August 1945

LETTER 223

Tomorrow the “Red Raiders” —  the 1st Battalion of the 399th Infantry Regiment — are set to receive the Presidential Citation for their action at Bitche. Bill notes that, “Naturally we are all pretty proud.” He closes with his usual plea for goodies from home.

August 2, 1945
Derdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’ve just finished a letter to you by throwing it into the waste basket. I just can’t seem to write anything decent tonight. Last night it was the same way and likewise the night before. I guess I’m in some sort of a “funk.” Again. It could be the radio blaring a blood and thunder radio story in my ear. I don’t know.

How about a nice package of candy, fruit juice, tuna or the like? I’m so hungry these days it’s horrible. The food here is not too bad but—.

Tomorrow is a big day for the 1st battalion or “Red Raiders” as we are more commonly known. Tomorrow we get the PRESIDENTIAL CITATION. Naturally we are all pretty proud. As you know it is the highest award a unit can receive. There’s also a rumor that we’re going to get the French “Croix de Foi” for the action at Bitche. At the festivities tomorrow, which by the way last all day, we’re going to have beer and donuts, coffee, wine, snacks etc. I’ve got to close now as one Cecil Moninger is pestering me to go have a beer with him.

They caught me before I was ready in the picture.

How do you like the cake?

OK. I’m coming, Monty!

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 224

Rumor has it that Bill’s unit will leave for home in late October and be in the Pacific by late January. Bill says that “I feel sorry for the Japs even if they do act so brutal. I’ve seen what total war is on this side and it’s only a taste of what Japan is so blindly walking into.” He has yet to hear of the monumental event that occurs on this historic date.

August 6, 1945
Derdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

To be perfectly frank I don’t feel like writing tonight but I owe you a letter and so here it is. There is really quite a bit to write about but it’s so hazy and indefinite that I just don’t. Sometime this week we are supposed to be alerted. That simply means that we’ll be told where and when we’ll be leaving. Semi-official rumor has it that we’ll leave France for home in late October and will be in the Pacific by late January. However the latter part of that is merely supposition. I know because everyone here from his own experience knows troops can’t be moved that quickly. Ships don’t go that fast. However the first part of the report is probably true. This, of course is way ahead of schedule but events in the Pacific are moving so fast that it is inevitable. My only fear is that Japan will begin to go to pieces so rapidly that we will be sent direct. There’s not much chance of it but it’s always a possibility. However, there’s a good chance that I’ll be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Let’s just pray that Japan folds before I even get home from here.

I feel sorry for the Japs even if they do act so brutal. I’ve seen what total war is on this side and it’s only a taste of what Japan is blindly walking into. The feeling here rightly or wrongly is that Russia has something up her sleeve. Russians in this area are out and out in declaring that Russia will jump all over the DESPISED JAPS at the right time. The Germans claim Japan is insane for not accepting our generous offer and say Germany would have surrendered in ’43 to such terms.

Next Saturday we’re going to some little town about 60 miles away and fire weapons and have a general review of basic training insofar as weapons and marksmanship is concerned. By the way, I’m burned up because they say here they have no verification of my being an Expert Rifleman.

That’s about all. I hope my mail is coming through better now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 225

The news of the Atomic Bomb drop on Hiroshima hits Bill’s squad room like an 88 barrage. “The complexion of the war has gone from a hard fight ahead to the possible collapse of Japan in days.” Before the men’s enthusiasm wanes an announcer breaks into the radio program to declare that the Russians have entered the war. The men await “even bigger news” set to be announced at 11:00.

Thursday, August 9, 1945
Derdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Three nights ago I walked downstairs, dropped a letter to you in the mailbox, walked back to my squad room. Then I thought I was dreaming. The boys were standing about the room with mouths agape and issuing forth from the radio were the excited statements of an A.F.N. announcer. It sounded like the contents of an ordinary science-fiction magazine. “ATOMIC BOMB DESTROYS JAP CITY” . I don’t believe any of us believed it at first but as news flashes continued to pour in we became wild with excitement. It was really something. While we were still so enthused over our wonderful and terrible new weapon last night another excited announcer broke into a program to tell us the Russians had entered the war.

In 3 days, even less, the complexion of the war has gone from a hard fight ahead to the possible collapse of Japan in days.

During the years when Japan was committing such atrocities I often wondered when she would “pay the piper.” For her 2500 years of treachery she is paying a terrible price; Extinction.

The Seventh Army today suppressed the 100th Div. newspaper, “The Century Sentinel”. It was silly because everyone in the Div. knew what the contents were; our sailing date—between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1—Oct. 6 is the consensus of opinion.

