January 1945

For a summary of Bill’s Combat Experience during this period, see Bill in Combat December 22, 1944 to January 11, 1945.

LETTER 170

Bill writes to his worried parents after 10 days between letters. He says that, “Really it was unavoidable. In 3 more days I will have spent an entire month in a foxhole on the lines.” Bill describes his appearance saying, “You should see the beard I’ve got. About 3/8″ long and red. It would be even redder if I wasn’t so dirty. I look sompin’ fierce.”

January 10, 1945
(France)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’m sending this airmail to you with the slight hope that it will make good time and save you a little worry. Even so it’ll be almost 10 days between letters for you and I realize that it’s an awfully long time. Really, however, it was unavoidable. In 3 more days I will have spent an entire month in a foxhole on the lines. It could have been worse but it certainly hasn’t been very pleasant. For the last 10 days the weather’s been godawful with cold and snow and to tell the truth I just couldn’t write. The mail I’ve received from you has been spotty for the last few days but in general it’s been coming pretty good. Yesterday I got V-Mails 50 & 51 from you Dad, however, I got a regular airmail from you, Mudder that was mailed Dec. 22 on Jan. 1. I think that about cinches it for airmail. T’ hell with V-Mail. I more or less have to use it out here but if they can’t do better than that there’s no reason why you should use the stuff. Still no packages but now’s about time to make a request. If you want I’d like to have those vitamin tablets and food anytime. Tell the postal people to let you send it or I’ll murder them personally. After all the waiting I’ve done on them already I don’t want any o their lip. I wouldn’t be surprised if packages mailed to this address wouldn’t get here before my Christmas stuff. If you think it would keep I’d like some of that orange bread. Oh! Hell you know what I like—candy, cookies, just almost anything good to eat. I won’t turn it down. Ha!

You should see the beard I’ve got. About 3/8 inch long and red. It would be even redder if my face wasn’t so dirty. You should really get a load of me. You’d probably disown me. I look sumpin’ fierce.

I’ve lots more to write but I’d better close for now. Hope everything’s “tolerble” with you.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 171

Bill is in a warm, dry place in Siersthal, France “staying close to the fire” and recouperating from 27 consecutive days spent in a foxhole. He gets a “verbal spanking” from the censor and must rewrite the letter. In closing Bill rereads his letter and exclaims, “I must admit I’ve never found anything so garbled and disjointed. Must be my state of mind.”

January 12, 1945
[Somewhere in France]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This is the second letter that I’ve written to you today. The first I had to tear up because it contained too much information. Don’t feel cheated, however. There was nothing good in it. Since then I received 4 letters from you—an airmail and 3 V-Mails. As usual the airmail came the fastest. I’ve finally decided that the only way we should work this mail is for you to write all your letters airmail and in each one or every other one enclose an airmail envelope with stamp, address and special delivery stamp too if you feel it’s worthwhile—and a couple sheets of paper. In that way, I’ll be able to write under almost any circumstances.

Well, after the verbal spanking I got this morning I guess you’ll have to be satisfied with the information that I’m feeling O.K and am now in a warm safe place.

Still no packages from you and is my tongue hanging out. The army chow certainly doesn’t hit the spot and the very thought of fruitcake, cookies and candy makes my tongue hang down to my shoe tops.

Saturday 13, ’45 -cont.
[Somewhere in France]

Interruptions—always interruptions. Well, it’s another day and I’m still waiting around. Everybody seems to be getting packages but me. There’s no use complaining I know, but as long as they’ve been coming I’ve had something to look forward to. You have no idea how much it means to have something like that to look forward to—even if it does take a month of Sundays. If you will it would mean an awful lot to me if you would keep something in the way of packages coming out at regular intervals. I don’t want you using up ration points or anything but a little candy, cookies, or whatever you have would make things a lot nicer over here. I’ll keep the requests coming in.

It’s a nice sunny day and cold so I’m staying close to the fire.

Let’s see what else I can write about. I’ll look over your latest letter.

Oh! I’m glad to hear you make the acquaintance of the Cottles. I like them all very much.

That about does it for now. It seems that I’ve written on both sides of the paper and that’s bad if the Lt. wants to do any censoring.

I just reread this damn thing and I must admit I’ve never found anything so garbled and disjointed. Must be my state of mind—“non compsmentis” or “sumpin.”

I’ll write again tomorrow if possible. — Bill

P.S. I brought the stamp from the states originally so this is the 4th. time across for it.

LETTER 172

Bill is back in a warm house “toasting myself by a fire and generally enjoying myself.” He apologizes for a 9 day delay between letters saying, “one can’t write a letter when he’s covered with snow and ice and has a couple of inch thick mittens on his hands.” The toasty fire is great but Bill notes that, “the best thing of all is catching up on my sleep. In a foxhole one sleeps 2 hours and then stands guard 2 hours. You know how that works out.”

January 23, 1945
[Somewhere in France] †

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Hmm! It’s been 9 days since I’ve been able to write you a letter but I know you’ve been following the doings of the 7th. in the papers and know that the weather on this front has been miserable to say the least. We’re well equipped but one can’t write a letter when he’s covered with snow and ice and has a couple of inch thick mittens on his hands. Oh! This is a rough life. When this thing is over I’m going to slug the first bird who says “what did you do during the war?” Really. When I was in the Engineers I had no idea just how rotten a deal the Infantry got. I think the extra $10.00 they give us is a because there’s not one man in a thousand who wouldn’t give all his pay and more to be in any other branch. We have 10 times harder a life than anyone else. At least one can certainly be proud of being an Infantryman. Most people don’t realize it but the combat infantry badge means a “helluva” lot more than things like wings and so forth. One has to go through hell to get the former.

