May 1945

LETTER 193

Bill receives the news over Radio Hamburg that Hitler is dead. “Achtung! Achtung! Unser Furher, Adolf Hitler ist gefallen.” His terse comment is “Strange and simple. Twelve years of tyranny gone in a few words.”

May 2, 1945
[Germany]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Heil Hitler the dog is dead!!!

Heil Hitler the dog is dead!!! I remember that as being the punchline to a joke and it seems appropriate now. Last night I heard the first announcement of his death over Radio Hamburg. I pride myself that I was able to translate it from the German. “Achtung! Achtung! Unser Furher, Adolf Hetter ist gefallen”. Strange and simple. Twelve years of tyranny gone in a few words. Tonight we understand the old S.O.B. died of a brain hemorrhage. No heroes’ death. Tonight the entire Wehrmacht appears to be dying. All German troops on the Italian Front have just surrendered unconditionally. Three German Field Marshalls, including Von Rundstedt himself, have been captured within the last 48 hours. When you get this letter it will be ancient history but now it’s all too much to take in. The war here must end in a few days at most and then I’ll be “sweating out the C.B.I. (China Burma India). So much has happened recently that it’s just too much.

Well, I haven’t received any mail from you for several days now but I guess we’re using so many trucks for hauling Kraut prisoners to the rear there aren’t any left to carry mail. That’s okay with me. It’s not bad, however, since I’m now in training again—just like the States. Really life is pretty pleasant these days. It’s nice to be a human being once again.

I really don’t know what else to write. I am well. I’ll write a good letter tomorrow.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 194

The war news is coming at a furious rate now. Bill hears of the German surrenders in Italy and the fall of Berlin. In a sure sign that combat is over, Company A and Company B play a baseball game. Bill complains that “the kids here are pestering me something fierce. Every two minutes they come and hand me a couple of Jerry bullets that the Krauts left behind in their haste.”

May 3, 1945
[Germany]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

The Fall of Berlin

I’m standing guard this morning which entails doing practically nothing so I figured that it would be a good time to get a letter off to you.

We seem to be having a bad cold spell here with frost and even an occasional flurry of snow. It’s pretty cheesy weather for May at any rate. Of course it’s pretty nice when we go on a hike but otherwise I don’t like it. When I think of last winter, however, it seems pretty tame.

The setup here is pretty nice—good houses, meals, shower baths and generally peaceful atmosphere.

Last night after I sent my letter we heard of the surrender of the Italian forces, or rather the German armies in Italy and the fall of Berlin. It must be all over but the shouting.

The kids here are pestering me something fierce. Every two minutes they come and hand me a couple of Jerry bullets that the Krauts left behind in their haste.

Yesterday A Company had a baseball game with B Co. We lost. It was a lot of fun though. I was lousy. I never could bat but now I couldn’t do “nuttin.’” I haven’t had a ball in my hand for such a long time.

I can’t think of anything else to write. Isn’t it awful? If they keep me in this blooming army much longer I won’t know my own name. There’s two Taylors in the squad now and I’m getting so I answer to the name Powell too. It’s on the back of my helmet liner and everyone who doesn’t know me just takes it for granted that I’m Powell.

Well, I think I’ll try to get something on the radio.

Bestus Love, — Bill

LETTER 195

It’s V-E Day+3 and Bill is philosophical. “It’s hard to believe that the war here is really over. To tell you the truth there’s been a ‘helluva’ lot of times when I’ve seriously doubted that I’d be alive to see this day. After having gone through that there’s certainly no doubt in my mind about there being a God. Shrapnel and machine gun bullets can just miss a person so many times and still remain in the realm of coincidence.”

May 11, 1945 (V-E+3)
[Germany]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I know I’ve been neglecting you “sumpin” fierce for the last few days and if you’re mad I don’t blame you in the least. I did write you a letter on V-E Day but the paper was so thick that I couldn’t get the damn thing into any envelope I could find.

Well, the great day has come and gone. On V-E night I believe 99.44% of everybody in the E.T.O. was plastered—even the kraut civilians. I guess everyone is happy that the thing is finished. To quote a popular G.I. phrase—“all is Kaput fur Deutschland.”

Considering the fact that we were fighting so bitterly such a short time ago, it’s awfully hard to believe that the war here is really over. To tell you the truth there’s been a “helluva” lot of times when I’ve seriously doubted that I’d be alive to see this day. After having gone through that there’s certainly no doubt in my mind about there being a God. Shrapnel and machine gun bullets can just miss a person so many times and still remain in the realm of coincidence.

