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Writers from twenty Allied and Axis countries are gathered in this unique collection of letters from servicemen and -women to their friends, families, and sweethearts. World War II Letters gives an unbiased look into the lives of those who served throughout the world-in Europe, the Pacific, Northern Africa, and Asia-and gives an intimate and honest portrayal of their experiences.
Wide ranging in scope, World War II Letters includes writings by officers and infantry, nurses and ...
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Writers from twenty Allied and Axis countries are gathered in this unique collection of letters from servicemen and -women to their friends, families, and sweethearts. World War II Letters gives an unbiased look into the lives of those who served throughout the world-in Europe, the Pacific, Northern Africa, and Asia-and gives an intimate and honest portrayal of their experiences.
Wide ranging in scope, World War II Letters includes writings by officers and infantry, nurses and doctors, pilots, POWs, those injured in action, killed in action, and those reported missing. Introductory biographies and photographs vividly capture the letter writers' lives before, during, and after the war.
The writers of the letters in this powerful collection express their own views of "the enemy," give their impressions of countries far away from home, describe battle by land, sea, and air, and recount war's atrocities and its rare humorous moments. Ultimately, World War II Letters provides a revealing and unforgettable journey through the war of the century.
World War II Letters
Born on May 19, 1920, in Battle Creek, Michigan, Lt. Col. Louis Laun of New York was a headquarters battalion quartermaster in the Fifth Marine Division of the U.S. Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Laun was part of the first group of Marines to arrive in Japan when the bomb was dropped. He was a captain on Iwo Jima when the following letter was written, but he served as a reserve officer, not a career officer, for the war only. He was advanced one grade after his retirement in 1950. Lt. Col. Laun received the Bronze Star for his service. He later participated in the occupation of Japan. After the war, he worked in marketing as head of Labor and Public Relations for Bates Manufacturing Company, as advertising director of Burlington Industries, and as president of the Celanese Fibers Marketing Company. In the government, he was deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration from 1973 to 1977, a member of the Executive Committee of the Grace Commission on Government Waste, then assistant secretary of commerce for international economic policy. He was president of the American Paper Institute, the trade association representing the pulp and paper industry, from 1977 to 1986 and a member of the Helsinki Commission from 1986 to 1989. He is now retired and serves on several nonprofit boards andas a volunteer consultant for the National Executive Service Corporation. He currently lives in New York.
12 March 1945 Iwo Jima
Dear Marion, Eben, Jimmy, Debbie, and Eben Jr.—
Greetings from Hot Sulfur Springs, Iwo Jima. This is to report that this particular member of the family is still present and accounted for after a thrilling three weeks on this fascinating island. Am sorry to report, Jimmy and Debbie, that I have yet to get that Jap I promised you, but have certainly had the dubious pleasure of being potted at bymany a Nip who must have promised his cousins in Japan the same thing. So far the score is even and neither of us has had any luck.
The cards I am enclosing were mailed to a couple of the members of this ill-fated garrison, and I thought that anybody in the family who is currently running a stamp collection might like them.
This has been a miserable battle for both sides-the Japs have an interlocking series of defenses consisting of thousands (I'm not kidding) of caves supplemented by hundreds (and I'm still not exaggerating) of pillboxes and blockhouses. Our division's engineers have already blown up over 600 caves in our zone of action alone. They hide up in these rocky spots with plenty of food, water, and ammunition, and can't be dislodged by anything but the individual Marine crawling in. Artillery, bombs, and rockets seem to have little effect, and tanks can't operate in the rocky terrain. Grand spot. The Marines on this island fought a superhuman battle and the Japs one that is super-superhuman. I've never seen anything like the determination of these enemy troops. We're all praying for a banzai charge to get them out of these holes where we can get at them. Until we do, the campaign will only make more secure its already unchallenged record as the bloodiest in Marine Corps history.
Have been more scared, more mad, and more tired on this operation than ever before in my life. Have had many a close call from snipers, machine guns, mortars, rockets and artillery, but so far have succeeded in ducking the right way. My warrant officer got killed here about ten days ago which hurt pretty much-the infiltrating Jap sniper carries a knee mortar now rather than a rifle and they've harassed us seriously. Have had many interesting times moving supplies up to the front of the battalionat one time got a little too eager and ran a jeepload beyond our lines, which is a story I'll tell you sometime. Everybody is doing all he can and I know we'll finish this up as soon as it is humanly or inhumanly possible. Without tooting our own horn, my hat is really off to the Marines in this one. I doubt, however, if this island will be completely cleared out of enemy for a month at the least, due to the abundance of places to hole upin, and these Nips are just masters at it. We take very few prisoners, and the ones we take are either unconscious, or so badly wounded that they can't kill themselves, or out of food and water and crazy. They just don't surrender, no matter how great the odds are against them.
Well, I guess I'll catch up on my beauty sleep-hope we get off this dusty rock of sulfur flames soon—that bottle of champagne you're saving would look pretty good right now. Room service is lousy on this place, and with the water shortage I've not bathed since Feb. 18 and have shaved twice. Yoicks—I look like something out of Mauldin.
