December 1944

For a summary of the Bill’s combat experience during the first 12 days of December, see Bill in Combat December 1-12, 1944.

LETTER 157

Still enjoying the comforts of a warm building as Company A remains in reserve, Bill sends home an official 399th Infantry Regiment Christmas card along with a 20 franc note as a souvenir.

December 1, 1944
[France]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Here’s hoping this is my last Christmas away from you. The 20 francs (enclosed) are for a souvenir. That’s about all it’s good for.

[Christmas card]
France 1944

WISHING YOU A Merry Christmas AND A Happy New Year — Bill

399th INF. REGT

LETTER 158

Bill writes from St. Louis-les-Bitche where Company A rests for several days following nine days of combat. He apologies for not writing saying, “it’s really impossible to do so under the circumstances.” With contempt he notes that, “The Jerries won’t fight in the open country. They like to fight in towns where they can stay in warm houses while our men freeze outside of towns in foxholes.”

December 12, 1944
[France]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

It’s been too long since I wrote my last letter, I know — but it’s really impossible to do better under the circumstances. The officer who does the censoring hasn’t the time and the facilities are practically nil. I’ll do the best I can but I can almost promise that it won’t be good enough.

After all this time I finally got some mail from you — 4 letters. You know how I must feel. Maybe I’ll get some packages soon now. We’re having our first snow in this part of France now. Just sloppy miserable weather all the time. Jimmy Chune wasn’t fooling.

When this damn thing is over I think I will go to Death Valley and live so I won’t ever have to see any rain.

Only a few more days until Christmas now. It’s hard to think of Christmas over here away from home. As far as I’m concerned it just isn’t anything at all. Oh well! A lot of people over here think it’ll be over by then. I figure that it’s always better to look on the brighter side of things. It would be a swell Christmas present.

Did you get my Christmas card? The regt. passed them out. I thought that was rather nice.

I haven’t heard any news for quite some time again. I believe that no one knows less about the war than the poor G.I. that fights the damn thing.

Well, excuse this terrible writing but a pen will cut right through this lousy paper.

This part of France is very pretty if a person gets his mind off his sore feet long enough to notice it. It’s much like the forest country in California except for the large number of little towns. The towns themselves would be very picturesque if it wasn’t for the fact that they’ve had the hell knocked out of them. The Jerries won’t fight in the open country. They like to fight in towns where they can stay in warm cellars while our men freeze outside of towns in foxholes—the polecats.

Well, I’ll close now. I’ll write again as soon as I can.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 159

Bill continues to enjoy several days of rest with his unit in a schoolhouse at St. Louis-les-Bitche, France. He gets a hot bath exclaiming, “Hot water-oh boy! What luxury!”

December 12, 1944-2
[France, V-Mail]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Yesterday I wrote you a letter and dated it the 12th. I was wrong so here’s another dated the 12th. It seems that we may stay in the place for several days so I guess I’ll be able to catch up a little with my letter writing. We’re situated in a schoolhouse so I’m able to obtain ink, paper, pencils and all other necessary paraphernalia (did I spell that right?). We’re not doing much of anything at all except catching up on our sleep, eating and writing.

Everybody’s getting back mail so I think those packages might come along any time—I hope, I hope. If I receive anything this afternoon I’ll write again.

Need I mention the weather?

Yesterday I got another bath. Hot water—oh boy! What luxury! Now, if I could only get some clean clothes.

My space here now is just about gone so I’ll have to close.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 160

In this, his third letter of the day from a schoolhouse in St. Louis les Bitche, Bill is down in the dumps after reading “Stars and Stripes.” The war seems to be dragging on and reports indicate that the Germans are “training new armies and producing great stores of equipment.” Unbeknownst to Bill the great German Ardennes offensive is just 4 days away.

December 12, 1944-3
[France, V-Mail]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I said I’d write this afternoon if I received any mail from you. Well, I didn’t but I’ll write anyway. I have just finished reading the Stars and Stripes for yesterday and as a result I’m pretty far down in the dumps. We don’t seem to be getting anywhere with this war. They talk about Germany training new armies and producing great stores of equipment. Out drives seem so damned slow and to top that they talk of Japan fighting on for years. I get so damned sick of it all. Last September it sounded like everything was over but the shouting, but since then as each day goes by the prospects of a long war becomes clearer. We tell one another that it’ll be over by Christmas, etc. but I don’t believe that any of us really think so.

