January 1946

LETTER 265

It’s New Year’s Day 1946. Bill notes that “last year at this time I was actually fighting for my life against the German New Year offensive. I was cold, miserable and I might add desperate.” He spends much of the day “chewing the rag” with Hans the German interpreter. “He’s only 17 years old and quite intelligent. One can learn more about Nazi Germany from him in five minutes than from anyone else in ten years.”

January 1, 1946
Giessen, Germany (Hesse)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

The new year is here at last. I don’t know what will hold for us all but at least the outlook is pretty good. It’s quite different this year. Last year at this time I was actually fighting for my life against the German New year offensive. I was cold, miserable and I might add desperate although that word smacks of the dramatic. This year I’m warm and well fed, yet if anything I’m more homesick. I’m getting so tired of it all that I just don’t know what to say. I was reading in the Stars and Stripes yesterday that the morale of the troops in the Pacific is cracking because they’ve been fighting so long and are now being treated like pawns in a chess game. It’s really confusing to the average soldier when he hears that men in the states are being discharged in the belief that they are unessential and surplus, and yet at the same time men who have fought for years are told that they will have to stay. It’s just the same as saying, “Okay, you won the war; now to hell with you. They talk about stopping the draft and yet also talk about years and years of occupation. If that is so only we can make the occupation force. In other words some men must give everything to their country while others give nothing. I believe that I’m at least half way intelligent but I can’t understand this.

I still haven’t received any mail from you, but the sky does look a little brighter in as much as one of the boys in this company did get a letter the other day that was mailed to this address. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get something. I sure hope so. I’ve really lost touch with you. The last letter that I got was written in early November.

Last night I stayed up to welcome the New Year in. At twelve the GI’s started to shoot off everything they could lay their hands on and the Jerries threw old electric light globes out the window. One of the POW’s had a crying jag on and was determined to tell someone about all his troubles. Wot a life. I got to bed about 2:oo am this morning so I didn’t get much of a night’s sleep.

I don’t know what to do with myself today but you can bet on one thing and that is that it won’t amount to a hell of a lot. I spend about half my time chewing the rag with hans who is our interpreter here. He’s only 17 years old but he speaks good English and is quite intelligent. One can learn more about Nazi Germany from him in five minutes than you can from anyone else in ten years. That’s mainly because he tells the truth instead of giving you a song and dance. He’s interesting in as much as he is a product of Nazi teaching. Until he came here he hadn’t the slightest idea about so many things that we take for granted. He told me last night that only now does he realize that “the happy ending” was impossible under Nazism. He thinks that we should start some extensive educational plans over here. He says that the most fanatical young Nazi is better adapted to learning democracy than the old people who always say that they don’t want anything to do with politics.

That’s all for now.

Best love, Bill

LETTER 266

Bill is steamed over an army snafu that may delay his return home. “It’s one of the rawest deals I’ve ever had and I’ve had plenty in this damn army.” He sarcastically signs off the letter saying “Long live Joe Stalin!”

January 2, 1946
Giessen, Germany (Hesse)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I hardly know how to start this letter. Today I received orders to be at the Labor Center tomorrow for transfer to an AAA outfit for shipment home and it’s one of the rawest deals I’ve ever had and I’ve had plenty in this damn army. Some damn fool has blundered with my records and rated me as having 57 points instead of 47 which I actually have. The Captain called this to their attention but they’ve done nothing to correct the error. In short I’ll be transferred and when they find out that I haven’t the right number of points I’ll get canned and will undoubtedly end up in some stinking hole as full time KP or something—all this when I’m only 5 days from having a rating for which I’ve slaved for 2 months now. My whole army career has a story of me getting the dirty end of the stick. I thought that it couldn’t happen again and I’ll be damned if it hasn’t. I feel mad, sick and hurt about the whole deal. This has been the only place I’ve ever been in the army where I was treated really decently and now I’m transferred just because some damn son of a bitch is too lazy to pay attention to what he’s doing. It just seems that if you do your best and try to do right you end up out of luck. The captain says that he’ll call up tomorrow and try to get something done about it but he admits that my chances are pretty slim. Actually this will hold up my getting home because LSC gets first priority always.