Best luck to you all-my best to the Ruhms—and Happy Birthday Eben.
Rottenfuehrer (Squad Leader) Erik Andersen was a Danish volunteer in the Eleventh SS Freiwillingen (Volunteer) Division, "Nordland,"named to reflect the Scandinavian heritage of its volunteers. His nephew, Kris Dunn of Florida, who contributed this letter and translated it from the original Danish, says his uncle was born in 1923 in Thisted, Denmark, a small rural town on the Jutland Peninsula, and became a farmhand who "wished to have a life of adventure and glory with the SS. At the time the SS was not seen in a bad light; they were considered to be an elite unit, fighting against international bolshevism. Back in those days Communism was seen as a definite enemy. The Nazis who were in power in Denmark were very socially forward thinking in trying to eliminate the class differences in European societies that were dominated by the aristocrats. They had just fought a successfully orchestrated campaign in the west against Norway, France, and the Netherlands, etc. The Danes basically let the Germans. conquer their country in four hours. So here we have this young man breaking his back on a farm in Denmark, [and] he made the decision to join the SS because it looked good-they had sharp uniforms, good equipment, slick advertising, etc. He went off in late '41 and wanted to go to war with theRussians, who he thought posed a threat to Western civilization." This letter was the last one the family received. Rottenfuehrer Andersen was never heard of again. His nephew says that it is presumed that he died in Narva because of the big battle there but that the family has been fruitlessly searching for nearly thirty years for the facts concerning Rottenfuehrer Andersen's fate.
March 17, 1944
Dear Mother, Father, little Elsa, Per, and Karl,
I am sorry for not writing these last few months. We have been really busy with the Ivans. We are doing fine, it is tough, but we are holding them back. We know that this is a temporary situation to lure them out of the lair and then later on strike the beast at the neck in the summer months. We have the Tiger tanks and some Panther tanks and they are virtually unstoppable; the Ivans have good equipment but no trained crews. I know we will be knocking on the gates of Moscow later this year. The Ivans are real savages; they have no respect for life or death. Out on patrol the other day we came across a body that was mutilated, butchered and shamed; this is nothing new to me, but this time it was somebody I knew from training camp. They will pay for their destruction. Hitler has promised us that the war will turn real quickly with the wonder weapons. No matter how many tanks and artillery pieces the Ivans have, we know that we are better trained, more logical, physically superior and mentally superior to them. They cannot win this war; I know because we kill so many of them they must be running out of reserves real quickly.
Good news. I was promoted to Rottenfuehrer (Squad Leader) 4 weeks ago. I am very proud of my accomplishments and am happy that the SS has placed the trust in me to lead my men into victory. This is really a big step for me in my career, I know.
It has been a little over 2 years since I have been gone, but I feel like I have really grown up very quickly. I miss you all so much especially you, Else; you just turned 6, I know, and I am sorry I could not havebeen at your birthday party. I know Mom and Dad did something very special for you. I just want to tell you that when I get home I want to celebrate the birthdays that I have missed.
How is everyone? I heard that Karin married some grain merchant in Copenhagen; that is a shame; she was the sweetest girl in town. I was hoping to sweep her off her feet when I came back, but it looks like I won't be doing it anytime soon.
I never thought I would say it, but I really miss Denmark; this country [Estonia] is so damned cold, flat, and very war torn. Denmark is really a land of milk and honey. I was able to tell you earlier of the destruction I saw when I went to Berlin from the American and British bombers. It was truly depressing. I don't understand why they are hurting fellow Aryans like that. Don't they know that there are people fighting and dying here against the Red Wave of Bolshevism so they can keep their society intact? It really angers me that they are not helping us against Stalin. His own people don't even like him.
Well, Mom and Dad, I know you are doing a good job raising Per, Karl, and Else. Please don't worry about me. The war should be over by Christmas, when we get more tanks and aircraft here. The Ivans keep trying to break us, but they will not succeed; we will prevail. When the campaign is complete, I can't wait to be back home with you all. I love you all. Say "hi" to my friends and tell them that I am doing fine, though I sorely miss them.
With love, Erik
Cpl. ClydeA. Richards was born on a farm near the northeast Missouri town of Canton, 150 miles north of St. Louis on the banks of the Mississippi River, on December 7, 1913. He served with Patton's Third Army for the U.S. Ninetieth Infantry Division, 358th Regiment, Company D, Second Platoon, as a machine gunner. His unit arrived at Utah Beach two daysafter D day. They were involved in a fierce battle at the Merderet River, just outside Chef DuPont and Picauville, France, from June 10-12, 1944, in an effort to secure the river's bridge. There Corporal Richards suffered shrapnel wounds to his back and neck. In the following letter, he writes home to his parents four days after his injury from his hospital bed in Lancashire, England. He returned to his unit on July 20 and was wounded again on November 16. After the war, Corporal Richards returned to farming in 1945, then became an independent insurance agent and real estate broker in 1950. He owned this business until he died at his home in Canton on October 17, 1990. Corporal Richards and his wife, now deceased, were married at Camp Barkeley, Texas, on July 31, 1943, and raised a son and two daughters. The son, Norm Richards of Missouri, contributed the letter.
