At long last Bill receives word that he is to be transferred out of the 100th Division. He is leaving on the 6th of November, but as of yet he knows not where. There is “not a helluva lot more to write” as the life remains monotonous and the weather is “cold and sloppy.” Yank magazine has an article about “Mad Man Muntz” a Southern California eccentric genius.
November 3, 1945
Dear Mudder and Dad,
It’s been quite some time again since I’ve written you but please don’t hold it against me. I’ve been terribly busy and what’s more I haven’t received mail from you in days. I don’t know what’s wrong this time but it doesn’t seem like the army can ever do anything right for over five minutes at a time.
“Der Blitzen ist Kommt.” It’s come at last. I’m being transferred out. I’m leaving on the 6th but as yet I don’t know where I’m going. I may go to Rhiems, France as an M.P. or Stuttgart as a labor gang supervisor or possibly to Military G0vt. I can go practically anywhere but those are the most likely.
The entire point system has been changed around again so that when the Division sails on Dec. 15 there will be only men with between 60 and 65 points going with it. That leaves almost no one of the “Old 100th” in the division as it stands now.
Immediately upon arriving at my destination I’ll send you my new address.
By far the best deal in the army today is the M.G’s (Mil. Govt.). Those birds live like kings. There’s only one drawback. They’ll probably have to stay here longer than anybody with the exception of the permanent army of occupation. That ain’t good.
More men are signing up every day for the Regulars. That’s good. The more sucker—‘er, ah, patriotic citizens who do that the sooner I get home.
There’s not a helluva lot more to write. Things are about the same here as ever. This is a monotonous life. The weather’s cold and sloppy. The only entertainment I get is the movies. I go practically every night.
“Yank” magazine had quite a story about “Mad Man Muntz” this month. That screwball is getting world famous.
They’re beginning to talk about Thanksgiving and Christmas over here now, and “Ye Olde Morale is beginning to take a nosedive into the sewer. This will be my 3rd Christmas away from home. Well, anyway it will be better than the last Christmases. I think I will write a little story about last Christmas and send it to you about that time of year. I think you’ll be interested in it.
That does it I’m afraid.
Best Love, — Bill
Bill is transferred to the 1297 Labor Supervision Co. The detail is responsible for supervising 265 P.W’s working on a rather large ration dump in Giessen. The “food is devine” and the “work is negligible” but as Bill points out “what’s the catch?….I don’t know when I’ll get out of here.”
November 8, 1945
Dear Mudder and Dad,
Well the worst has happened. I’m now no longer in the 100th Div. In fact I’m no longer in the Infantry. It’s a branch of the Quartermasters, the 1297 Labor Supervision Co. In short I’m in a Co. with the T.O. strength of—now listen to this—7—men—yes! One officer and 7 men (all non-coms). I’ll be either an acting 1st. Sgt., and or an acting Mess Sgt. or and acting Supply Sgt. Etc. Later the actual ratings will be open so maybe I’ll be getting a rating. I don’t know. The food here is divine. For dinner today I had, now listen, ½ fried chicken (large), French fries with tomato sauce, salad, strong black coffee (very good) hot rolls and all the ice cream I could eat (it was made with canned milk and eggs and tasted like Chapman’s 90 cent stuff. The work is negligible. What’s the catch? I don’t know when I’ll get out of here. We have 265 P.W’s working here on a rather large ration dump. They like the work and need little handling. The work, however, won’t be over until spring so I’ll be stuck here unless sufficient replacements come in. That’s the whole story.
My address is:
Pfc. W.W. Taylor, Jr. 19203811
Hq. 1297 Labor Supervision Co.
A.P.O. 758 ℅ P.M. N.Y.
We live in a factory administration building with steam heat, hot bath etc. Giessen is not a bad town but ye God’s so many roughnecks. We go out at night in groups naturally. We are a long way from Stuttgart now near Kassel. I shouldn’t say we. None of the old gang is nearby.
As far as the army goes, this is wonderful but I’d still rather be home.
I’ll have to close now.
