September 1945

LETTER 234

Bill is “practically going crazy with boredom.” The only entertainment is the nightly movie, but it is a 15 mile ride to the theater in an open truck and only 13 men in the Company of 230 can go. Everyone is “so homesick that it hurts.” Bill says that “honestly I’d give $100 outright to be able to walk up Hollywood Blvd.”

September 5, 1945
[Derdingen, Germany]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I’ve been putting off writing to you for days hoping that I’d receive a letter, but so far it’s been no go. I don’t know what’s wrong again but that’s the way it always goes.

I’m practically going crazy these days with boredom. Every day they’re slapping more and more restrictions on us, until life is becoming unbearable. They don’t give us any time off but neither are we doing anything worthwhile. It’s the greatest program of organized “nothing “ that I’ve ever seen, and this school business occupies only about 3 or 4 hours a day so the rest of the time we just sit and are waiting and wondering if we’ll ever get home. If we only had some idea of how long it would be there’d be some hope, but the way it is I don’t know what to think. The only entertainment we get is the movie. Out of 230 men in the company 13 can get to the show each night by riding the 15 miles on an open truck. (excuse my writing).

The weather’s lousy (as usual), cold and damp in the morning, hot and steaming in the afternoon, rainy in the evening. What I’d like to do to Germany ain’t fit to be written down. I’ve now got 47 points toward discharge and with the fact I’ve been overseas for more than a year, I’m pretty well set up.

School must be about ready to start up again—probably will have begun before you receive this letter. Wish I could be among the alumni who drop in around the beginning of the term.

We’re all so damned homesick that it hurts. There’s about 15 of us in my room and all we talk over is that evening drive, or a hamburger or a lit up street, neon signs, a comfortable chair or any of those little things that one doesn’t ordinarily think about. Honestly I’d give $100 outright to be able to walk up Hollywood Blvd. I guess it’s just that we’ve fought and won, so now we’d like to go home and have somebody else do a little bit.

Well, hope I get a letter soon.

How about a package of candy, cookies, sandwich spread, etc. The food’s worse than ever.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 235

Bill is in the 51st Evacuation Hospital in Stuttgart but he says, “don’t get excited because all I’ve got is a case of the worms.” The hospital is on a high hill overlooking all of Stuttgart.” Bill notes that “from here one would never know that the city is merely an empty shell of what it once was.” He struggles to write on a German typewriter. The scent of Fall is in the air and the Germans are working hard at the harvest, “or at least the women are. It would seem the men do very little here in Germany but start wars.”

September 9, 1945 (est.)
[Stuttgart, Germany]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I am now in the 51st Evacuation Hospital in Stuttgart, but don’t get excited because all I’ve got is a case of the worms and expect to go back to my company tomorrow. Big things are really beginning to pop right now so I hate to be away even if I am living the life of Reilley here in the hospital. If I make some funny mistakes on this typewriter don’t be surprised. This is a German model and it has got some of the damnedest things on it- άöüδζ and so forth. Things are still in the balance as to whether I go home with the Division or whether I am stuck over here in the closing out forces or some bloomin’ thing like that. All I know is that this is no time to be in the hospital. They sure are determined to feed my worms well before they knock the so and so’s off. We get ice cream at least once a day and often as not twice, but still I don’t like it. In a hosp. one feels like an invalid even if there isn’t anything wrong with him. Oh well, I’ll probably be out of here in a day or two so it doesn’t make any difference. If they count the points right I could be home by the first or November but if they don’t it’s hard to tell. At any rate I’ll know when I get back to the company.

The hospital is on a high hill overlooking all of Stuttgart. From here one would never know the city is merely an empty shell of what it once was. From my window I can see the entire thing as it sweeps around the more or less horseshoe like valley in front of me. It looks like any other prosperous town and I must admit that there is a great deal of activity going on everywhere. The weather has been bad for the last week or so and one can already smell the scent of Fall in the air. The mornings are often chilly and I imagine that by the first of October the frost will have begun to set in. In the country the people are working rather hard at the harvest, or the women are I should say. It would seem that the men do very little here in Germany but start wars. Everyday now I see long trainloads of troops passing through on their way toward the coastal ports and every time I see one I get as homesick as the devil.