Dear Mother and Dad:
This is a wonderful day in England-back in England where I can rest and have a chance to get well again.
The past week seems more like a wild dream now than the real thing. It all seemed to start so sudden and it ended the same way.
I was hit by shrapnel Sunday, June 11, on the front lines in France. It struck me in the back along the shoulder blades and one piece struck behind my right ear.
Please don't worry about me for I am not seriously hurt and when I recover I will be in just as good health as ever. I am one of the lucky ones. After the shells stopped landing on us, of the dead and wounded ones, only two of us were able to walk back.
I can't tell you just where I was, but we were doing a good job. I have been in some of the hardest and bloodiest fighting over there and we never stopped going forward. The boys are still doing the same thing. The Germans are desperate, hard, dirty and good fighters, but they can't even come close to stopping us. They don't have the guts it takes.
I don't have much paper today, so can't write much. Oh, yes. As you can see by the address, I'm in an English hospital. They treat me swell. Don't worry about me, I will soon be okay.
Drafted into the U.S. Army in February 1942, when he was thirty-two years old, Pfc. William Pellicore served in the infantry for Gen. Mark Clark in the Fifth Army for four years from Africa through Italy. Private First Class Pellicore's nephew, jeff Caracci of Iowa, who contributed his letter, says: "While in Italy, Bill was terribly distressed at seeing the devastation and the poverty and hunger of the Italian peasants. He would gather up whatever food, especially large quantities of Spam, which the soldiersdetested, and would distribute it to the families along the way. Bill also tried to deter the artillery from using church steeples as targets for shelling. On more than one occasion Bill would say, 'If you do shell the church, when you enter the village, the people will hate you instead of welcoming you with open arms. Instead, why not use the crossroad intersection in that area, and you will thus avoid, not only the destruction of the church, but the deaths of innocent people as well."' This letter was written to Private First Class Pellicore's younger brother, Ray Pellicore, as he got ready to go on his tour of the Pacific. Ray Pellicore would later serve as a medical officer on a patrol torpedo boat in Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Borneo. Private First Class Pellicore was one of six brothers who served during the war.
T/5 WM Pellicore 36321685
Hqs. 77 FA., APO 464 C/o Postmaster, New York
February 17, 1944
I got your ten-page effort a couple of days ago. It represents the best thing you have directed my way since the president sent his greetings. I suppose now that you've written yourself out we'll have another interval of silence.
Did you know that in foreign theaters the government, to keep down V.D., sponsors prostitution? Also, along the highway in [illegible] you see signs like this: "Women who invite borders create social disorders—take a pro." Since I've been in the army, I can tell you that I have been a Trappist in my glandular life.
The account you gave of your medical service was certainly vivid andcomplete. I think you can safely say that that the average doctor in two years of general practice doesn't get the variety you obtained in your internship. This background will stand you in good stead as time wears on. Do you suppose after you have completed the required additional three months they'd permit you to take the State Board? They might if they knew you were slated for overseas duty. Why not make inquiry? And while I'm on medicine, how did you get your assignment to the Cook County Hospital?
The days that lie ahead, Ray, are going to be for you the happiest and most fruitful you ever imagined, so make the most of it. We're proud of you and the record you have made. Give everything you do the best you got and success will be assured.
As I write this I'm in a rest center near [censored] for five days of relaxation-actually three when you deduct traveling time. This is where we get a complete change of clothing, and, what is more important, a hot shower. Because we have been so active, only five from our headquarters were able to make it this time. Our gun batteries sent many more. We had been expecting to be pulled out of the line and the whole regiment rested in one operation, but this arrangement eliminates that possibility. However, I prefer it this way. This is no heroic stuff, but it does seem strange not to hear the blast of cannons, shells exploding, machine guns clattering, and the eerie roar of the "screaming meemies," the German six-barreled mortars called Nebelwerfers. (I just re-read this last sentence. What would Nicholas Murray Butler say about the construction: awkward and clumsy?)
Since I've been here I have had a look [censored] and a few other historical and cultural spots. A sight I shall never forget is the [censored] constructed in recent years to replace an older church on the same site. We have a number of Italian churches in the states called the Church of [censored]. I'm not certain, but the Virgin was supposed to have appeared here, and a number of miracles have been wrought. I don't have the space to tell you about the church. Words can't describe itsbeauty. Mass there was conducted as you hear it celebrated in the states—as I saw it in Sicily and Africa.
With the exception of the first two weeks after our arrival, devoted mainly to re-equipping, we have been continuously at the front, and here we have been subjected to the most fearful artillery barrages of our entire combat careers. I can tell you that that day after New Year's a shell made almost a direct hit on my pup tent a few seconds after I had plunged into my fox hole several feet away. The net result of that experience was a shredded tent, strewn belongings, a bit of dirt and stone on my back and a ringing sensation in the ears. When the sky clears, the Luftwaffe pays us a visit. In recent days, however, the sky has been relatively free from enemy aircraft. Maybe it's because every time they appear the boys send up so much flak you can walk on the stuff. The real reason probably is that old Fritzie just doesn't have the planes to spare anymore.