That’s really all I’ve got to say. I’m so sick about the whole thing that I can’t write a real letter. If anything breaks I’ll let you know.

Long live Joe Stalin!

Bill

LETTER 267

Bill’s transfer snafu is ironed out and he is back in Giessen after packing and being sent to Rodheim. With pessimism he notes that “with this strike situation the way it is in the States I guess nobody will be thinking much about the soldiers over here. Tonight he plans to see a show or “head out to the Red Cross for a cup of coffee.”

January 6, 1946
Giessen, Germany (Hesse)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

God! What a week this last one has been. I really don’t know where to start this letter. First you’ll notice that I’m still in Giessen and that I haven’t been transferred. That’s not really quite the truth. I should say that I’m back in Giessen. I was all packed and down at Rodheim when they finally got my service record straightened out. I’m thankful that I wasn’t transferred but I do wish that I could get home before too very long. Today one of the Third Division guards came storming in here and said that General McNarny had said last night over the radio that all men with under fifty points would have to stay here until sometime after June. That seems impossible but I’ve heard nothing about it over the news broadcasts today so it may be just some wild rumor. I hope to God it is. Another six months overseas would mean two years over here. That would be terribly unfair when they’re not sending guys overseas who’ve had only 21 months service and all of that in the states. It wouldn’t surprise me any, however, since as Bouillion says that the one word the army doesn’t understand is fairness. If it does come about that way I’m going to write some pretty insulting letters to somebody. With this damn strike situation in the states the way it is I guess nobody will be thinking much about the soldiers over here and the army will be able to do just about what it damn well pleases. That’s what I’m afraid of.

After all this time I finally received a letter from you which was postmarked December 4th. I’m glad to hear that you finally received that package that I sent you in October. I was afraid that we’d seen the last of it. I also received a letter from Ben so I can at least say that I have some mail anyway. I miss getting mail from you like the very devil. The only two things that a soldier has to look forward to are chow and mail. Over here chow is never anything to get excited over so that leaves only mail. Without that life is pretty boring. This is another one of those dead Sundays that are even worse than work days because there is little or nothing to do except listen to the radio and write letters. Last night and this morning I was on CQ so that gave me a little to do but I can’t say that I was having a very good time.

Tonight I’ll probably go to the show or out to the Red Cross for a cup of coffee. Then I’ll probably come home and go to bed—another Sunday shot. Some life, huh?

It’s almost chow time now and I have to get cleaned up so I guess that I’ll close it for tonight.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 268

After 8 months of Occupation, Bill and his fellow soldiers are about at the breaking point. He encloses an article in “Stars and Stripes” reporting on a mass march and protest of 4,000 U.S. soldiers in Frankfurt. Bill is furious over comments in the New York Times that “soldiers are making unwarrented use of the freedom of speech in order to make their complaints.” With disgust he exclaims “all these years we’ve taken the kick in the pants without much complaint; we won the war and saved their necks…and now he has the confounded gall to make a statement like that.”

January 10, 1946
Giessen, Germany (Hesse)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

