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Archive for June, 2011

July 4th was my father’s birthday. He, like any soldier who have fought in any war, didn’t get to have special homage paid to him the day he wrote this. Although, he is excited about having been assigned to an “ordinance battalion”. I’ve done a bit of research online as  his new address is “48th Ord. Bn.” to learn more about this, but haven’t gained any conclusive knowledge. I’m hoping that in the course of sharing these letters, others connected with this battalion may come forward to help educate me.

MQ 48th Ord. Bn.

APD #230 – %P.M., N.Y. C.

4 July 1944

Dear Dad – Seeing as how I don’t have any mail from home, I got the next best birthday present I could get. By the time I mail this you will see that I’m assigned to a headquarters detachment of an ordinance Battalion. What I’ll be and do will come later, but it’s a damn good deal and compared to where I’ve been it will be heaven. Most important thing (notice change of address) is that I’ll get mail quite regularly, and better chow and etc. I was the 1st and only one to leave our gang here again (same as in the States) but in this case it looks like for the best.

I sure wish that we could be having one of our old picnics today, with Mary and Karen. I imagine by now you’re so slow you’d have to hit a home run to get to 1st base – right? Take care of  yourself, Dad, and don’t worry about me, this is a good job that I have. Love to you, and best to Aunt Ag & Aunt Mag – as ever, your son,

Rollin

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V-Mail
30 June 1944
Letter #17

Good afternoon, ma cherie – We’re on the last few hours of a 24 hr guard detail. It’s fine out now – but naturally last night would have been joy to Garbo and other rain-walkers – but a pain in the fanny to us. Trying to get to sleep with the rain splashing in your face (I never could sleep with my head under a blanket – I can’t breathe) is very trying, and to regain consciousness and discover (after sleepy attempts to rectify or avoid) little puddles of water distributed about your person is damned annoying! By now the crick in my neck is practically gone (from lying with my head in my helmet) but it only took a couple of hours to get the blood circulating through my aging limbs after being asleep. Like everything else in the Army, however; it was soon forgotten – this time by trying to remember when I’ve had worse coffee for breakfast. I thought & thought but couldn’t remember. Still can’t. Educational bit of news for the day: subject; weather: in good weather you wear long-john underwear & O.D. 3 (not sure) and are comfortable unless exercising vigorously – in bad weather you’re glad to wear ’em and wish you you still had your mackinaw. End of lesson. Right now the birds are chirping & the flies are buzzing and I’m getting hungry (wonder how the coffee will be?) All my love, Mr B.

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In this letter, my Dad starts out by saying there’s not much to talk about so he’ll just fill up space on the page. Then he proceeds to describe his daily life in his foxhole! Check out this fascinating newspaper clipping from 1942 about foxholes: http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1005/m1/2/

V-Mail
28 June 1944
To Mary at same Riverside Drive address

Hi Cutie Pants – not a gosh darn thing I can write about, really, so I’ll just try to fill up a page. Took a bath and washed clothes (all in stark, bright outdoors, of course) all in one helmet full of water today. You think that’s good? Ordinarily I brush my teeth, shave & wash ears & neck, and usually wind up washing my feet (you take better care of feet than anything else in the Army) – all in one canteen cup of water!

Did I tell you that I bumped into Joe and a few other guys from basic? Yep. They’re just a few fields away from us. Mighty good to see them and get the news about all the rest of our gang.

Bill and I are gradually getting our little hole fixed up into a very comfortable little nest. We have about a bale of grass on the floor and cardboard (waterproof ration cartons) walls. We even dug out a shelf for stuff we can lay out. We’re worried about it being too good, however – as we discovered a colony of ants moving in! Really – eggs & all. We’re trying to head them off but they’re insidious. If all else fails, we’ll take off our socks and fumigate ’em.

How’s my lil ol’ Karen? Golly, but I’m anxious to get some mail. Say hello to Corny & Teenie, the Boardmans and naturally the menage. You know I love you. Here’s a big kiss —— Give Karen a bit of it.
Pappy

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There must be a number of missing letters, as here we are at #14, but finally after all this time my father has landed on the shores of France. One of the things I notice is that he doesn’t give any detail about where he is – so I can only assume they were instructed not to include any geographical information in their letters.

To Mary
22 June 1944 V-Mail
Letter #14

Happy 5 1/2 year anniversary, Mary Darling. I don’t believe it myself, but here I am in France! You should have seen me struggling through the surf (keeping my trusty duffel bag high & dry) and up onto the beach. It wasn’t bad at all – the only uncomfortable part about it at all was that we had to leave our bags there and go on to the bivouac area – and our bags (with dry blankets & clothes) didn’t catch up to us until the next day. So that night we lay on the bare ground in wet clothes and shook. When it woke us up we got up and shadow boxed and shot the bull with the other guys – and eventually it got light enough so we could light up a cigarette and get out our fuel tablet and heat up a cup of coffee. K rations are the only thing on the menu. Bill and I bunk together, and have a very cozy little “home” now that our bags are here. This could be a very pleasant vacation camping trip if it weren’t for certain extenuating circumstances which we hope may soon be rectified so that we may terminate all this nonsense and get the hell home – where we belong. All my love to you, Mary dear – give Karen a big kiss for Daddy.