As we push forward we leave in our wake devastation beyond anything you can imagine-whole cities battered to rubble. One town, [censored], featured in the news some time ago, looked like it might have been a pretty progressive municipality, what with modern shops and an electrically operated bus line; but our bombing and shelling, plus German destruction, has rendered the place utterly useless. That is what Italy is getting to look like as we inch our way to Rome.
News analysts, commenting on the slow progress, attribute it to long supply and communication lines. Such guessing misses the point. It has never been a question of supply, equipment, or manpower. All of our grief stems from the mountainous terrain and the rivers and streams. Conditions of this kind permit only a limited use of our armor. In addition, the Germans have dug in and it takes a direct hit to get them out. Every house in a village is a fortress. To neutralize this situation we simply level the place to the ground, sparing churches and cultural buildings when possible. For instance, in the town we have just taken after bitter fighting is a spared church overlooking the ruins—a tribute, ofcourse, to the accuracy of our bombing and artillery. But sometimes this precision work avails us nothing, as in the case of a counterattack when the enemy flattens anything left standing. So every town gets a double shellacking: once [when] we take it and again when the opposition seeks to wrest it from us [censored].
... to take it without artillery support. The result was disastrous for us. Morale hit a new low. Soon after, we got word that the no-fire order had been lifted. Yesterday, I watched out Fortresses, Marauders, and Mitchells blast it. Hundreds of artillery pieces fired on it. Hitler's boys didn't think we'd do it. Our boys at the front are happier today.
Well, Ray, this ten-page matches yours. I may not always be able to make this kind of reply. For the time being at least I'll be working under more trying circumstances. I'm holding you to your promise of frequent correspondence; so keep that pen filled. So wherever they send you my prayers for your success and safety go with you. Take care of yourself.
Will Censor's note: "a censor's bad dream."
Dr. Robert Andrew Douglas graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1939 and completed his residency in Brisbane during 1940. He enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps in December 1940. In October 1941, he was posted overseas with other reinforcements to join the Ninth Division of the Australian army in the Middle East. Letters to his parents that begin in November 1941 and end in October 1946 were found among his belongings after his death, together with many photographs. Dr. Douglas had two brothers, Jim and Hugh, both serving as infantry officers in the army, and two sisters, Bea and Alice, living with their parents in Towns-ville, Queensland, Australia. His son, Bob Douglas of Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia, shared his father's letters from the Douglas family publication Battles Long Ago: Wartime Letters of Dr. R. A. Douglas.
25 July '42
Dear Mother and Father,
Since last writing I have taken up a position uncomfortably close to the enemy. I was touring about the battlefield a week or so ago and happened to run into the ADMS and he told me I would have to take over from the RMO of an artillery regiment who was sick so I was dropped off the truck at his RAP and he went back. The RAP is situated under a little cliff practically right on the water's edge and the blue Mediterranean splashes over one at times. It is in among the rocks and not the sort of place one would pick in peacetime, though tolerably safe except for a direct hit from a bomb or shell. Unfortunately it is close to a crossroad and there are 25-pounders all around, some in front and some behind. As you might imagine these draw the "crabs" and the enemy shelled us for a week, especially in the evenings just at sundown. It is a very nasty experience to be under shell fire—worse than bombs because with the noise of the sea you cannot hear the shells coming. The closest shell was about ten feet from where I was sitting in the RAP and a piece of shrapnel tore a great hole in the tarpaulin over our heads. Naturally after the first few days the place was well sand bagged. The first evening I was here there were wounded lying all about and shells dropping at intervals and life looked decidedly glum. Fortunately an infantry attack in the last two days has interfered with the enemy observation of our area and we are now able to take an interest in surroundings and count the shell holes and bomb craters about the place. The bombing was incidental and occurred every now and then; an Itie dropped his bombs fifty yards away in the water and gave us some nice fish to eat.
Things have been quiet the last two days and we are all getting very chirpy. When our guns shoot the enemy and he shoots back at us it takes practice to detect which is which in the general din. The trouble with these artillery regiments is that they draw the "crabs." I do not know how long I will be with this crowd but it is better to address myletters to 2/2 Aust. MG Bn as I should think I will go back there eventually. This artillery regiment has done a great job and have shot away an enormous number of shells. The infantry of course bear the brunt of the fighting and have fought splendidly though with heavy casualties. After the first Italian debacle Rommel brought all Germans into this sector, which is a tribute to the Australians. One cannot sing the praises of the Aussie infantryman too highly as he is a superb fighter. The Alamein battle is at stalemate and it looks as though Jerry is even more tired than we are. Anyhow here's hoping that the coastal strip remains preserved from the attention of the enemy artillery and dive bombers.
Hugh's battalion is, I believe, still in reserve but I have little opportunity of leaving my post to see him.
Hoping you are all well, Your loving son, Bob
P.S. I have a swim twice a day in the beautiful water near our rocks but always with ears well attuned and one eye cocked at the sky and our A/A guns.