Best Love, — Bill
Bill expresses disgust with his new assignment as a member of Labor Supervision Co. 1297. His main complaint is the boredom…”this army can figure more ways to do nothing unpleasantly than any other organization in the world.” The weather adds to Bill’s misery.
November 14, 1945
Dear Mudder and Dad,
What can I write about? What have I been doing that’s new and different? “Nuttin.” Damn it! I’m getting into a terrible rut. This morning I get out of bed at 7:00. I dress quickly and go to breakfast. I come back, wash, shave, put on my overcoat, and go over to the warehouse. Until noon I stand around trying to look as intelligent as possible and practice my German on any Jerry who’s got the time to listen. After eating lunch I read the paper and go back to the warehouse—etc., etc. In the evening I go to a movie, grade “Q,” and then come back and try to compose a letter. Phooey! This army can figure more ways to do nothing unpleasantly than any other organization in the world. “No other army can make that statement!”
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the sun that I’m beginning to wonder if we still have one. Maybe somebody stole it. Please give me some information on this subject.
My mail still hasn’t caught up with me so I don’t from nothing what goes. That makes it all the tougher to write. I see where the 100th has been alerted. Sure wish I was coming home with her. In the little things I’ve not been very lucky in the army. In important things, namely my being alive and in one piece, I’ve been quite fortunate. Can’t have good looks and money too—or can ya?
Morale here is lower than a snake’s belly. There just seems to be no sense in what we’re doing here. I feel funny as hell doing nothing. All I can say is “The sooner I get home the better.” It seems I’ve been taking orders so long that I’ve forgot how to think. At the warehouse I’m boss but if I don’t watch myself I’m always asking someone else what to do next. Just force of habit. I can do it better myself but it’s been so long.
These Krauts are a pain. They’re honest hard workers but so slow, and they’ve got to have a boss to tell them what to do every minute. “Sweep the floor.” “Right to left or left to right?” Wot a life!
Have you received my package yet? I sure hope so.
Well, that’s it.
Best Love, — Bill
Bill relates some interesting facts about Giessen. It is part of the Medieval Duchy of Hesse, where the famous Hessians of the Revolutionary War days came from. Above town are two castles dating from 1240 and 1280. The area is controlled by the Third Infantry Divison and “going to town is no fun…their MP’s are the meanest in the world.” The 100th is having a big party down in Stuttgart the coming weekend, but Bill isn’t going because, “I’ll be damned if I’ll hitchhike 300 kilometers for any party.”
November 17, 1945
Dear Mudder and Dad,
I still haven’t received any mail from you up until today. I know that it’s no fault of yours, but that still doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation. It just seems that the system over here is so well set that it takes a month of Sundays to get any changes made. I sent my change of address card into my old company over a week ago but still I’ve not heard anything about the letters you’ve sent to my old address. Have you received my package yet? I’m beginning to worry about it. There was a great deal of valuable stuff in it so I’d hate like the very devil to have the thing lost.
Things are pretty much the same here except that I’ve learned a few things about this part of Germany that are fairly interesting. Giessen is part of the Medieval Duchy of Hesse, where the famous Hessians of the Revolutionary War days came from. The people here say that in those days the old Dukes use to sell the citizens of those towns around here outright into foreign armies. They say the ones that went into the British army were lucky although few of them ever came back. I can easily see why they never came back even if they were free to do so. These Krauts are all the same though. They seem to think that being a soldier is hot stuff no matter whose army it is.
Above the town here are two ancient castles, one dating from 1240 and the other from 1280. They are built of grey stone and look more like I have always imagined a castle should look like. Somehow a castle built of red sandstone doesn’t look the part.
Going to town from here is no fun. This area is controlled by the Third Infantry Division and their MP’s are undoubtedly the meanest in the world. No matter what you do you’re wrong. I got bawled out for failure to salute an officer who was standing in a dark cubbyhole where I couldn’t even see him, much less his rank.
The work here is going on very much the same as always except that today we received the first shipment of 10 carloads of potatoes that will come in during the next few days. I sure don’t know where in hell they plan to put them. We’ve enough stuff here now to supply three armies for an entire year.
