But Then I Don’t Run The Army

Saturday 12 May 1945

Germany – 2:30 p.m.


Dear folks,

Starting today I shall go back to writing by air mail instead of v-mail. Judging by the speed with which we have been getting air mail letters from back there it will be faster. I am typing this on a German machine and as usual am hitting a few wrong keys as they have some of them in different places. Every time I go to hit the backspacer I get the number 1 as it is in the same spot. If I were to use this for very long I would get used to it but this is about the second time I have typed on this. I hope this will be readable. It is another swell day here and maybe summer has come finally. The temperature here in the office is around 80 degrees I believe and it is probably more out in the sun. It is hard to keep track of what the day is any more as they are all the same. Tomorrow we are pulling two hours apiece so that will be a little break at least. Now that the war is over our work is beginning to pick up quite a bit but also we should go back to a more “garrison” schedule I should think. We got rid of our steel helmets and just wear the plastic liners now so that is something. It takes a load off our heads although I had got so that I hardly noticed it any more. I would much rather keep wearing the helmet and ditch the rifle somewhere. It gets tiresome carrying it everywhere we go. We are supposed to have it and the ammunition with us whenever we go outside no matter for what. I could see it so long as the war lasted but now it seems sort of unnecessary to me unless a person is on guard but then I don’t run the army.

It really seems good to know that the war over here is over but it isn’t going to help us very much by the looks of things. We have been busy working on this point business but most of us will get nothing from it. I don’t suppose it is any secret that only 8 men in my company are above the critical score in points that has been set up so far. I’m so far down that I may as well forget it. I have 38 points under the present plan. 28 points for service, 5 points for 5 months overseas, 5 points for one so called battle participation star (believe it or not). You see the Ruhr pocket was not quite all wiped out when we moved into Germany so I guess that is where we get the star if it becomes official. I understand some of the boys were actually under a little fire. Censorship is gradually being lifted and pretty soon we will be able to tell just about everything. According to the Stars and Stripes yesterday we can tell of places we have been and of our trip over if it was 6 months ago. I’ll have to wait a month for that but we can tell of our trip through France and Belgium. As yet we can’t tell where we are if in occupied territory. The boys in the “liberated” countries can even write and say where they are. So going on the assumption that it is not of any military information I shall do a bit of recapitulation. If this is censored out then I am wrong. We were in England from Dec. 22 until April 10. You have a pretty good idea of the trip we had across the Atlantic. I hope that if it falls our lot to have to go to the Pacific that we don’t hit another British boat. They are the worst on the ocean I believe. I never expected to ever live for 2 weeks like we did on that boat on the way over. We lived ate slept everything in one compartment where you couldn’t move without bumping into someone else. Just give me an American boat from now on. The food was the worst I have ever run into. So much for that. Since it isn’t six months yet I won’t say where we left from or where we arrived in southern England. I will say it made me very happy that we didn’t stay where we landed because it was not too healthy a spot particularly earlier in the war. One could see a few evidences of it in just the little bit of the place that we saw. We were stationed in a small British army camp for 3 ½ months right in the edge of Gloucester England. I don’t know if you ever guessed that from anything I ever said or not. Anyway that is where we were. As soon as we stepped out of the gate we were in the residential district and about a 25 minute walk put you in the center of the business section downtown. It was a city of about 60,000 I believe or maybe even more. It may sound funny but two other fellows just asked me how big Gloucester was so they must be writing about it too. It was a rural sort of city if it is possible to have such a thing. There was very little manufacturing around there except the match factory. It was largely a farmer’s city. That section of England is mostly rural [x-ed out text] plants around that neck of the woods during the war. I don’t know if you ever heard them mention the Gloucester “Typhoon” or not. The city war pretty quiet that is until the G!I!’s arrived and it still was pretty quiet even after that. There were times when the Americans seemed thicker in some of the English towns than the English people themselves. The city of Cheltenham was not too far away and was a much more attractive town. It was larger and the stores, homes and everything seemed better than the ones in Gloucester. Now I hear that we can’t say where we were stationed in England so this will really be cut up if that is so. I wish someone would make up his mind on this censorship business. I am going to let this go so if it is really cut up you’ll know it is because I told where I was stationed. We had a fairly nice time on our trip across France. We were in quite a few cities that I can barely remember the names of now. They are French names and hard for me to keep track of but here are a few: Rouen, Valenciennes, Le Havre, in France, Namur, Liege, Mons and others in Belgium. France was really beautiful. It was right in the middle of April when everything was at that fresh green stage of spring. For the most part the county did not show very many signs of the war that was fought across here last summer and fall. Occasionally we would come to a cross road where the ground was all pock marked from shells and with burned out tanks and guns there but on the whole it looked pretty good. In a few of the cities it showed much more particularly as we got deeper into Belgium and nearer to Germany. As soon as we entered Germany the destruction became complete. They fought pretty hard for everything until they reached the Rhine and there is very [little] left between the border and the Rhine believe me. We stopped on the west side of the Rhine at first for a week or so at a blasted out town before we crossed the “mighty” Rhine which didn’t look any more impressive to me than the Grand River back home. Things on this side are in pretty bad shape but not so bad as on the other side in my opinion. We are not too deep into Germany and I suspect that the damage is not so complete the deeper one goes as the Germans were going backward faster and did not fight so hard for the towns. Of course the RAF and 8th Air forces have been working on some of this for 2 or 3 years and they did a pretty thorough job I might say. We are permitted to mention towns we have been through on travels in Germany so here are a few – Geldern, Krefield, Aachen (there’s nothing left of it), Julich (the most destruction I ever expect to see. It is completely level. They may as well just plow it under and forget it. I remember hearing that it and Aachen were leveled but I never believed it could be so bad as it really is), [x-ed out text] I never got into the city but I did see the spires of the famous cathedral and it is a miracle that it was missed and the rest of the city leveled. That is about all I can say about where I have been without getting into real hot water maybe. It seems this censorship policy is sort of fluid and different persons interpret it differently. Now we are set up here sort of waiting I guess. According to stars and stripes about 400,000 will stay over as army of occupation so we have 1 chance in 10. Time will tell.