7 November '42
Dear Mother and Father,
Received a batch of mail from home on the glorious 5 Nov when it became certain that what was left of Rommel's Africa Korps was in full retreat. Our regiment had just moved into a new position and that afternoon I was on a piece of fairly high ground and watched our guns moving up across the plain. Jerry's guns opened up on them and I could see their flashes and then see the shells falling among our moving batteries. One of the batteries unlimbered and opened up and Jerry shut up all ofa sudden. Next morning we woke up to find Jerry fifty miles away hotly pursued by our mobile forces but leaving the Australians in possession of the coastal sector of the Alamein battlefield. Our infantry had such a clubbing in the attack that they were unable to take part in the pursuit.
We now find ourselves in the old No Man's Land between his wire and ours. There are derelict tanks and trucks scattered about and there were quite a lot of dead, both our own and Jerry's, until they were buried today. The ground is full of old shell holes and is littered with shrapnel and bits of equipment. It seems almost desecration to be erecting tents, i.e. if one is fortunate enough to possess one on such hard fought over ground, right at the foot of Tel EI Eisa rise, contour 25, the clover leaf and all the other well known landmarks of unwholesome memory. One has to be very careful though as there are booby traps and mines all over the place. The Ities even attach booby traps to their dead so that when somebody goes and tries to bury them they go off "Bang."
We are fairly close to the main tarmac road and it is most impressive to see it chock a block with traffic going west. Great tanks of all descriptions on their scammels, guns, fresh troops, lots and lots of Air Force ground staff to occupy the forward landing grounds. At the beginning of July we saw a similar sight though with an entirely different significance as we came from Cairo to Amyria on convoy. There we had a terrific road block which held us up for five hours but what we saw on the other side of the road then were battered tanks and completely disorganized troops in full flight-Tommies, Indians, South Africans in hopeless confusion. The procession west goes on day and night and it makes one wish that one could take part in the chase. Our infantry have lost so many men though that we would not be effective as a fighting force until reinforced. It is a strange thing after so many months to have the war pass one by. They don't even drop an occasional bomb on us now at night and the only planes one can see areflocks of our own all heading west to new aerodromes. It looks something like the swarms of flying foxes we used to see at home. About two hundred yards away are four big 6" guns made at Skoda works Pilsen which used to annoy us greatly in early July. They were abandoned by their crews in the middle of No Man's Land and neither side has been able to drag them away for four months. They are very good trophies. There are several of his 88-mm guns here knocked out in the recent battle and some tanks.
The account you receive in the papers of the fighting is substantially correct as I can see by reading old NQ Registers when they arrive. The present battle was very well planned and seemed to go off almost without a hitch. It was very gratifying to find out that the main attack would develop from our northern salient which we had conquered after such heavy fighting in July. On a narrow front such as this Jerry had been able to build very strong defenses in depth protected by extensive minefields so that our mobile and armored forces had no chance of deploying without an infantry attack for a start to open gaps in the minefields. This attack coincided with terrific aerial and artillery preparation to batter his defenses and morale. The infantry then attacked and opened gaps in the forward minefields and our tanks got through into the open areas and played about. The idea was to completely destroy his soft skin first, i.e. his infantry etc., and then polish off his tanks later on. He put in some counterattacks as expected on a big scale and was of course still in range of our artillery positions and got knocked back with terrific loss. It was hoped that his tanks would come in to try and rescue his infantry but not many of them did this as they would have fallen into a nice little trap. After ten days of this mopping up process another series of infantry attacks opened gaps in his rear minefields and our mobile forces streamed out in hot pursuit chasing him along the coast road while other forces kept swinging in from the desert cutting them off at different spots. Once it cracked itwas easy but the cracking process round Alamein and Sidi Abd El Rahman was very fierce fighting.
Hoping you are all well, Your affectionate son, Bob
P.S. I believe Hugh is well and I hope to see him shortly.
Karl Friedrich August (Fritz) Fetköter graduated from the Friderikenstift Nursing School, Hannover, Germany, in 1933 and in 1936 joined the air force (Luftwaffe) as a nurse with the Air Force Medical Corps. In 1940 he was stationed at the air force base hospital in Prague, Czechoslovakia, to which the wounded were transported, and he lived off base with his wife, Ilse, and their first daughter, Ingrid. They later had another daughter, Jutta. His daughter Ingrid Günther Fetköter, who translated and contributed his letters from her present home in New York State, says her father later participated in the North Africa campaign under Rommel in 1942 as a noncommissioned officer (Feldwebel) surgical nurse assigned to the field hospital operating room, then moved to Corsica and Sardinia and finally continued moving north. At the end of the war he retrained as a ground sol dier as all men were needed to fight the war. The following letter was written during one week in April 1945 in which he became involved in heavy fighting near Königsbrück just north of Dresden and had to lead 120 adolescent boys in a desperate attempt to win. On April 21, 1945, he was wounded, then treated in a number of different field hospitals. The last hospital was in Böhmisch Leipa, Czechoslovakia, from which he was released on May 8, 1945, and taken as a prisoner of war by the Americans to the camp in Marienbad, Czechoslovakia. He spent a few weeks in the camp and was released on May 31, 1945. His unit at the time of release, according to the POW papers, was 5. Panzer Grenadier Ersatz u. Ausbildungs Batalion413 or Tanker grenadier replacement and training battalion 413. After the war he founded an all-male nursing school at the university in Göttingen, where veteran medics from the war were retrained.