During the last several days I’ve been holding off on my letters just to see what would happen next. I have here in this letter the headlines of the Stars and Stripes for the last several days I really think that they are beauts. Today when some—I can’t write what I’m thinking—wrote in the New York Times that the soldiers are making unwarranted use of the freedom of speech in order to make their complaints, I really felt my blood pressure hit the ceiling. Just who in the hell does he think he is? I love to hear these guys who’ve been dodging their draft boards for the last five years bawling out the Gi’s who have no rights in the world according to him. All these years we’ve taken the kick in the pants without much complaint; we won the war and saved their necks; we listened to the lies that have been passed out; we’ve more than won our right to speak; and now that whatever he is has the confounded gall to make a statement like that. I don’t know yet how many of these articles I’ll be able to get into this letter without making it too heavy. Now the Marine Corps with exactly the same system as the Army is letting out men with 45 points and in the Pacific he army states that men with 50 points will be home by January 31. But in the ETO what? Maybe by the time you receive this letter things will have straightened themselves out. I certainly hope so. I want to get home in the very worst way and believe that I’M entitled to it as much as the next guy. [I didn’t mean to capitalize that I’m].

I received 3 more letters from you today dated the 5th, 14th and 15th of December. These letters are older than the ones that I got the other day but nevertheless I was happy to receive them. It sure seems as if there are being some changes make at Harvard. I was rather surprised to hear that they are going to build a swimming pool at school. I thought that the Bishop was rather opposed to the idea.

So Leon is home now. I’m glad to hear it he’s really had a pretty raw deal and he’s not the type that can take it very well. That’s one thing about the infantry. Having been in it gives a man as much inward satisfaction as is possible but there is almost no outward glory such as the air corps has.

Boy! I’d sure like to see that room of mine. It must be the stuff of the stuff. I really have my doubts whether I’ll be able to sleep in such luxury after 2 years of army cots and cold hard ground. I’ll sure have a swell time adjusting myself, anyway.

That’s about all I have to say for tonight.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 269

Bill is more pessimistic than ever about getting home. “The way they talk I guess I haven’t got much of a chance before May or June.” He acknowledges that an an Occupation force is needed because “these people respect the force we maintain.”

January 14, 1946
Giessen, Germany (Hesse)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Today after not receiving any mail for a long time I got another letter. I was beginning to think that the mail was lost again or something. I don’t know what to say about the letters that you’ve sent me during the last two months but if I don’t receive them I’m afraid that I won’t be able to answer the questions that you’ve been bawling me out about. I’m sure that the new set for the kitchen must be very beautiful. I certainly are—are? Listen to that—am eager to get home but the way they talk now I guess that I haven’t got much chance before May or June. It’s an awful blow but that’s the way it goes. They’re talking now a great deal about devising the discharge system but as sure as God made little green apples if they change it I’ll even get a worse kick in the pants than I’ve received already. I guess a guy just can’t win in the army. I’ve about given up hope. Unless the people are willing to send us replacements we don’t get out. Never believe that we don’t need an occupation force. We may not be doing much over here but the only reason we’re not doing a lot is the fact that these people respect the force we maintain. It’s a bad situation but it’s not one that cannot be figured out if people are only willing to think realistically. I don’t care but a year or so in the army under peacetime conditions certainly won’t hurt anybody.

It’s about time I start a new paragraph. We have not been doing much as usual around here lately. We’ve got an enlisted men’s club going now for the men of the various labor supervision company groups around here. I go there quite a bit but you know how it is. Nothing’s any good over here.

It’s late now so I’d better close now.

God, what English. That’s what happens when I try to write a letter late at night.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 270

Bill has 47 points toward rotation home but with the newest changes in the schedule he doesn’t expect to be on his way until mid April. He expresses his frustration with the point system but acknowledges the need for an Occupation force. Strikes at home continue to dominate the news. The weather in Giessen is quite a mystery with no snow or ice despite it being the dead of winter.

January 20, 1946
Giessen, Germany (Hesse)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I suppose you were about beginning to wonder why I haven’t written again and I must say that it’s the same old reason. I haven’t been receiving any mail from you. This morning, however, I got a letter dated Jan. 1. As far as I can see there is no reason why it must take 20 days for a letter to get to me. Even during the worst part of the fighting the mail situation was better than that.