Boy! Even as I read over the paragraph above the news came pouring in. At 11:00 some bigger news is supposed to come in.

I’m getting mail okay now, but you must be having a tough time of it. That little Combat Badge should be home by now.

I sure hope they don’t decide to send us to the Pacific via Siberia. I think some awfully morbid stuff, don’t I?

That’s all for now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 226

It’s the day after a second A-bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Bill exuberantly exclaims, “It is now 1800 hours of what might be the greatest day of my life; the end of this God awful war.” The men anxiously await for an announcement on A.F.N. regarding the possible Japanese surrender. “We’re all praying that this is it.”

August 10, 1945
Derdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

It is now 1800 hours of what might be the greatest day of my life; the end of this God awful war. † As I write an announcer is speaking in German of the Japanese surrender offer. A.F.N. has announced that if Japan officially surrenders within the next few hours as is expected they will warn us by a 30 second sound pitch over the radio. I guess we’re all praying that this is it. I’ll underline that last phrase. It used to send chills running up and down my spine. It meant attack. Some of my letters must sound a little dramatic but it seems to be in the air.

I’m sure that never has anything happened so fast. Five days ago a year, maybe 2 years seemed inevitable in the Pacific but now it may be that in a few months when I come home that it will be for good. My mind is not conditioned for that kind of thinking. Anyway I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Well, “whatayouknow”?! I received your package with the shoes, etc. today. It was postmarked the 17th of July. Not bad, eh? I’ve got the shoes on now. It’s the first pair of Oxfords I’ve had on since I was last home on furlough 14 months ago. They feel funny but good.

Boy is there a storm raging outside. 3 days it’s been going on now, and in August too. Someone should take Europe weather and all, dump it into the toilet, and flush it down good.

This school we’re living in is a rather modernistic affair, “L” shaped, with one side practically all glass. As a result the cold comes right in and there’s no coal for the furnace. What a situation, what a country, wot a life. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Four months ago I would have thought this was heaven or better.

Most of the boys went to a show in Stuttgart tonight but personally the long, cold truck ride didn’t appeal to me & since the pending big news (I hope) was so interesting I decided to stay here. I should have liked to have gone though at that. The play is the Broadway hit, “Kiss and Tell.”

Thanks for the package.

Best Love, — Bill

† To learn why Bill considered it the greatest day in his life, see The Planned Invasion of Japan.

LETTER 227

Bill has more questions than answers now that peace is at hand, “Is it peace or ain’t it? Am I coming home soon or ain’t I?” Rumor has it that the unit is going to Camp Roberts, California and Bill optimistically remarks that “Six weeks from today I could be in Los Angeles.”

August 12, 1945
Derdinger, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Is it peace or ain’t it? Am I coming home soon or ain’t I? These are the questions of the moment. Unless something goes haywire now I’ll probably be home during the first week of Sept. Actually it won’t be definite until next week but they’re moving heaven and hell to take the Division out of Europe this month. Six weeks from today I could be in Los Angeles. But? And it’s a big but, things could be changed at any minute. If the folks at home continue to oppose peacetime conscription we may be stuck in the A. of O. category. The army would have no choice. Combat outfits should get to go home but if no one is here to replace us I’m afraid that we will be unable to do much else. Sometimes I don’t think people can think beyond the end of their noses. We’ve done our part. Others haven’t, yet we’re expected to do more while those who’ve never served don’t have to do even a little bit.

At any rate we’re supposed to be in Le Havre by the 27th of this month. Our battalion is supposed to leave the 1st due to its honors. The bn. is one of New York’s own and will probably parade there.

One rumor has it that we’re going to Camp Roberts, California. I hope so.

At Le Havre things will be confused I suppose, so don’t write anymore ‘til I write again.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 228

Bill’s hope for an early return to Los Angeles is dashed when he learns that the 100th. is not listed on the announcement. He states ruefully “Someone must stay in the Occupation over here. If there is no one to relieve us, I guess we will be stuck here indefinitely.”