Well that about does it.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 236

Bill rejoins his unit after a brief stay in the hospital. The mail is a big problem. During Bill’s 4 day stay in the hospital his company of 260 men received a total of 12 letters. With only 39 points Bill is definitely scheduled for Occupation. He seems resigned to it and is hoping “to get a job of some sort doing something worthwhile.”

September 14, 1945
[Derdingen, Germany]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

This is the 3rd attempt on my part to write this letter. Let’s hope there are no more interruptions. Today I got 2 letters from you, Dad, which were postmarked on the 4th and 6th of the month. Pretty good but the questions that you asked made me wonder about something. You asked several questions that I know I’ve answered in the past. Also you complained that you were receiving only one letter a week from me. I kept track of the number of stamps I had used up until Sept. 1 over a months period of time and it totaled 12. That’s 3 a week on the average. The other fellows are also claiming that something’s wrong since one fellow who habitually has written a letter a night says only two or 3 a week have arrived in the States. Likewise the mail has not been coming in here. Over the 4 day period that I was in the hospital this company of 260 men received exactly 12 letters. Today mail was normal but there was no great pile. I don’t know but from now on I’ll number all my letters and I won’t forget it.

Big things have been popping while I’ve been away. I’m probably spending my last week in the 100th Div. With only 39 points as of V-E Day I’m scheduled for Occupation. That’s that. The 100th is going home sometime soon but nearly all its personnel is going like me elsewhere. Thirty men have been alerted to move Monday morning to the 29th Div. up in Bremen and there’s another list coming out that day and I expect to be on it. I seem to hold a very unfortunate position over here now and it’s up to the people at home whether we come home eventually or stay here and rot. I know what the army brass wants and it’s up to everyone at home to do what can be done.

If I must stay here I’d like to get a job of some sort in which I’d be doing something worthwhile. We’re all in a terrible mental state now.

I received your latest package today and it sure is good — fruit cake, peanut butter, olives, etc. It sure takes the edge off the old appetite.

We’re going to use the German book in our class, but with things now it doesn’t make much difference.

You keep asking about Christmas packages but I don’t know what to say. In all probability I’ll still be in the E.T.O. Christmas but I can’t be sure.

That’s all for now. Retreat in 15 minutes.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 237

In 2 weeks Bill will have 2 years in the army. He continues to await news about what the army has in store for him. He sends home a package with various items including assorted coins,”the long lost Paris photographs, and more Nazi crap.”

September 17, 1945
[Derdingen, Germany]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

At long last I’m beginning to receive my mail in some kind of decent order. I’ve got letters up to Sept. 7 so there’s no complaint there. Evidently you are not getting my letters, however. I don’t know what’s up right now but I hope things straighten out.

I’m still waiting to get transferred out of the division but I’ve received no alert so it’s a great wonder. If the news continues to sound like it has for the last few days it won’t make any difference anyway. In 2 weeks I’ll have 2 years in the army and I’ve certainly seen combat enough soooo…I hope–.

I guess I’ve received all packages due from you now and speaking of packages, I sent one off today. It contains the rest of my electric train including the engine, the long lost Paris photographs (sent to wrong address), the balance of the coins, more Nazi crap, a cigarette case with Regimental and Divisional insignia and that’s about all.

This isn’t much of a letter but it’s late and I promise to write again tomorrow and answer those questions.

I guess it’s safe to send Christmas packages. I don’t know but I imagine I’ll still be around.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 238

Bill answers Mudder and Dad’s “10 questions of the week.” Yes, he did receive the pictures, packages and Radiogram from home. Yes, he is still attending school. No, the 399th did not receive the French Decoration. No, he has not received his furlough. No, he is not coming home anytime soon.