The 100th is having a big party down in Stuttgart this weekend and all former members of the division are invited to come but I’ll be damned is I’ll hitchhike 300 kilometers for any party. Some of the other fellows went, however. The party is in celebration of the third anniversary of the activation of the division into the army. With the outfit headed for home next month the party will really be a double celebration.
Have you received my letter with the authorization for the expert’s badge, etc. in it? After I’ve gone to so much trouble to get the thing I’m going to damn sore if it gets lost anywhere in the darn mail.
Well, that about does it for tonight. As usual this hasn’t been much of a letter but with my now receiving any mail I find it pretty difficult to write anything.
Best Love, — Bill
Bill is “getting along fine” in his new job supervising German laborers. He has heard a number of interesting stories from them, particularly the sailors whom he describes as “far more cosmopolitan than the soldiers and one tenth so naive.” He goes to the show and sees “Sons of Fun” — a zany Olsen and Johnson production.
November 21, 1945
Dear Mudder and Dad,
I still haven’t received any mail from you since I left the company. In fact nobody that came here from the 100th has received anything yet. It’s truly a discouraging situation. I can just close my eyes and see one of the mail clerks back there leaning back with his feet on his desk and letting everything go to pot. It’s just typical of the army.
Everything here is in one helluva rush right now. Thanksgiving’s tomorrow and I’m afraid we’ll have to work. This Q.M. racket is a laugh. Some of the officers are so dumb that even the Krauts have caught on to them. That is saying a lot. They think that anything with a bar on its shoulder is some sort of god. The Quartermasters is a good racket during a war but when the shooting’s over it’s an awful pain. Today a QM officer asked one of our boys if he was tough enough to handle the Jerries. Our man, Weber, is an old Infantryman. He said, “Well, I’ve been shot three times and run over by a Jeep once, so you can draw your own conclusions.” I’ll bet the QM officer never heard a gun fired during the whole war.
I’m getting along fine in my new job at that, however I spend plenty of time batting the breeze with these Krauts, not so much because I love the Krauts but rather because doing so helps me to speak German about three times as much as any book could do. At that I learn a lot of interesting things from them. The other day we got in a bunch of German sailors from Norway. Their story of what happened immediately before and after the invasion of Norway is quite interesting. It seems that the situation up there must have been pretty interesting with the Germans fully armed wanting to surrender but with no one to surrender to; Story of a German admiral trying to get out of the country with practically all of Norway under his suitcase. It makes quite a yarn. Of course that they are sailors and sailors aren’t any too addicted to the truth. They’re an interesting bunch. They’re far more cosmopolitan than the soldiers and one tenth so naïve. There is so much difference that except for the language you would hardly know that they were from the same country.
I think that I’ve got these Jerries pretty much afraid of me. These QM boys who never faced these bums on the line have an awful tendency to baby them but not me. Nothing in the whole wide world could make me forget what they did to some of my friends. And so that’s the way I carry on with them. I’m the boss and that is that. Surprisingly enough that’s what they like, which again only lowers my opinion of them.
Tomorrow even though we do have to work we should have a damn nice dinner. The cooks have been working all day preparing the turkeys and they seen to take a great relish in their work. These German cooks say that they never knew that there were so many different dishes in the world as the army serves. God knows the army fare is simple enough but I guess all they’ve ever known is cabbage and potatoes and potatoes and cabbage. We got in a load of fruitcake, cranberries and fresh celery today so it shouldn’t be bad.
I went to the show last night and saw the stage show “Sons of Fun.” It’s an Olsen and Johnson production so you can imagine what it was like. I got hit right in the kisser with a rubber doughnut first thing. The show was quite entertaining at that and I think we all had a good time. After the show we went to the new Red Cross club in Giessen and had coffee and doughnuts (real ones) and played a few games of table tennis.
Well, I guess that’s about all for tonight. I sure wish I’d get some mail. When a fellow doesn’t get any for a long time he begins to wonder if the good ole U.S. is still there.