August 16, 1945
Derdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’ve received 10 letters from you during the past 2 days including your birthday card. I just couldn’t write though. On Friday we were supposed to have left for LeHavre. Today is Wed. Almost all the fellows have been writing to their people telling them when to expect them home. I guess I was one of the pessimists but I just couldn’t build up your hopes too high when every probability was that the end of the war would revert us to Army of Occupation. Well, it’s happened. This morning they announced the change and the 100th wasn’t among those mentioned for return to the states. It’s a heart breaker but the high point divisions should go home first. I know if I’d been over here 4 years I’d be mad if some guy who’d been over one only one year went home before me. However, the one thing that can and probably will wreck everything is the determination at home that the draft will be discontinued. Someone must stay in Occupation over here. If there is no one to relieve us, I guess we’ll be stuck here indefinitely. I still think that most of the people at home can’t think beyond the tips of their noses. It’s a pain, believe me.

The other day they picked the 2 most qualified men in the Company to compete for 4 regimental openings to go to college here in Europe. I was one of the 2. Guess how they picked the ones of us that were to go out of the 8 men chosen from this battalion. They had us draw numbers out of a hat. I was so disgusted I couldn’t even talk. Probably the 2 dumbest of the bunch drew the lucky number.

I’ve got to close now but tomorrow I write a really good letter in answer to the 10 that I received in the last 2 days.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 229

Bill receives official notification that his group has been taken off alert and “in other words I’m not coming home.” He is in a “blue funk” and attributes it to utter boredom saying, “after a while one becomes dead from the neck up.”

August 18, 1945
Durdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Today we were officially notified that we had been taken off the alert list. In other words I’m not coming home. It is as I expected but we’ve been working and preparing to go right up until today. Soooo….you can continue to write and send packages. Most of the fellows are very disappointed but I always felt that it was too good to be true. Now it may be even a year before I get home. God forbid but it’s quite likely. The 100th is one of the youngest divisions in the E.T.O. now. All the younger ones got home before we had a chance. They were scheduled for the Pacific before us but now they get all the breaks. Little service in the E.T.O. and none in the Pacific but they’re home anyway and we’re not. C’est la vie.

Now a request for a package. How about a big box of candy, cookies, etc., tuna, sardines, crackers etc. I’m losing weight these days. Another year in this damn army and I’ll be bald and a human shadow.

I received the pictures from you and enjoyed them very much.

This is one of those blue funk days and I’m finding it awfully difficult to write. The utter boredom over here has something to do with it a guess. After a while one becomes dead from the neck up. It’s a “helluva” existence anyway.

I must close now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 230

Bill notes that “as the war comes to an end the men are beginning to assert themselves as citizens and the obedient attitude of soldiers is disappearing.” The men are becoming more outspoken in the Open Forums sanctioned by the Army, commonly known as “Bitch Sessions.”

August 21, 1945
Derdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’ve gotten… (I love this word even if it is wrong) terribly behind in my letter writing again you see. I haven’t received a letter in several days but that’s not the reason why. I’ve just been too restless to write. It’s getting worse too. All anyone can talk about is when are we going home. Today we received a shipment of overcoats which didn’t make us feel any better. As the war comes to an end the men are beginning to assert themselves as citizens and the obedient attitude of soldiers is disappearing. It’s no breach of discipline or anything of the kind. No great task lies before us any longer, however; and the natural American independent feeling is returning. The officers used to say, “you must do this or that because of the difficult task that lies ahead.” What can they say now? As a result the men are becoming more outspoken in the Open Forums which the Army backs. We call it our “Bitch Session”.

While we were fighting some people said we’d be soon far more interested in public life, government and so forth; and we laughed. Where a man has a rather doubtful lease on life it doesn’t seem to matter. It does now.

Lately the chief bone of contention has been the sending of combat veterans from Europe to Japan for the Army of Occupation—the 95th Division in particular since the others saw very little action over here. There’s a deep resentment welling up in the various Armored and Infantry divisions over the lack of consideration they are getting. It’s making a nasty and dangerous division in the army between the forward and rear echelons, neither of which is really at fault. Some War Department heads, however, fail to recognize the difference between combat and non-combat troops. Maybe we’re wrong but we can’t help but feel that men who risked their lives, lived in misery and often as not spilled their blood are entitled to more consideration than those who merely had to do some hard work. Oh hell. Just wait ‘till I get to vote…….!

Now how af (that ain’t it)

Now, how about a nice package of candy, cookies and various other good things to eat. The food we’ve had lately has been fierce. First they put salt instead of sugar in the pudding & then somehow some lighter fluid got into the coffee the other morning. I was afraid to smoke all day.

Better say goodnight now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 231

Bill and the other Californians in his platoon are quite homesick after hearing a new tune on the radio, “Cali-for-naye-ay.” Rumors are rampant that all men under 40 points will go into the Army of Occupation. With 45 or 47 points Bill figures he will be all right.