Right now I’m in a small town “Somewhere in Germany” and it seems there’s a good chance of my staying here even as long as a year. I hope so. It’s about time combat troops got a break.

Last night they announced the point system and there’s a good chance of me getting my discharge sometime in the fall of nineteen-eleventy five; that’s if I’m lucky. I’m not complaining though as long as they keep me on this side of the world. I hope, I hope, I hope.

We’re quickly adjusting ourselves to garrison life. Military courtesy, clean uniforms, clean shaves, this and that. You know Harvard School stuff. Not that it isn’t a very good thing, but after living like a bum for months it’s a bit confusing to say the least—but I love it. I don’t care how tough they get with us. The toughest training schedule in the world would be a picnic as compared to our lines.

I’m due to get new clothes in a few days—clean new trousers and shirt, shiny shoes, overseas cap, Eisenhower jacket, the works—Boy! Will I slay ‘em. That’s what it takes to impress these dumb Jerries. The fact that we chewed up one German army after another doesn’t mean a thing. We’re not good soldiers if we don’t wear a snazzy uniform. What jerks! When I get the outlay I’ll have a snapshot taken and send it to you.

That about does it. I know you feel as happy as I do right now and let’s hope all the Japs slit their throats to save their faces so we’ll be together again in the near future.

Best Love, Bill

LETTER 196

With the cessation of hostilities Bill and his company are settling into mundane activity, ” Just the same old routine-like close order drill and so forth.” It’s Mother’s day, 1945 and one can only imagine the relief and gratitude “Mudder” must feel seeing her only child survive the battle for Europe unhurt. Still, the specter of redeployment hangs in the air.

May 13, 1945
[Germany]

Dear Mudder,

This is Mother’s Day and I didn’t even think about it until I wrote down the date on the top of the letter. Being Sunday this has been a day of rest so to speak. I’ve been washing and pressing my clothes and so forth all day. I should look pretty sharp by tonight.

All day we’ve been hearing rumors and so forth about the point system, discharge, redeployment, furloughs and what not. First it’s one story and then it’s another. I don’t believe any of them. All I hope is that I get a furlough before paying a visit to the Far East. Oh well! C’est la guerre—dammit!

It’s really hard to write anything when I’m not doing a damn thing that amounts to anything. Just the same old routine—like close order drill and so forth. Every day it’s the same thing.

Moreover, I haven’t received any mail from you for about a week. I don’t know what is wrong but no one seems to be getting mail.

Since my mind is such a blank I guess I’ll have to close this note.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 197

Censorship has ended. Bill reveals that “I’m located in a small town named Göppingen about halfway between Ulm and Stuttgart.” Life is “Heaven. No machine guns, 88’s, burp guns and so forth.” Bill is learning to speak “pretty good German.” He receives 34 points under the system established to determine when a soldier is reassigned to stateside duty. He needs 85 points.

May 20, 1945
Göppingen, Germany

Dear Folks,

Today I received my first letter from you in over a week. I haven’t been writing for just that reason. It’s wrong, I know; but when I don’t get mail I just can’t seem to think of anything.

Censorship has just come to an end over here, sooo–. I’m located in a small town named Göppingen about halfway between Ulm and Stuttgart. We are living swell in houses—new modern, mostly the homes of German army officers. We don’t do much but guard and train. They would have movies and so forth but it seems that they move us every time we get settled.

Boy, this is the life though. You know what this last month or so has been to me? Heaven. No machine guns, 88’s burp guns and so forth. From Bitche to Heilbronn I never got a good sleep, but now—ahh.

Got my points today but we don’t talk about that. (34) C.B.I. here I come, Japs look out-und so weiter!

I’m getting so I can speak pretty good German. Kommen Sie hier! Sitzens sich Austehen! Raus mit Ihnen Halt! Deutschland ist kaput. I scare ‘em to death, the b_ _ _ _ _ _ ds. I love ‘em though—all those under 3 years old.

Next to the French I hate them best. By the way, you heard about Stuttgart. I was ashamed at what we allowed them to do there. It’d make your hair stand on end. In the next war the German rallying cry will probably be, “Remember Stuttgart.”