Well, what do you think about the new point arrangement? In every other theatre men with 47 points are on their way home with the exception of the ETO. And they say that I won’t be on my way until the middle of April. It certainly is quite a comedown. I really don’t feel that this is the fault of the army however, and I believe that the theatre commanders who are taking the worst beating are the least to blame of anybody. They get orders on exactly what they must do and they have no choice on how they’re going to do them. These big shots back in the states seem to think that the U.S. can maintain a major occupation force over here without any troops. That is stupid no matter how one looks at it. I’m afraid the real trouble is that the majority of people don’t understand just what the situation is and that those who do know are keeping it to themselves for certain reasons that are beyond me. I believe General Eisenhower himself is as unaware of the real problem as are the people. I know that there is hardly a single soldier who actually fought in the war who is in favor of a complete demobilization of our armed forces. In that way we would not only lose everything that we fought for but would lose all the prestige that we now hold. Today everyone in Europe looks to America as their only hope for a decent future. This may sound like so much bull but after one gets a slant on these people he realizes that is so. They’re all afraid of us yet they all respect and trust us. If we leave altogether they will get the feeling that America has gone isolationist again and then will come despair and the usual results.

There is a great deal of aap—beg pardon—misapprehension now about troops over here. The general consensus of opinion among government representatives and even high army officials is that there are very few combat troops left in the ETO when just the opposite is true. The B Bag article is just a sample. Actually there has been less agitation by actual fighting soldiers than by the others. Maybe this is because the combat soldier feels himself so fortunate to still be in one piece that complaining would be an ungrateful act.

There certainly is a lot of difference between leaving for home on the 15 of April and on the 5 of February as was promised only about 2 weeks ago. There is only one thing that I can say in favor of the new setup and that is that we at least know what the score is now and we can base all our suppositions on some concrete facts.

Well, glory Be! If there ain’t anudder strike in the news. What’s going to happen anyway? Some writers for TIME say they never saw the U.S. in such a state of selfishness. I really don’t know what to think. I always tell these Krauts that the strikes are very praiseworthy and they express American freedom and such, but I wonder if in the end everybody isn’t going to be on strike against everybody else. We got it all arranged here where the LSC will go on strike against the Railhead Co. and so on.

The weather here continues to be quite a mystery. Here it is the middle of January and no snow and no ice and not very much rain even. I certainly don’t mind it but according to everybody in Giessen there should be a couple of feet of snow on the ground. I’m just getting over the worst cold that I’ve had in a couple of years now. I even had a touch of sinus which I’ve never been bothered by before that I can remember. Since yesterday my nose has been running like the devil and today I feel pretty good.

You can forget about my “dark secret” now. Like everything else in this army that sounds good it didn’t pan out. Even my rating doesn’t seem to be coming through for about half a dozen foolish reasons like “We can’t find this record.” You know the usual army runaround. It no longer angers me; it merely bores me.

I guess that about does it for today. I’ll write again soon.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 271

Bill earnestly argues the necessity of the Occupation. “I want to come home in the worst way, but others will have to fill my shoes. Most Germans realize that they have been so wrong in this war but there’s at least one in four whose soul is so warped with hate that he has lost all sense of perspective. They are the dangerous ones. In fact they are the deadly ones. As a civilized human being I say they will have to be watched. As a soldier I say they should be exterminated.”

January 23, 1946
Giessen, Gemany (Hesse)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

The mail situation over here became much better yesterday when I received from you seven letters. Three of them were recent while the other four were rather old. One of them was dated Nov. 28th. Two others two were postmarked the tenth and eleventh of December. The last three were written on the sixth and seventh of January. That’s something anyhoo.