Now for some good news. My Christmas finally arrived. The day before yesterday I got a box of cookies from Grandma and Jess. Boy oh boy! That fruitcake was moist and as fresh as if it had just been made. It was delicious. The other box contained the compass, candy, gum, game, etc. it’s sure swell. The box from State College was full of cookies and I must say they were expertly packed. Not one was broken, although the box had obviously taken quite a beating. Half the box was full of Tollhouse cookies and the other half was full of ginger cookies with sugar icing. I passed out some cookies and a very few pieces of fruitcake to fellows who had given me some of their packages, but mainly I feasted myself on the contents. It was the best eats I’ve had since I left home.

Today I’m again back in a warm house toasting myself by a fire and generally enjoying myself. The best thing of all, however is catching up on my sleep. In a foxhole one sleeps 2 hours and then stands guard 2 hours. You know how that works out. No one gets any sleep at all. Even now I find myself waking up at regular intervals during the night. Lying on the cold ground really does your kidneys a lot of dirt too.

We’re supposed to get P.X. rations today—2 cans of beer, some candy bars and cigars, etc. I’ll probably trade my beer and cigars for candy. I like beer, but I like candy better and as for the lousy cigar……

We’re in the midst of a “helluva” lot of overoptimistic speculation on the outcome of the current Russian offensive. Rumors have been rampant for the last several days. As for myself I’m suspicious of all the claims that are being made. These things have blown up in my face too often.

I certainly wish they’d try a little harder to get some news to us. Battalion or somebody stole a radio somewhere and they get radio news but by the time it’s passed by word of mouth down to me it’s so garbled and exaggerated that it’s worthless.

Getting pretty near chow time so I’d better cut this short.

Best Love — Bill

† On this day, Bill’s Company A was in Enchenberg, France. The next day they would move to Glasenberg where they would remain in houses until January 30.

LETTER 173

Able Company is back at rest as Bill reports that, “I’ve been having a pretty soft time of it for the last several days. All I’ve done is eat, sleep and listen to the news of Russian advances.” He gets paid and is hopeful that he will soon make PFC and receive a $5.00 monthly raise. Bill gets “P.A. Rations” which include 2 cans of beer which he trades for candy.

January 27, 1945
[France]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Here I am again. Still hanging around. I’ve been having a pretty soft time for the last several days and I should have written more letters than I have. I guess I’ve been more or less in the midst of the reaction one generally feels when he’s back resting. All I’ve done is eat, sleep and listen to the news of the Russian advances. So far they seem amazing but I still have my doubts as to whether the drive will end the war. Everyone out here expects the worst and hopes for the best. It saves a lot of heartbreaks.

I’ve now finished the last of the edible contents of the 3 packages I’ve thus far received—a few candied peanuts—Oh me. That reminds me. I sure owe a lot of letters. I got one from Richard, Jesse, Mrs. Levinson, and then there’s your letters. I’ll try to answer them all today. By the way, Jesse also sent me a radiogram—had me worried when I first saw it.

I finally got paid the other day—first time since October. I want to send that old $40.00 check home now but the only way I can do it is to endorse the check and mail it. I don’t like that but if I carry it with me much longer I’ll lose it for sure. I think I’ll put it in this letter—I will. $40.00.

The next time I get paid I should draw combat pay and it’s barely possible that I may make P.F.C. before long. That would be another $5.00. If and when all this comes about I’ll change that $15.00 class “E” allotment to $30.00 or $50.00. If I change my bond allotment to $7.50 I can do that and still have a few francs for P.X. rations.

By the way, we got P.A. rations yesterday—2 cans of beer, 3 cigars, 5 Butterfingers, a box of gumdrops, a box of hard candy, and 6 pieces of Whitman’s chocolates. It’s too cold for beer for me so I traded them for candy. We’re supposed to get those rations every week but ha! ha! Everybody gets everything—That is, everybody but the frontline infantryman. I haven’t been eating so badly of late, however. Even had French toast this morning and I managed to do a little inveigling here and there.

Better close now. I’ll write again as soon as I can.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 174

Writing from the relative safety of a French farmhouse Bill notes that, “The news has been full of odd things. Maybe with the Soviet offensive rolling forward so fast and furiously the Germans will let us come in on the Western Front. I hope so. This mess can’t end too soon for me.”

January 28, 1945
[France]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Another day—another letter. I wish I could do that every day. It gets me down more if I can’t write than it does if I don’t get any mail because I know how you look forward to my letters. Today has been one of wonderment to us. The news has been full of odd things. In sectors where a few days back the Jerries were attacking like the very devil now seem abandoned. The news reports are very sketchy but something’s up for sure. Maybe with the Soviet offensive rolling forward so fast and furiously the Germans will let us come in on the Western Front. I hope so. This mess can’t end too soon for me. And then the Pacific, I’m afraid. Many of the fellows over here swear they’ll only go over there at the point of a gun. That’s just so much talk, I suppose but if I have to go, I imagine it will embitter me considerably. There are still too many men back in the states who’ve had no overseas service at all. From the way our new men talk they’ve got plenty of troops still back in the States. Oh, I don’t know. In some ways I feel that all of us should go and finish things up in a hurry and in others I feel like we ought to get a break and get to come home. It wouldn’t be too bad if we were able to get back to the States for 6 months and get about 30 days furlough, but all they can talk about is going home by way of the Suez Canal. (Old “Yoo Hoo” Ben Lear, you know.) I hate to think about it.

I received a letter from you today dated the 9th. It was V-Mail and it took 18 days to get here. Airmail comes in 10 to 14 days generally.

Well, that about does it. I’ll close with another request for a package—cookies, candy bars, anything.

Bestus Love, — Bill

For a summary of the war developments in this area, see Bill in Combat January 11-30, 1945.

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