September 18, 1945
(“same old place’)

Dear Mudder and Dad,

The first thing I’m goin’ to do tonight is answer the ten questions of the week. If I don’t now, I’ll forget about it.

1. Pres. Cit. Celebration– Fooey! Not too bad, but the Red Cross didn’t come with the eats and the entertainment didn’t show up.

2. No, another regiment got it. I believe they didn’t give it to us because we already have the Pres. Cit. That’s no real reason but that’s the French Decoration.

3. Pictures you sent – Yes I did and I like them very much (I want to know if you ever got my other letter about those pictures.

4. Packages- Yes, I received all the packages. Despite the fact they were clearly marked 399th Inf. the one of August 14 was sent to the 397th Inf.

5. Radiogram- Yes, I received the Radiogram of Aug. 19.

6. No, I haven’t had a package from Jess recently.

7. School- Yes, I’m still attending school.

8. Trips- No trips as yet. I’m up for a pass or furlough within 2 weeks but I’m afraid I leave the outfit before I get it.

9. I’ve written to Ben Cottle but have heard nothing from him yet.

10. Home or Occupation- The outfit is supposed to come home in Nov. but I won’t be with it.

I don’t know what I think about when I write. I’m all excited about you fixing up my room and I’ve talked about it with the fellows quite often yet I never thought of it when writing. Sounds swell. I only hope I get home while I’m young enough to enjoy it.

In case you didn’t get my last letter I have a package on the way to you.

I didn’t get no (sic) package with writing paper, tooth powder.

About Ben and his camera it’s obvious he doesn’t know much about what the Infantry has been doing for the past year. Two hundred for a camera. I know damn well I could get a “Zeiss Ikon” $300 camera for $45.00. we Infantrymen are quite “Yankee-ish” in trading.

Received “4” yes, FOUR LETTERS from you yesterday. Things are looking up.

And so…..

Yours ‘til the points go lower,

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 239

Dispite an acute paper shortage Bill manages to scrounge up some Red Cross letterhead. He now has 47 points but still expects to spend 3 to 9 more months in the Army of Occupation. The weather has taken a turn for the worse.

September 23, 1945
[Derdingen, Germany]

Dear Folks,

Well, what ya know? Look what I found. Some envelopes you’ve been wondering about and I’ve been looking for.

We’re suffering an acute paper shortage here right now. I’m only writing now by the courtesy of the Red Cross “as any fool kin plainly see.” So if you will, I can use some writing paper in my next package.

They came out with the adjusted point score and I see I’ve been saved by 3 points. Forty-four points and under stays in the Army of Occupation. I’ve got 47 points. I’ve got from 3 to 9 months to spend over here yet in the close out force but at least I’ve got some sort of a chance. I don’t know though. They’ll probably change their minds a hundred times before New Years. I see they’re even thinking of letting low point men at home out before higher point men over here. I wouldn’t doubt it. I guess they think they can handle us as long as we’re way over here. These guys will be sorry someday. I don’t want to see the maintenance of peace and national defense go to hell but they could at least be halfway fair about the thing. I heard a single fellow say that he was never going to get married because it must be a lot tougher than combat the way some people are trying to get points for the married men.

The outfit is going all to hell. Everybody’s leaving for homeward bound units or Occupation units. The status of the 100th is not quite clear yet. I don’t think anybody knows what’s going on.

One thing I’m sure of now is that I’m going to be here past Christmas so if you get this letter in time send them on.

The weather’s taken a turn for the worse again. Rain every damn day and particularly damp, cold and foggy. I just never seem to warm up. There’s almost no coal for the furnaces in the building only enough to keep the showers hot in the afternoon.