The vacuum cleaner belongs to you all right so don’t send it back or anything. I wrote you a letter about the damn thing but evidently it like so many other letters was lost in the rush somewhere. I see that you don’t care particularly for the new setup on points and so forth. I don’t care particularly for it myself but that’s the way it goes. I’ve been in the army so long now that I’ve become dulled to the whole thing. I guess that’s the thing that they want. I will tell you one thing, however. Some of what they say is the truth. Most of the Germans realize that they have been so wrong in this war but there’s at least one out of four whose soul is so warped with hate that he has lost all sense of perspective. They are the dangerous ones. In fact they are the deadly ones. As long as people like that exist in this country we will have to keep the imperative. I sometimes have Germans approach me and say, “You don’t realize how insane some of our people are. They will have to be watched like a hawk or they will try to do the same thing again.” As a civilized human being I say they will have to be watched. As a soldier I say they should be exterminated. Many of the more balanced Germans will agree with me on that. I don’t know what to say about people who would gladly destroy themselves and the rest of the world just to satisfy their hatred. I know what I’m talking about. The world will have to be willing to pay the price or perish. I hope this doesn’t sound too much like a sermon but it is the truth. You just have no idea how some of these people think. I want to come home in the worst way but others will have to fill my shoes. They can blab all they want and it won’t change the situation. In short I don’t disagree with what the army wants to do as much as I disagree with the method they are attempting to use. It would seem to the average GI over here that the people at home are divided into two camps. Those who in their earnestness to get us home would throw our victory away and those who wish to keep the original crew over here while they forget everything. Both attitudes are altogether wrong. Enough of that.

I certainly am becoming interested in the changes that are being made in our house. The old shack must be getting to be quite a jernt. It seems that everybody that I’ve ever know is getting out of the service but yours truly. Do you think I’ll ever get out? I’m afraid that pretty soon I’ll even begin to look like a Kraut. Oh! What a horrible thought. If I have to stay in the army another 8 months (I’m not contemplating it) I will be entitled to wear a hash mark and will be able to start drawing longevity pay.

Thanks for the condensation of all the letters that you’ve written to me. It’s nice to at least know what I would have received in the mail.

That’s about all for tonight, I guess. I drove over 200 miles today and in a two and one-half ton truck on these lousy cow paths that they have the nerve to call roads over here it’s no mean job.

Good night.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 272

In a sign that the Occupation is winding down Bill’s Labor Supervision Company gets the news that all non SS and Gustapo prisoners are being released, even Nazi Party members. He notes that “the people here are just beginning to realize how fortunate they are to live in the US Zone of Germany.” The change in policy “confuses the situation in regards to our status” but Bill notes that no matter what “on the 4th of April I will be eligible for discharge on both points and length of service.

Sunday, January 27, 1946
Giessen, Germany (Hesse)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I hope that you will forgive me for not writing for the last several days but again it’s the same old story. I’m not receiving any letters from you. The Stars and Stripes makes claims about the bad weather and all that but I believe that it is just a case of slow and careless handling by the postal authorities over here. The mail seems to come in bunches which leads me to believe that somewhere they just leave it lie around until they have so much that they must get rid of it.

The day before yesterday they dropped a bombshell in here by ordering the release of all prisoners who are not SS or Gestapo. We didn’t think that the release of general prisoners would start before next March and then we thought that Nazi Party members would be held for further screening. Evidently this is being done to reduce the number of troops needed for the occupation. Of course this is okay with us but it sure came suddenly. Most of the men will be discharged under contract to the government so they will hold their present jobs. I can’t say that I blame them. To use an old army axiom, “They never had it so good.” When they work for the US they are sure of one thing anyway and that’s three squares a day. The people here are just beginning to realize how fortunate they are to live in the US Zone of Germany. The big German military hospital near here is beginning to fill up with patients from the Russian zone and Poland. I can’t say that the Germans aren’t getting exactly what they’ve always asked for but when I see some of the poor wrecks of humanity that they bring in over there I can’t help but feel a great pity for them. That’s the trouble with these people over here. They think that two wrongs make a right somehow. It’s always an eye for an eye and hate triumphant marches on. To all these people we remain the great enigma. They don’t understand us so they fear us all the more. I wonder if they will ever wake up.