9 April 1945, 20:40 hour
My dear Ilse,
Someone in our quarter is playing folksongs from home with an accordion and we are crying bitter tears. It was announced that the enemy is near Höxter and South of Göttingen. How is it with you and Ingrid and everyone in Göttingen and Lauenförde? If I just knew you are as well as I am right now, I would be the happiest person on earth.We are now in a waiting position and up to now have had no enemy contact. I got together with a comrade and, should something happen to either of us, we would bring the news and whatever there is of valuables to the families.
Should my heart stop, it always beats for you, Held its love for you inside in faithfulness, Joined to you in tough and happy hours.
13 April 1945, 16:30 hour
On the 10th came the news that after heavy fighting Göttingen fell; how does it look there? Are you still healthy? For the last two days we are in position; at this moment I am cowering in a ditch, above us are low flying planes and tremendous banging; even with that, my thoughts are with you. Provisions actually improved, thus we are not suffering from hunger. Right now I have a bad hand, burned myself while draining hot potatoes; we also have to do the cooking. Writing is a little difficult right now.
16 April 1945
Since 5:10 early AM the Russians are shelling with artillery. I am back with the medical corp.
24 April 1945, 18:30 hour, Wamsdorf
My beloved dear Ilse,
Just today, as bad as it is, I get to continue to write this letter. On the 21st it got me, through the lower arm, which could not be medically attended to for two days. Perhaps you are in pain, too, and delivering[they were expecting their second child]. I must stop now, cannot continue, I had an operation this morning.
26 April 1945
Since I feel much better today and can now continue with writing, I hope by now your worst period is over. If everything went well and what we have will be a mystery for me, hope it didn't take too long. Even though I was in pain, my thoughts were with you all the time and how you were doing. The days from the 16th on I can hardly describe; they were just gruesome and I will tell you in person. Mostly I worked in the medical corps and had to remove many of the wounded out of the firing line. We were surrounded not less than three times. During the 3rd time, I lost my unit all together, that is they were dissolved. Then, on the evening of the 20th, I reported to the assembly camp at Königsbrück. There they gave me 120 men, inexperienced and about 17 years old. We only had 5 or 6 guns, and then bazookas and hand-shells, and most of them did not know how to handle them. Before noon we had to approach the Russians just at the eastern edge of Königsbrück. If we succeeded I do not know, because then I was wounded in my lower arm and had to leave K.
Marched for almost a whole day until I entered the field hospital in Radeberg where I received medical care. There I met a physician from the Göttingen Clinics, who just to calm me down said that Göttingen was not too badly bombed but that Northeim was. From Radeberg I was quickly transferred to the field hospital in Wamsdorf, Sudeten Province and for a few days now have received good care.
Lt. Marvin C. Weber served in the Third Army under General Patton in the Fourth Infantry Division, Seventieth Tank Battalion, Company D.He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and survived, but he was killed on March 3, 1945, in Gondelsheim, Germany, during an attack on the nearby town of Prüm His wife, Doris McCallister of Nebraska, contributed this letter.
Somewhere in Luxembourg 7 January 1945
... We had a little incident happen the other day that might interest you. A Jerry officer came across the field with a white flag—they took him in to find out what he wanted. It so happened our artillery was shelling one of their hospitals and he wanted to see if it could be stopped. We sent two officers back with him to see where the hospital was located. While they were there the Jerries fed them a delicious dinner plus champagne, and when they were ready to leave the Germans gave them some fresh eggs to give to the Commanding General of the Division. You see, we never get fresh eggs and they were very sympa-thetic.Funny things happen in this war—it's very hard to believe at times some of the things that do occur.
I've seen a bit of action-the Jerries threw everything but the kitchen sink at us, and a few times that came along, but I came out okay. I got hit in the arm by shrapnel, but it didn't amount to much. Why I'm still around I'll never know, but I sure thank the good Lord. It's very cold here now, and [theres] quite a bit of snow. It reminds me much of Nebraska. The people here are pretty nice, and very pleased to have the Americans around. The news sounds quite good now. I hope it gets over soon and we can begin living like human beings again.
Capt. Arthur Care served as an officer of the Royal Corps of Signals attached to the Third British Infantry Division (the assault division) from 1941 until 1946. His letters from 1943 until 1946 were the only ones his family saved They include descriptions of the training and planning for Operation Overload, of the landing on Sword Beach in Normandy on D day (June 6, 1944), of the pursuit of the Germans to Niemagen Bridge, and of the final advance to Hamburg. On April 5, 1945, Captain Care was posted to SHAEF, theSupreme Headquarters Allied European Forces, and as a signal officer was present at the signing of the surrender at Reims on May 8, which he believes makes him the only person present on that occasion who had landed on D day. Captain Care now lives in Mount Martha, Victoria, Australia.