Well, they’re calling us out for some kind of a demonstration. It’s always “sumpin.”

I think I’ll write Jess and see if I can get a rise out of them.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 161

Co. A is using the pause in combat to train. “All morning we ran up and down hill putting on a demonstration for the rest of the battalion” Bill remarks, adding that it was tiring, but “one can never learn too much when it comes to war.”

December 13, 1944
[France; V-Mail]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

If this doesn’t look like my handwriting it’s because I cut my thumb and am holding my pen between my second and third fingers.

Not much to write today except that they’ve got us back in training. All morning we ran up and down hill putting on a demonstration for the rest of the battalion. It was very instructive but tiring. However, one can never learn too much when it comes to war sooo–.

It hasn’t rained all day today and yesterday evening the sun shone for a couple of hours. I still can’t believe it.

No mail for 3 days now. It wouldn’t be so bad if the postal people didn’t brag so much about getting the mail through. Just like Hollywood, bragging about the new movies they send overseas. The one I saw last night I saw before I came in the army.

End of paper.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 162

The weather is cold but fairly clear. Reports are that “evidently the Jerries are taking it on the chin.” Bill reports that he is well.

December 16, 1944
[France; V-Mail]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

In the last 2 days I’ve received seven letters from you. The last one was dated on November 11. They had been addressed to the 210th. and forwarded directly to this division. You have just no idea how much they meant to me. I know it hasn’t been your fault and that you have been making a great effort in letter writing, but when I go so long without mail I feel as if I were lost or something.

The weather’s been cold and fairly clear for the last few days and evidently the Jerries are taking it on the chin. If it’ll only stay this way for a while the Krauts are licked.

That’s about all I have to say for now. I’m well.

Bestus Love, — Bill

For a summary of Bill Combat Experience during this period, see: Bill in Combat, December 14-21, 1944.

LETTER 163

Bill has been at the front for about 20 days now — the past week in “a wet, cold foxhole.” He tells his folks that, “I’m what is called a Combat Infantryman.”

December 21, 1944
[France; V-Mail]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Just a note to let you know I’m still all right. All week we’ve been laying around. Yes, I’ve been lying in a nice wet, cold foxhole. I haven’t mentioned it before but I’ve been at the front for about 20 days now. I’m what is called a Combat Infantryman. You know, one of those guys who wears a badge and gets $70.00 a month. To me that extra $10.00 seems grimly ironic. I’ve not been anywhere I could spend one lousy franc for the last month.

I see where the war news has been rather bad for the last few days. I guess this winter’s going to be pretty rough. Well….

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 164

It’s the day before Christmas and Bill is still “up on the lines” on the ridges above the Citadel of Bitche. The weather has become very cold as the men await word on the “big German drive up north.”

December 24, 1944
[France; V-mail]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Yes, it’s the day before Christmas, and I’m still up on the lines. I had some hope for being back for tomorrow but I guess that’s too much to expect. The weather’s become very cold during the last few days but I have enough heavy clothing to get by. I received three letters from you during the last 2 days—I should say 4, dated the 6, 7, & 9 of Dec. and the 21 of Oct. Two letters from you dad, were numbers 21 & 43. You can see how the mail’s coming in. I know you’ll be disappointed but I still haven’t received any packages. Considering how long ago you sent them, it’s a damn shame. I wish I knew whether or not we’re winning this war. The news we get is three or four days old and with all the hush-hush about the big German drive up north it’s getting me down. “The American soldier is the best informed in the world.”———-PFFFFT.

(CONT.)

LETTER 165

In a rare and perhaps unguarded moment Bill make an allusion to the “dangerous life” he is living. He says that the war news is the “worst I’ve heard yet” …. “RUNSTEDT 35 MILES INSIDE BELGIUM.”

December 24, 1944-2
[France; V-Mail]

(part 2)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

In case you didn’t get part one, I’m feeling fine “all stuff like that there.”

Received a letter from Jess the other day in which she said now I was living “dangerously” like Bob Hughes. I had to laugh at that. I don’t know what Bob’s doing but I only wish I were living his dangerous life. I know she means well, however. She said she sent a couple of packages. I thought that was nice.