That about does it for now.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 240

Bill visits the Maulbronn Cloister, “about 7 miles from here.” The cloister was founded about 1100 by a small band of fanatical monks. He notes that “there are dated inscriptions all over the place, the oldest being 1296 and the newest S/Sgt. James Edwards, Providence, R.I. 1945. It was here that Goethe wrote “Faust” and the German astronomer Kepler lived. Bill closes with the bizarre story of an old Abbot’s skull dug up by an Amerian doctor and made into a lamp.

September 27, 1945
[Derdingen, Germany]

Dear Mudder and Dad,

Oi! What a day this has been. Rain, sleet, cold. Ol’ man winter is racin’ down on us like a hurricane and the wind is blowing about like it. All day we’ve been freezing. Tonight, however, the furnaces are going and it’s rather pleasant around here. It sure changed fast enough though. Two weeks ago it was so hot that I almost died but tonight I wouldn’t be surprised if it snowed. “Wish I wuz home.”

By the way, I don’t remember if I mentioned this before but I’m still having some trouble with my hands, and this cold spell has made it necessary for me to wear gloves a great deal. These G.I. gloves aren’t worth a damn, and the leather ones I have are about all washed up. I was wondering if you could get me some leather cloth lined gloves. Even if you got a heavy envelope and sent them first class mail it wouldn’t cost more than 25 or 30 cents to mail. The way my hands are now I really need some warm gloves.

Yesterday I went on a battalion tour of Maulbronn Cloister about 7 miles from here. I’ve been going to church there for the past 2 months but I never knew much about the place except that it was very old. I found out yesterday that it is really on important place in German history, etc.

The cloister was founded about 1100 by a small and fanatical band of monks. They practiced self-abuse of various natures and had very little to do with the outside world. Only in one place in the cloister were they allowed to talk with one another and there they had to walk facing one another to and fro, first one walking backward and then the other. They slept on the floor in an animal skin cape. Even in summer the cold in the stone floor will go right thru shoes. It’s needless to say that the jerks rarely lived beyond 30 years. Despite this the order was very wealthy and powerful. The seal of the order was a mule or “maul,” hence the town “Maulbronn.”

The buildings while interesting and in some places very beautiful are an architectural nightmare. There are 5 kinds of Gothic, Romanesque, and Greek architecture embodied in the chapel alone. There are dated inscriptions all over the place, the oldest being 1296 and the newest “S/Sgt. James Edwards, Providence, R.I. 1945.”

The most important thing about the place is that it was here Goethe wrote “Faust.” He lived and worked in the upper story of a tower. In the cellar they kept people who were supposed to be witches. Schiller was educated here (it’s now a Lutheran seminary) and the German astronomer Kepler lived here.

The guide who was a prisoner at Vaihingen castle before we came got a big kick out of telling us about the American woman doctor who came before the war while they were laying a water pipe in the floor of the chapel that entailed the digging up of one of the old abbots who are buried in the floor. Anyhoo, the lady doctor swiped the Abbot’s skull, took it back to the states, studied it, decided that the Abbot must have been a moron, and made a lamp out of it. Later she felt the pangs of conscience and sent the whole business back and the Krauts buried it. The joke is now, however, that there’s a seven hundred year old Abbot buried there with an electric light globe in his head.

I’ve got to close now but I’ll write more about it in my next letter.

Best Love, — Bill

LETTER 241

Bill hears from home that there is a “big fuss over the draft.” He adds that “we never hear anything about all this so it is natural for us to think that nobody loves us anymore.” He receives a letter from his best friend Ben Cottle. Grandfather’s estate is getting straightened out. Bill has recovered from his recent illness, but his hair is a problem.

September 30, 1945
[Derdingen, Germany]

Dear Mother and Dad,

Well, what do you know? Today I received 4 letters from you. That just goes to show you how the mail situation is these days. I know damn well you’re not getting all my letters because I’ve written several to you telling you about the packages that I’ve received, and yet you continue to ask me about them in every letter so you haven’t got word about it yet. I certainly don’t understand it because some of your stuff comes over here like a house afire. Of the 4 letters I received today one was postmarked the 20th, one the 21st, and one the 22nd.