HQ 9 Br Inf Bde C/o APO 18 June 44
Dear Ma and Pa,
Thank you very much for your letter of the 8th-mail is so welcome these days from home. I've very well, very dirty, and quite a bit tired. We had a copy-book landing, nae bother, and we've done all that's been asked of us so far; actually if you read the news in the newspapers you know more than we do about the general position, but take no notice of embellishments by special news reporters-they're all nonsense and they should be strung up. We got last Sunday's Pictorial—the biggest mass of lies and nonsense we've ever read. The BBC is very accurate in its news though inclined to be a bit previous; the capture and consolidation of a town are two very different things.
Normandy is a very beautiful part of France and reminds me very much of Surrey to which it is very similar. The people take absolutely no notice of the war going on around them; the Germans evidently treated them very well and they're not too pleased to see us; they suffered absolutely no shortage of food; we can buy as much milk, butter, eggs, bread and vegetables as we need. Actually, they've seen little chocolate, good quality soap or real tobacco, and we mainly trade by barter; they're very sharp and are doing very well out of us. I think the conditions are like this because this is a purely agricultural part; it may be very different further on.
Now don't worry; just watch that line move.
Love to you both, Arthur
HQ 76 (H) Fd Regt B.L.A. 19 Aug 44
Dear Ma and Pa,
... This part of the country has been well looted by Jerry before he left, and we are not getting the bartered supplies that we were getting-indeed we have had to feed the civilians now and then. This is the third type of region we have come through. The country-side is the same-farms, apple-cider orchards and cornfields-but the people have received different treatment from the Germans. The coastal people had been treated well and were almost active supporters of the Germans; further inland, although the people hated the Germans they had been reasonably treated by the Wehrmacht; those we are now with were treated brutally by SS troops who stole, killed and plundered all over the place, the pitch rising as their own plight got worse.
Most of the tales recounted are unwriteable; one of the less atrocious was the raping of a girl of 15 at the point of a revolver in front of her mother and father. In the well-substantiated fact that the SS men are as much hated by the Wehrmacht as by the rest of occupied France lies the only hope of deliverance of Germany from these thugs. If capture looks imminent they remove the SS markings from their uniforms as they know what fate awaits them if they should fall into the hands of French civilians; when they arrive at POW cages they are usually kept apart because many cases have been known of desperate fights between them and the Wehrmacht POWs. The tragedy is that many of these SS men were as young as 12 or 13 when the war started. Like all bullies, they are cowards, and when things go badly, they buzz off in transport, leavingthe Wehrmacht to follow or die as best as they can. They will be a problem in the peace.
So the people here are terrified and very nearly destitute. Their homes are looted, their cattle shot, their horses stolen. In the farm here everything has been deliberately broken or ruined; and in a nearby farm when the poor refugee at last arrived back with the inevitable cart and hens he was seriously injured on opening a door by a Jerry booby-trap. They won't sleep alone and insist on sleeping with "les soldats anglais" even now. This terror is now turning to bitter hatred and the end of Germany with so much hatred against her looms terribly over the horizon.
The news is startling these days and we trust it will remain so, but so much depends on the weather that one can never say this is going to end until it is finished. We believe out here that they'll fight every yard till the bitter end. A cornered rat will do anything, and chemical warfare cannot be ruled out—that it would mean the ultimate massacre of the German nation by retaliation by our air power will not influence Hitler against it. We here are prepared for it, and would like you to remember that you must be too, as buzz-bombs could carry it, so please see your respirators are sound and handy until we have cleared the Pas de Calais. I don't want to cause alarm to you, but normal precautions are worthwhile and don't take a minute and give 100% safety.
This is all a bit gloomy when the news is so good, and it should be better I think before you receive this. We, that's Monty and me, have said this will be over by November, and we still think so—but that leaves us nearly 10 weeks, and many things can happen in 10 weeks. Just you keep praying for good weather and many of us will then be home for Christmas!
Give my regards to everyone.
Love to you both, Arthur
[Approximately November 1944] Address deleted by Censor Date deleted by Censor
Dear Ma and Pa,
I'm afraid it's quite a time since I last wrote, a hectic and busy time too. What with the noise, the mud and the mines I've not known half the time whether I'm on my head or my feet—fortunately I've remained on my feet despite all three of these hazards. Mud-you've never seen such mud, even the old Jeep with chains on, with 4-wheel drive and in low reduction gear, nearly got stuck many times and did get stuck once. Once you get on a road you just keep going; the steering wheel is quite useless once you're in the tracks. And yet somehow, despite this and mines and shells and fanatical all-round resistance we've been plodding on, and for once have been head-line news and the tip of the arrow on the newspaper maps.
The Boche get madder every day; you just can't calculate what each individual is going to do. Many give themselves up at the first opportuniry-one old chap even sent a civilian into our lines to say he was all packed up and wanted to go to England!—he was too. Others come over in organised parties 60 to 80 strong, while others run deserters' ferry service over some water. But not all are like this by any means; some resist fanatically until killed, some resist fanatically until they know the game's up then give in meekly; and then some go to ground and are a menace to everybody.