Best Love, — Bill
Bill writes this letter in the form of an Inter Office Memo on the subject: “Laxity of Mail Clerks in the European Theatre.” In addition to mail woes he is learning the art of being a temporary Company Clerk, hence the formal letter format. The weather is foul but at least Bill has an indoors job. For the first time the men are hearing that stateside replacements are in training to take over Occupation duties.
1297 LABOR SUPERVISION COMPANY
APO 758 US ARMY
24 November 1945
SUBJECT: Laxity of Mail Clerks in the European Theatre.
To: Mr. and Mrs. Wm. W. Taylor, Sr. 12928 Bloomfield St.
1. Where is my mail? That’s the question that has been on everyone’s lips for the last two weeks. I honestly think that I’m no longer in Germany. It’s the same way with everything and everybody. Everything is in such a state that we don’t know what is coming next. Some of our fellows haven’t had any mail in nine weeks so I guess that I’m the lucky one.
2. Well, temporarily anyway I’m Company Clerk in this company. It’s not a tough job by any means but I’m not up on the army method of doing things so very well yet, so I have quite a bit of studying to do. You’ll note the form of this letter. That’s just a sample of it. It’s not difficult but as an old gun slinger I’m still a little confused or should I say confoozed.
3. Nothing much doing here right now but the place is operating with too few men so everyone is kept fairly well occupied. There’s one thing I can say about this job and that is that it is indoors. The weather is getting fouler all the time so indoors is a good place to be. I sure wish now that I could type the right way. I can type reasonably fast, but after a full day my fingers feel as if an elephant had been trompin’ on them.
4. The thinning out process over here is moving right aalong. Is that English I’m writing? There seems to be more troops than ever in the big cities but very few in the cow towns. For the first time since the war ended we’re beginning to get some dope on replacements. We’re having men assigned to us right now that are still in the states taking basic training. That in itself makes us breathe a little easier.
5. Tomorrow’s Sunday and a day off but tonight I’m on C.Q. so I can’t go out. Not that there is anything to go out for but a person likes to feel that he can go out if he wishes even if there isn’t any reason for it. They’ve opened up a new Red Cross Club in town and it’s really nice. It has a library, coffee shop, game rooms, reading rooms, and a music room. They even have pin ball machines there.
6. I don’t know that there’s much more to write tonight. In fact I’m not sure when I’ll be able to send this right away. The mail clerk hasn’t been able to get any stamps at the POST OFFICE even for the last few days.
WILLIAM W. TAYLOR, JR.
It’s Bill’s third consecutive holiday season away from home. Thanksgiving dinner was swell…”the whole works. You should have seen the Kraut cooks when we dived into that meal. I thought they were going to burst with pride.” The weather is miserable “as bad or worse than England.” Bill congratulates Mudder and Dad on their wedding anniversary.
Thanksgiving Day 1945
Giessen, Germany (Hesse)
Dear Mudder and Dad,
Well, its 9 o’clock at night and Thanksgiving is practically over with. Down the road a piece from here is a large apartment building with a company or so of Infantry living there and tonight when I passed there coming back from the movies I saw them unloading fresh cut Christmas trees so I guess that the Christmas season is just around the corner. These other holidays don’t mean a great deal to me but I really dread Christmas. In ’43 at Camp Abbot I was miserable. Last year at Bitche I was so miserable anyway that I didn’t know the difference. And so it goes. At least I’m reasonably sure that this will be my last Christmas away from home for a while.
In some ways I feel sorry for the fellows that are going home with the 100th. They’re going to come close to making it but I doubt if any of them will be actually home Christmas Day. We really had a swell dinner today anyway. The whole works and you should have seen the Kraut cooks when we dived into that meal. I thought they were going to bust with pride. I gotta hand it to them. They worked like slaves all last night to get that meal out and they really did themselves proud.
Still no mail and I’m getting sunk down to the point where I can just barely see over the bow in my shoelaces. It’s been practically two weeks now since I’ve received a letter. There’s no use griping though because all the griping I’ve done in the past two years seems to have fallen on deaf ears. They’re still running the thing the way I think it shouldn’t be run.