This change in policy rather confuses the situation in regards to our status. Most of us will be entering the redeployment pipe line within a month so there is not much sense moving us somewhere else unless they bring some low pointers to take our places. According to the schedule I must be at sea by April 15th. That means I must be in my carrier unit by March 15th at the very latest. It might be March 1st even. Fifty-three pointers are on the move now so you can figure it out for yourself. On the 4th of April I will be eligible for discharge on both points and length of service.

I’m sure happy now that I didn’t push that OCS business. I’d be stuck for another couple of years—WHOOOEEE!

The weather over here has been amazing for the last few weeks. There hasn’t been a sign of snow nor rain for that matter. The Krauts don’t know what to make of it. They said that the winter of 1937 was very warm and dry but nothing like this. It’s swell with me if everything stays the same all winter.

I sure hope that I get some mail tomorrow. It sure won’t hurt my feelings if I get a whole fist full even. I hate the feeling of being cut off from home. I suppose these mail clerks don’t give a damn.

Things must be in a great muddle at home. In today’s S&S there is a picture of a guy looking at a sign with “LA city limits” on it and a no vacancy sign above it. The impression is getting around over here that things in the states are pretty rough. Of course such a wide spread belief wouldn’t hurt the army recruiting drive any.

That’s about the whole story for today.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 273

Bill is leaving soon for a trip to Switzerland. “From what I’ve heard it should really be a swell trip. The trip will cost a flat rate of thirty-five dollars.” According to the army point plan Bill must be waterborne by April 15th. The weather is “still incredibly mild with no snow and only a little rain.”

January 31, 1946
Giessen, Germany (Hesse)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I decided the other day that I wouldn’t write to you until my promotion came through, but now I see that the same old incompetence prevails. Captain Wollner has started home and without him around to give these guys a kick in the pants every five minutes they don’t get anything done. My recommendation has been in for over a month now but we still haven’t heard a thing about it. Twice Captain Wollner found our papers lying around in some office and jumped somebody about it but now that he’s gone I don’t know what will happen. Likely as not the papers will be lost and we shall never hear anything more about it. You remember some orders for the recommendation of a Bronze Star were lost in the same way. After all that they come around and tell us that we’ll really be passing up a great chance by not reenlisting in the Regular Army. HA! They should live so long.

I’ve finally got one break anyway. That is that on the fifth I’m leaving for Switzerland. From what I’ve heard it should really be a swell trip. The army has taken over a couple of the finest hotels available and really made a swell thing out of it. Everybody that’s been there says that they’ve never seen a nicer setup. The trip will cost me a flat rate of thirty-five dollars but since I’ll probably never get a chance to see it again I believe that it’ll be well worth it.

I’ll be sure to write you a couple of letters from there to save as souvenirs, and try to get some presents if it is still possible. I doubt very seriously if Switzerland will compare very well with California the way I feel right now but it will make a nice break in the damn waiting. If I leave here on the fifth I probably won’t be back for ten days anyway and then it shouldn’t be much more than a month at the outside before I enter the pipe line. The order to turn in the names of all fifty pointers came through today so you can see how the situation is going. According to the plan now in use I must be waterborne by April fifteenth and I believe that the army will try to get ahead on the schedule in order to get back into the good graces of the people at home.

There’s not much else to write tonight. The weather is still incredibly mild with no snow and only a little rain. We haven’t even had a slight freeze for more than a week now. Most of the people here are afraid that it will be a late winter with snow in March and April. Maybe so but it will have to get a helluva lot colder than it is right now.

We’re having a lot of trouble with the flu right here now. I’ve had a slight touch of it but nothing to amount to anything though. Some of the P.W.’s however, have been quite ill. I guess it’s the weather that’s doing it. It’s a lot like late March or April right now.

Well, this doesn’t make much of a letter but it’s about all that I have to say for tonight soooooooooo-

Best Love, — Bill

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