The last are very difficult to deal with—I came across one the other day in an awkward situation for me. We were going over a track when the leading jeep struck a mine and blew up; we didn't dare go round it or deviate from the track as we were obviously in the middle of a heavily mined area. A Jeep, by dint of going backwards and forwards manytimes, will turn in little more than its own length; so we decided to risk it and turn round; that was a nasty business in itself, it was made worse by one of these mad Nazis beginning to snipe at us; it wasn't a very nice moment. In the end 2 infantrymen went in for the sniper; he gave himself up without a fight, then sat on the side of the road smirking at us—you see, they're quite mad some of them.
They're on their last legs though, very definitely, the prisoners are for the most part very old men or very young boys; the former are relieved when captured, the latter cry like the children that they are—the better specimens, tall upright, fighting men, you very seldom see alive. How any human beings stand the amount of stuff we chuck at them is beyond my understanding, it's terrible even this end of it ... .
Love to you both, Arthur
These postcards were written by Pvt. Adrie (A. W.) Koppenhol, who served in the Dutch army. He wrote the notes during the mobilization of 1939. The Dutch army surrendered after only five days at war because of the bombing of Rotterdam. Private Koppenhol's nephew, Arthur van Beveren of the Netherlands, translated the cards from their original Dutch into English.
October 21, 1939
Dear parents and sister,
I had a good sleep tonight.
We had to wait till 12 o'clock for a blanket.
I died from laughing.
They do a lot of funny things here.
Whether we could have old stuff they didn't say.
But you can send it though and some socks too because there are holes in them and a shirt too please because there's nothing left.
Best regards, A. W. Koppenhol 14th depot battalion
December 28, 1939 Wednesday evening
I can tell you I have arrived.
It was busy at the train station.
You see a lot of people when you arrive.
At least it is quiet today.
There are a lot of men at home because they're sick. Nothing to tell you anymore.
Best regards and hope to see you soon.
A. W. Koppenhol
Capt. Arthur E. Hass served with the 752nd Field Artillery Battalion in Patton's Third Army. Captain Hass sailed aboard the Queen Elizabeth on June 19, 1944, and landed at Greenock, Scotland. From there he went to Birmingham, England, and Abergavenny, South Wales. On August 18 the 752nd left Southampton, England, on an LST, or landing ship tank, and landed at Utah Beach, France. By December they were in Luxembourg, and they entered Belgium in january 1945. In February they entered Germany and crossed back and forth between Germany and France several times. Captain Hass's daughter, joy Hass Stefan of Virginia, shared his letter and says it was written from the northeast corner of France, over the border west of Germany.
Somewhere in France Tues. Mar. 20, '45 8:45 PM
Two letters from you today—#249 and 250 written on Mar. 2 and 3rd. At that time I was in Bitburg, Germany. Surely was nice hearing from you again, honey. In both your letters you talked of moving and of having talked to Lydia on the phone. Of course your letters #245, 246, 247 and 248 give the details and I haven't yet gotten those letters.
Just listened to the news-sure sounds good, honey. Gosh, I don't see why those Krauts keep trying to hold out—they certainly have nothing to gain now. We've finally had it pretty easy for a day and have settled down to shooting instead of moving all the time-that's all we did yesterday and last nite. That's why I didn't write last nite-I was really worn out when we finally got into position last nite. Right now our guns are really blasting away-so much noise a guy can't hear himself think-I just hope it's killing Krauts. I didn't do much today—went back to Group hq. with the Col. after supper and got back before dark.
We're living in the woods again instead of in buildings in towns. I don't mind as long as the good weather holds out-besides the Krauts have been shelling the towns around here and it ain't healthy. This good weather we've had the past week has certainly been a break for us. It tried to rain today but only sprinkled a little. I got one of those new sleeping bags today—it's a dandy but I wish I'd have gotten it about two months ago during the real cold weather. This bag has a waterproof covering and the inside is 40% down and 60% feathers—they say they're really warm—I'll find out tonite.
I'm anxious to get some of your previous letters—you mentioned having called the doctor but that Joy was O.K. now. Gosh, honey, I can certainly appreciate your predicament—I just hope you'll keep your chin up and get along 'til I get back. What I wouldn't give to be able to be there to help you take care of the kids! Nine months ago yesterday was the last time we were together. It's sure hard to realize we have a daughter nearly three months old. One of these days this mess over here is going to end-those Krauts can't stand the pounding we're giving them forever-hope it's all over by the time you get this (I'm getting optimistic again).
Also got a letter from Tex today written Feb. 21. He drew me a floor plan showing how the office had been rearranged. He's sure a swell guy, and I surely enjoy his letters. Also got a couple of Time magazines and a Texas Aggie.
Guess I'll get to bed—still haven't caught up on the sleep I've been missing the past few nites.
'Nite honey—I love you, Art
WORLD WAR II LETTERS. Copyright © 2002 by Bill Adler Books Inc. Foreword copyright © 2002 by Stansfield Turner.
|From the Editors||xiii|
|Part I||The Battles||1|
|Part II||Religious Support and Strength||53|
|Part III||Patriotism and Leadership||73|
|Part IV||Life in the Military||111|
|Part V||Away from Home--Impressions of New Lands||149|
|Part VI||POWs--Life in the Camps||183|
|Part VII||Injured and Killed in Action and Caretakers on the Front Line||203|
|Part VIII||The End of the War||221|