like all the time but up until now we've had to fight for every yard of German soil.
February 11, 1945
The snow has all melted and we're going around in knee-deep mud. It's the same old routine - plenty of hard work day and night. We've been blowing up concrete pillboxes over 1,000 yards in front of our front lines. We each carried 50 lb cases of TNT out there and it takes about 1,000 lbs for each box. We blew up 4 of them and after carrying all that TNT out there we were plenty tired. Besides, a Jerry machine gun kept trying to find us but it was so dark he couldn't hit anyone. (Some of those bullets were pretty close.)
We've also been repairing the roads so our vehicles can get to the front without getting stuck. All the German homes around here are built of bricks so we just knock down a wall, load the bricks on our trucks and dump their houses on the roads. They make pretty solid roads.
March 7, 1945
I haven't written for a long time but if you've been keeping up with the war news you know why. I've been pretty busy since the Ninth Army began its big drive to the ________. [Word is literally cut out of the letter by the censor. I believe it was "Rhine".]
堡re really knocking hell out of Jerry now. The radio and newspapers have really been praising our division or so we've been told. It was rough going but we finally got Jerry on the run and then we really covered ground. A lot of the towns still have electricity and running water and we just move the civilians out and live in their houses. We sleep on their beds, eat their food, have their radios going and even drink their wine and whiskey.
March 17, 1945
You know those big searchlights lighting up the sky in search of enemy planes is a beautiful sight. The ones they leave on all night are "artificial moonlight" to light up the battlefields. Before, we used to say itࡠbeautiful night for romance. Now its "It's a fine night for the bombers."
April 21, 1945
I've received several letters from you but up till now I haven't had a chance to answer. I think you understand why so I won't go into detail.
I was fortunate enough to be a witness to a pretty terrible sight the other day. I say "fortunate" because now I have seen with my own eyes a German atrocity which otherwise I might have called propaganda. I am referring to the mass burning and shooting of 1,100 men which the Germans had in their concentration camp. I was at the place a day or so after and I saw with my own eyes the hundreds of charred shrunken bodies piled high in the entrances to the barn where they were burned. Many were shot down by machine gun fire as they tried to get through the doors. It's a sight one can never forget or forgive and the men that have seen it, now have an even greater score to settle with these Nazis.
April 30, 1945
I guess you've heard about our linkup with the Red Army. It seems there is no longer any reason for us to reach Berlin because the Russians beat us to it by a few miles. I don't know just what we'll do now but I have a slim chance of coming home soon. I might be here for a year or so as the Army of Occupation or I may go direct to the Pacific theatre without even a chance for a furlough home. All I can do is hope for the best.
May 6, 1945
Hello, baby! I'm having a heck of a time trying to start this letter. The boys are listening to the radio and I can't concentrate on writing when the joint's jumping. There's nothing like our American brand of rhythm.
Yesterday we had a lot of fun. A couple of my buddies and I went out deer hunting and we hadn't been out an hour when we spotted five deer near a clump of trees. We split up and approached from different angles and came quite close to them before one of the boys started firing. The deer became confused and started running from him to me and I got a perfect shot at one. I hit him and down he went. The deer here are a very small variety and although this one was about three years old he only weighed about 75 pound alive. We have enough venison to last about a week but we have very little lard which makes it difficult to fry the steaks. It was a lot of fun and I got a big kick out of it even if it was a lot of work skinning and carrying him all the way back to the house.
May 16, 1945
We've been supervising the building of a huge P.W. enclosure. The Jerries do the work naturally. I was only out the first day because I hurt my back lifting a box and the doc said to take it easy for a while. The work went well and the stockade was finished in record time for which some General complimented our platoon commander and the boys for their excellent planning and deployment of PW's for working parties. I don't know what we'll do next but I'd like to stay right here for awhile. We are living in a nice hotel with swell beds, lights, radios, running water etc. Downstairs we have a beer hall and we consume about 3 kegs daily. Tonight we had a special treat. We drew our liquor ration of French wine, champagne, and cognac. It's a nice setup but we'll have to move even though our lieutenant is trying to find excuses to stay longer. We've even got the owners making our beds every morning!
June 1, 1945
We have moved south almost 200 miles and I think we'll be here about a month. We are building a swimming pool and showers and organizing athletics to take up our time. We have plenty of beer to drink on hot days and I guess it's a pretty good setup. I've gone out swimming and I'm even beginning to pick up a healthy sun tan like I used to have back home.
[Click here for photos taken at the swimming pool.]
June 9, 1945
Well, we have finally reached our new area after 8 days of moving. I drove over 1,500 miles hauling troops to the new place and going back for more. We drove night and day and it was very tiresome and also hard work driving in those mountains. We finally wound up in Passau, a big city right on the blue Danube River and also on the Czech border. We are also quite close to Austria, Switzerland and even France. It's very scenic country 䨥 Bavarian Alps. The men wear peaked hats with big colored feathers and short leather pants. The women are dressed in flowery peasant costumes and it's very interesting to watch them on Sundays when they all stroll around in their best.
We have no idea how long we will stay in this new place but it is expected to be two months at the least. It ruins some plans I had about coming home but I suppose I should be thankful because every day I spend here is one less I'll have in the Pacific.