I’m beginning to get over this damn cold that’s been plaguing me for the last week anyway. That good old “Deutch Klima” is slowly exterminating the AEF. I think they must be supermen to live in this climate because it’s as bad or worse than England and that is saying a lot. I’ve been here two weeks now and I’ve yet to see the sun. I still doubt that they have one in this part of the country.
There’s something I want to tell you but I’m keeping my yap shut for once because every time I’ve had good news for you before the boomin’ things have blown up in my face.
I hope you’ll excuse some of the lousy English and spelling in this letter. The typewriter that I’m using is one of those noiseless affairs that you have to jump up and down on the keyboard in order to put enough weight on the keys.
That’s it I guess. Hope you spent an enjoyable Thanksgiving as well as a happy wedding anniversary.
Best Love, — Bill
A LETTER FROM HOME
This letter, which never reached Bill and was returned as “undeliverable” is the only known letter from “Mudder” included in this collection. She has lost all interest in Christmas now that it is certain Bill will not be home. Mudder is puzzled about a wooden crate they received in the mail marked as from Bill which contained “one very swell vacuum cleaner” and speculates that it must have been sent to the wrong address. (note: In fact Bill did send it and eventually the vacuum cleaner ended up with Bill and his new family after the war. As a child I distinctly remember it being used by my mother and, believe it or not, she told me recently that after all these years she still has it buried away with the junk in her garage-Greg Taylor). In closing Mudder sends a newspaper clipping of a Drew Pearson article on “the caste system in the navy.”
Just finished wrapping some Christmas presents to send back east to Jess, Mother, Kim and Kitt. I went down town this morning and bought them. It certainly is hard for me to bother with any idea of Christmas. I lost all interest in it when I learned that you were not coming home and now all I want is to get it behind me. I don’t even want to think about it. Tonight they said that all men with fifty-five points would be home for Christmas and all men with forty or over would be home shortly after New Years. If they could do that they could let you come home before Christmas but that might look as though they were giving the fighting men a little consideration and of course, they wouldn’t want to appear in that light.
When I got home I looked for mail but he had not been around. I had a cigarette and sat around for a while and then he came and brought your letter of the 17th. I was sorry that you had not been receiving our letters but you know we are really writing them and we also sent your campaign ribbons. They were sent on the 25th of October and you must have them by now. However, don’t worry about them because we still have the letter of authorization and if they don’t come through we will get them again for you.
The thing that really has us going now is the vacuum cleaner. We are inclined to think there is a mistake somewhere. You speak of a package with things and I know that you mentioned a cigarette case, your pictures that were taken in Paris, your little engine and other things in one of your letters. The package containing those things have not arrived but we certainly are in possession of one very swell vacuum cleaner. I feel sure that you would have mentioned it if you sent it so just what if anything has happened? Your name was written all over the crate (wood) and Lt. Shemwell passed the contents. If it is a mistake I don’t see just how it happened. It is not a bad swap because I could sell it tomorrow for all kinds of money. They are among the hardest things to get but if you did not send it and had a lot of valuable things in another package I would rather have that. Is there any way you could check up from your end? Perhaps you know who bought a vacuum cleaner if you did not and he may have your things. If you can’t check up from your end I have a way to do it here. We have your roster and could send a letter or card to each member of your outfit asking about it. That might get results as I’m sure whoever got it would rather have what they bought.
It is too bad that you could not attend the party of the 100th but I don’t blame you for not wanting to hitch-hike for that distance. It would have to be some party and I suppose it was but I still doubt if it would be worth that much effort.
Apropos of your remarks about the Third Infantry Division and their MP’s — I am enclosing an article of Drew Pearson’s on the caste system in the Navy. Boy, are these services having a time selling the boys on re-enlistment. Phooey! says most of them. I guess it’s worse in the Navy than in the Army.
I do hope that your mail is reaching you by now. There are so many things that we will be looking for answers about- the VC, the Ribbons and Ex. Rfm. Badge etc. Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait.
Thatz’s all for tonight. I liked your description of Giessen and the historical background.
Bestus love and kisses, — Mudder