The news that you send me in your letters about the big fuss over the draft and so forth is really quite something. We never hear anything about all this so it is natural for us to think that nobody loves us anymore. We know that it isn’t true but you know how it is. Some of those birds back there are really putting their foot in it. It’s surprising to see how soft our high ranking officers are treading over here. Of course they’re not dealing with civilians but rather some pretty touchy G.I.’s and another thing is these big shots over here have some pretty nice reputations that they don’t want to throw away in politics. If they keep their mouths shut they may have the jobs some of the more vociferous brass have back home.

My point situation right now looks as if it is going to be all right. I’ve got 47 points, which means close out force but not A of O. Ben wrote to me and stated that he has 72 points!!! I don’t know if it was a misprint or whether he actually does have that many points but if he does he must have medals all over him. I wouldn’t doubt it considering what branch of the service he is in.

Talking about Ben, he seems to be awfully fed up with his position. Actually he must be having a damn nice time of it, but of course not knowing anything about the Infantry he thinks that he’s having a rough time of it. I suppose I’d feel that way too if I were in his boots. If you’re having a rough time and you don’t know that the other fellow’s having an even tougher time, you’ll complain.

I’m glad to see that that estate ours is beginning to make something out of itself. I was beginning to think that we’d all be dead and buried before the thing would be straightened out.

I was sorry to hear that you were so upset over my being sick. However, since you must know that I’m back with the company I won’t bother with the wire. They must go through Frankfurt and that takes a month of Sundays. Really right now I feel wonderful. A constitution like mine, if given half a chance will be right out front. I think my being ill for so long was what made my hair come out so badly. It looks as patchy as the devil right now but the medic looked at it and said that there are a million tiny hairs growing in all over my scalp. I hope it’ll be all right. Anyway, I’ll bet I’ve taken on ten pounds in the last few weeks since I returned from the hospital.

I don’t know exactly what the division status is anymore but I doubt that it’ll make much difference insofar as I’m concerned. When my point level is reached I go home with that outfit that is going at that time. Right now there’s hardly any of the old gang left in this company.

Gotta close now.

Best Love,

(con’t)

LETTER 242

In this continuation of the previous letter Bill uses the new 1st. Battlion “Red Raiders” letterhead for the first time. He encloses a picture of the Maulbronn Cloister. Yesterday Bill’s unit paraded in Stuttgart before General Burress — the Commander of the 100th Infantry Division who is leaving to command the 6th Corp. of the 7th Army.

September 30, 1945-2

Dear Mudder and Dad,

I couldn’t finish my other letter to you because the Company clerk had to have his typewriter, but it’s just as well because I wanted you to see this stationery which just came in. “Red Raiders” is our battalion designation. 1st bn. is always the Red Battalion and they call us “Raiders” because we so often spearheaded the initial thrust in our major actions during combat.

Right now we’re having a company history book made up and if I stay with the Division long enough to get one I’ll send it along. Did you get the maps I sent home yet? I sent them First Class mail.

I’m enclosing a picture of Maulbronn Cloister in this letter. The original order wasn’t allowed a spire and the one in the picture is 17th Century. Here it looks pretty good but actually it ruins the effect.

Yesterday I went to Stuttgart and paraded for Gen. Burress who is leaving to take command of the 6th Corps. All units were represented and all colors, standards and guidons were flying. 2500 men paraded (all men of all the outfits). The Gen. made a short talk and was given quite a sendoff. He’s quite popular. I noticed he was crying while we passed in review. After that we had a big game between the 84th Div. “Railsplitters” and the Century Division “Bluedevils.” They outplayed us but it was a tie score 7-7. We had a Drum Majorette for the band, cheerleaders, etc. and there was a lot of spirit and fun to the game, however.

That about does it.

Best Love, — Bill

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