August 23 1945
Derdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Oh what a life this is getting to be. Your letters and the little books that you and the other fellow’s people have sent are all that’s keeping us from going batty. Any idea of training is repulsive and interest in practically everything is waning. We don’t talk about it much anymore but the foremost thought in everyone’s mind is “when are we going home?” There are no rumors anymore but we still wonder.

The weather here is rotten and so cold that overcoats were handed out yesterday—August! For three days it rained almost steadily.

I heard a new song on the air last Tuesday “Cali-for-naye-ay.” I was quite homesick as were the rest of the Californians in the platoon (6).

There’s a rampaging rumor racing around now that all men under 40 points will go into the Army of Occupation. I now have 45 or 47 points so if it’s true I’m all right. The way the papers read though I’ll be lucky to get out by 1960. Peacetime conscription would simplify everything but some people seem to think we should stay over here forever and everyone else lean back and forget about the whole business. By the way, I see the navy is up in arms over its point system. It is unfair a sailor who never went aboard a ship can easily have as many points as one that had 3 ships shot out under him. I’ll tell you one thing though. When the armed forces do get home a lot of smug big shots in Washington are going to get a jolt.

Watch out! Hyar comes another request. I want a couple of T-shirts and a sweat shirt, if you can get them. I would also like a box of candy, cookies or other stuff like that thar.

Gotta go now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 232

In this letter, extending over 2 days Bill receives the distressing news that the 100th is in the Occupation and that we are stuck for a “prolonged period of time.”

August 27, 1945
Derdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I haven’t written for several days due to the lack of incoming mail. Yesterday, however, I did get a letter from you, Dad, and so I’m writing. There’s a new point rearrangement coming out and if all goes well I’ll get 52 points out of it; 5 points for a new battle star and 8 points from V-E to V-J Day plus the 39 points I have now. † Because of this I won’t be able to send you that authorization for ribbons, etc. Besides I’m still battling for that Expert Rifleman badge. It’s a losing battle, I’m afraid.

August 28, 1945

Dear Folks,

Today we got word from the Adjutant General’s Office that the 100th is in Occupation. That’s the worst news I’ve heard since the last attack was ordered. Under the present setup it means that we may be stuck over here for an indefinite period of time. The War Dept. is determined to have the A. of O. and the Congress is determined to halt the draft. The only answer is that we’re stuck for a “Prolonged Period of Time”, forever maybe? We are all furious. It seems that the more you fought the less credit you get. Today 119 decorations were given out. The 4 line companies combined received 49 decorations and Headquarters Co. (clerks, truck drivers, switchboard men, etc. received the rest, 70 awards.

For 23 months I’ve kept my mouth shut and thereby kept out of trouble. I don’t know how much longer I can continue to do so. I’m afraid that if things don’t start looking up soon, I’ll go berserk. I’ll bet my squad alone has worn out 20 decks of cards during the past 2 weeks playing solitaire.

I’m too riled to write a decent letter but I will request some candy, juice, cookies and so forth. To make matters worse the food’s atrocious anymore.

Best Love, — Bill

† Bill refers to earning points. To learn more, see The Point System.

LETTER 233

Bill notes that when he wrote his last letter he was “so furious I couldn’t see straight.” The issue is that “nobody knows what the situation is.” One Company non-com is corresponding with Senator Vandenberg who is interested in the Infantryman’s point of view. Bill believes that the Company will move to Karlsruhe next week.

August 30, 1945
Derdingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I just received two letters from you which came in approximately ten days. The day before yesterday when I wrote my last letter I was so furious that I couldn’t see straight, but today I realize that it doesn’t mean a thing. The situation is in such a state of flux that nobody knows what the situation is. However, I’m sure we’ll get out of here before too very long. Combat troops are going to squawk this time ‘til they get a break. One non-com in this Company has a running correspondence with Senator Vandenberg (and no seeds either) who is interested in the Infantryman’s point of view.

It’s a warm sultry evening and the rain is just beginning to fall. Everyone’s nerves are raw with this boring existence but next week I believe we’ll move to Karlsruhe which is a good sized town and has all sorts of facilities, especially for entertainment. Another thing is that Karlsruhe is practically on the French frontier. We will be relieving the 106 Inf. Div. which is going home.

That’s about all of any importance except of course the usual request for a package of candy, cookies, and anything else on hand. They’ve got big posters all over the barracks saying, “If you’re going home before Xmas Notify your people Not to send Xmas packages.” Lovely, huh? HOW IN HELL SHOULD I KNOW. Oh well, more later.

Best Love, — Bill

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