I just received the latest news. “RUNSTEDT 35 MILES INSIDE BELGIUM.” That’s bad. The worst I’ve heard yet. Please write as much as possible—what you had for dinner—if it was washday—anything. Well, all my love.

— Bill

LETTER 166

It’s the day after Christmas. The men get a Christmas day meal that Bill says, “for the front lines wasn’t too bad.” The weather was clear and sunny, but cold. In the evening Bill manages to get 2 cans of American beer and some cocktail peanuts.

December 26, 1944
[France; V-Mail]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This probably won’t be a very long letter because it’s still pretty cold and my fingers will probably get stiff. Yesterday was Christmas, of course; but one would hardly know it. Still, for the front lines it wasn’t too bad. It was clear and sunny all day though the temp. hardly got above 32◦ all day long. We had a nice Crhistmas dinner (look how I spelled that) but there wasn’t enough. I got a neck. We had enough potatoes, cranberries, beets, raison pie, bread and butter, apple butter, & hard candy, however. Later in the evening I got 2 cans of American beer & some cocktail peanuts. Beer and peanuts is a good combination and I really enjoyed it. Then this morning I got a chance to buy 7 bars of American candy; Hershey almonds, Butterfingers, etc.—the first since I left England. I’ve only one bar left. You guessed it, no packages yet. However, one of the other kids got a nice fruitcake and gave me two nice pieces, and to overwork “nice” completely, I think it was damned “nice” of him. I figure that whenever the package comes that’s Christmas.

(con’t)

LETTER 167

Bill continues his previous letter. With nothing else to do he reviews his financial situation and discovers that, ” I counted $66.00 more than when I left the states.” He adds that, “I now make $70.00 a month and have absolutely nothing on which I can spend it.”

December 26, 1944-2
[France; V-Mail]

(part two)

Dear Folks,

I received your # 36 letter of Dec. 8th. Mudder, and you’re pretty near right about my finances. I counted $66.00 more than I had when I left the states plus the $7.00 aunt Marge sent makes me a millionaire, especially when one considers that I now make $70.00 a month and have absolutely nothing on which I can spend it.

The V-Mail comes about as fast as does airmail this way but I like airmail better. I would write airmail myself but I have no envelopes and my stamps are all ruined. If you send me any more stamps or stationery send also some sort of stiff waterproof case for me to carry them in. That’s about all.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 168

The war news continues to be bad. Bill cites a newspaper headline of December 25 which announces that “IN 3 DAYS NAZIS RETAKE LOSSES OF 3 MONTHS.” He gloomily states that, “It’s just like a kick in the face.”

December 28, 1944
[France; V-Mail]

Dearest Mudder & Dad,

Well, it’s 3 days after Christmas now. I’ve got a newspaper dated the 25th. here right now. “GERMANS 20 MILES FROM SEDAN.” “IN 3 DAYS NAZIS RETAKE LOSSES OF 3 MONTHS.” It’s just like a kick in the face. Even the pessimistic thought it would be over by late spring or early summer at the very worst, but now what? I hope things’ll be better by the time you get this.

Still no packages although mail is coming through fine. The weather continues cold but sunny so life isn’t too miserable. Haven’t been feeling so well today, however. Same cold thing I was in the hospital at Abbot with. I guess I’m not getting enough of the right kind of food. Hope you both are well.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 169

Bill’s disillusionment is beginning to show. He writes, “Daddy says that he is becoming more isolationistic. I’ll bet not half so much as I. These Europeans want us here like I want hives. They just aren’t like us.”

December 29, 1944
(France)

Dear Mudder & Dad,

Received another letter from you this morning. They’re coming quite regularly now and they sure pep me up. The god awful thing about this war to me is the distance, both in time and space that I’m away from you. However, these letters are now arriving in 12 & 13 days and that’s OK.

Daddy says that he was becoming more isolationistic. I’ll bet not half so much as I. These Europeans want us here like I want hives. They just aren’t like us. They just live from day to day not caring who gives the orders as long as they don’t. I really don’t think we can establish any lasting peace over here.

That’s enough orating. No packages yet, dammit. I’m getting mad. Some of these bums back in rear echelon aren’t on the ball. If I had such a nice job like they I’d do something to deserve it.

Bestus Love, — Bill

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