That is enough of that for today. You will have hard times trying to read this probably as I have gone back and censored out some of it myself to save someone else the trouble. Last night I got in a couple more hours of tennis and dropped two sets. My game is pretty bad but will improve maybe with time. My wrist is acting up a bit so I may have to give it up completely pretty soon and go back to my stamp collection. I am only about one third of the way through the box of stamps that I have. No mail today. It has been coming through pretty well lately though so we have no complaints I guess. I haven’t been writing to any one and owe quite a lot of letters if I ever get to writing again We are getting a pretty good setup around here now. They are fixing up a swimming pool I understand and they are also making some ball diamonds. We have our tennis court out back here and so far our little group is the only one that use it. It is a dirt court and the GI boots aren’t doing it any good to speak of. There is no real net but we found some pieces and a cable and wired them up to make a sort of makeshift one. Now that the war is over we hear a lot of talk about providing recreational and educational facilities for us. We have been seeing a lot about providing courses at European universities for men in the army of Occupation who are qualified for University training. If there is any chance you know what I’ll be trying to get into. The sooner I can get back into school of some kind the better I shall like it. It has been over a year now and I am getting too far away from the things I have learned. It is all getting too cold. If we don’t stay around here I should be home sometime this year on a furlough of from 21 to 30 days prior to heading for the other ocean. That trip over the Pacific could just about take me in I think. Our Atlantic crossing was bad enough and that was in the middle of winter. Bart is in the Philippines now and he said they ate salt pills like popcorn on the way over. Am I glad I went to ASTP. At least I didn’t go directly to the Pacific and maybe I won’t make it at all now. That all will come with time. Well that is about all there is to say this time I guess. It is about time I went back to work and looked a bit busy so I shall sign off for this time,


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