Gotta close now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 198

Bill comes off guard duty at a military hospital caring for paralyzed S.S. troops saying, “I’d like to shoot the lot of ’em–still cocky as hell.” The routine is monotonous —  “we train and guard, eat and sleep.” The only action is when “the ‘Ruskies’ (Russian slave labor) gets on a drunk and start beating one another over the head with vodka bottles.”

May 21, 1945
Göppingen, Germany

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Received your letter of May 2, today, Mudder. Damn this postal service anyway. Nineteen or twenty days is just too damn long. Anyway I just came off guard duty at a military hospital here in town. Paralyzed S.S. troops. I’d like to shoot the lot of ‘em—still cocky as hell. But that’s getting away from the main subject. It’s raining like all hell so I thought there couldn’t be a better time to write a letter. Just the same as yesterday, we train and guard, eat and sleep. Once in a while we have a little action when the “Ruskies” (Russian slave labor) gets on a drunk and start beating one another over the head with vodka bottles; but all in all there’s little to break the monotony. I love it though.

I was sorry to hear that Ben had been wounded. I wouldn’t take that War Dept. telegram too literally, however. Anything more than a little scratch is a serious wound in their estimation.

So they’re still piddling around with the settlement of the estate. I wonder if any of us will live long enough to get any good from it. Maybe my great-great grandchildren will be the ones to reap the benefits. As the French say—“No compris American bulls_ _ _.” Me neither.

They’re beginning to hand out passes to places all over Europe now—Paris, Brussels, Nice, Rome, England, etc. and in such quantities that maybe before too long I can get to go somewhere again. I hope.

Chow here is getting fierce—beans, beans, beans and boiled water (coffee it says here). I don’t know what’s wrong. Can’t blame the cooks. They can’t cook with what they ain’t got.

That about does it for today. Good evening, Auf Wiedersehen and stuff like that there.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 199

The “Jerries” are being let out of the camps by the thousands. Bill is irked because the officers are allowed to carry pistols and every 50th enlisted man can carry a rifle. With disgust he exclaims, “Sometimes I wonder why the hell I fought.” He makes an interesting find, a leather change case on a vacant lot. It contains a variety of interesting coins dating to 1624. The war news tells of the B-29 bombing of Yokohama. Rumors of redeployment are rife but the men are told that “we may be here for a long time.”

May 30, 1945
[Germany]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This morning I got to thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve written you a letter and I’ve got to say that it made me just a little ashamed. I guess that I’ve been too interested in going to the movies, swimming and so forth. What even makes it worse is the fact that I’m receiving your letters now within 7 days. According to the “Stars and Stripes” it’s flown all the way now and service may be even quicker now. Yesterday I received mail from you post-marked in North Hollywood on the 22nd. That’s really traveling.

Everything is about the same as before here. Yesterday we got shots—no yellow fever, and now ma (southern accent) left arm is stiff as a board.

They’re letting Jerries out of the camps by the thousands now & what gets me down is that the officers all are allowed to carry pistols and every 50th enlisted man can carry a rifle. Sometimes I wonder why the hell I fought.

I hate to think of some of our boys getting murdered some dark night by those very same weapons.

We have a swimming pool in our company area now and yesterday I took a swim. It was nice but the weather is still a little too cool.

I found something very interesting yesterday or rather the day before. I took some papers out in a vacant lot to burn and on the ground I saw a brown little leather change case. It was in miserable shape and as I picked it up to throw in the fire it was heavy. When I opened it I found a odd assortment of old coins, the oldest of which dates to 1671—no by God, a little brass coin here in front of me says 1624—321 years old. I’ll put it in the letter. Several of the coins date back to the Napoleonic Wars but the most interesting of all is an American “half-dime” dated 1857, and again there is a Civil War “brass” Indian head penny. You’ll note that the coin I’m sending you was clipped by some 17th Century crook. He probably ended up on a noose.

In front of me now is a half a dozen or so letters from you I need to answer. Oh! Oh! I guess that thing you’re most interested in is if and when I go into the Pacific. There are rumors galore but we’ve been told to settle down as we may be here for a long time. Good, huh?

Right now I can hear the radio down stair raving about the blasting of Yokohama. Evidently “allies ist kaput” both in Tokyo and Yokohama.

If this keeps up all the Japs will be sleeping in their rice paddies by the late summer.

Well, that’s about –30—

Best Love, Bill

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