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From what I could originally deduce my Dad landed on Omaha Beach on D Day + 6 which I would have thought to be June 12th, but this newsy letter about playing golf with a major would not indicate that. Still waiting to hear about hitting the beach!

12 June 1944

Good evening, sweetheart,
Here’s some flowers for my babies (poppies, I think) and a S & S. Hope you like them. Also, yesterday I sent a little box with my hair brushes, sweater, some letters (I got seven Sat.) and junk. Probably take it years to get there, but let me know. Now I have received letters 1, 2, & 3 from you. And while I think of it, when you send another box, send me some toothpicks, will you? Yes, toothpicks!

I had a fine time yesterday. After another clothes inspection (honest-to-gosh) I overheard our C.O. ask a sergeant if he could find him a caddy – so I immediately volunteered. Another guy caddied for another major (our C.O. is a major – and a fine fellow, really) and we went to a little course near here and did eighteen. It was fun – even caddying – and they let me play the 17th hole! Golf with a

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major all ready!! and when we finished, he offered me a mess of change (darn near a pound) but I wouldn’t expect more than a buck-fifty (didn’t lose a ball, so I figure I was worth it – at a buck a crack for old rebuilt Pinehurst balls, which couldn’t cost more than 25 cents new in the old days. There are practically NO balls in the U.K.) You would sneer at the clubs they rented (I only mean, dear, that even the old crocks you use are better, yet) and green fees are paid for by Red Cross. I could play – if I can find balls (no – don’t send any darling) – and I may yet – I hope. I got a five on my hole – and was duly complemented. It was very chummy, and no feeling of officers & E.M. whatsoever, but we were discreet – NATurally. Corny might be interested in the fact that greens & fairways are in pretty good shape – but the rough is rugged. And traps all over the place. And hills – whew. But a good deal – and a good day.

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The C.O. told me some interesting things. I knew that old Roman roads still existed here, but he ran across some old stone coffins on a golf course one day! Just lying around, and common place to natives. And some huge hills here have looked extremely impregnable (from a military point of view) with ridges running around them – but I only thought – how odd (all grown over with grass & stuff now). But it turns out that the Romans actually built those embankments & ramparts etc for defense. Ain’t it interesting? The size of them makes the impression – let’s see (this section was literally cut out with scissors) in Seattle, for instance.

Gotta go, sweetheart. Are you being a good girl? I miss you, baby. I hope to hell we get this thing finished in a hurry – and by what I read, it’s fairly good. Are you asking around about a house? Write often, Mary, because it means a lot to me.

All my love, Rollie

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In this letter, my Dad is still waiting to get shipped out and he includes a beautiful description of watching the sun rise on guard duty.

9 June 1944

Hey – oh happy day – I got your #3 letter today – my first mail in a month! Also a note from my playwright friend from Crowder – but that was all. Very encouraging, though, and I imagine the rest will be coming along regularly now – anyway, I hope so.

So you’re playing golf up there now. That’s fine – golly how I wish I could join you – and meet the Lawes. Let me know everything you do – it may seem commonplace to you, but I will love to hear it. Also all about Karen. What she does & says etc. Knowing what you guys are doing is the next best thing to being with you.

We all pulled Guard yesterday. 24 hrs – 4 on & 8 off. I had a fine post with another guy (which is always more pleasant than being alone) way the hell up on top of a hill. It was practically straight up, and we were puffing & sweating when we got there, but then it was beautiful. Could see for miles, and the guys in camp looked like the proverbial ants. Our shift was 3-7 AM & PM.

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Seeing the planes zooming a way up there and watching the sun rise was lovely. Way off in the valley a toy train puffed long, and as the sun came higher we could watch the shadow of our hill climbing down the ridge across the way and force the dew up around the trees. Occasionally we could hear the louder orders of some mom-com (?) as he called the company to “a -tens-HUT”, and jeeps and stuff warming up before they went crawling off. We were lucky to have a clear night, but by afternoon it was misting & raining again. Damn – trying to get clothes dry is a problem here.

There are NO cleaning & pressing or laundry facilities in the ETO (European Theatre of Operations) so we wash – and wash – and are lucky if we get time to do it when there is hot water. My O.D.’s were filthy, and when I finally got them clean it took 3 days for them to dry! Lucky we have two sets. They came out beautifully, by the way – and if you like criss-cross accordion pleats in pants they look fine. I pulled them out when wet (shirt collar is pretty good) but without proper hanging facilities it didn’t help much.

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We were an extremely mad outfit a couple of days ago. Our duffel bags finally arrived from our last camp – all intact – except for our candy, cigs, gum etc! (symbols of upset!!) Also my brand new Oxford’s which I hadn’t worn even once! Altogether I figure I’m out $9.35 – and we turned in a list to the office, but not much hope of recovery – or compensation. W.D. not responsible for personal prop – are we burned. Don’t bother to send my other shoes (lucky I didn’t bring them, hmm?) ’cause if we don’t do any better with passes in the future I can’t use them anyway.

I’m going to try this letter on straight air mail. Let me know results, will you? It was (?) nice hearing from you Mary darling. Scribble off notes whenever you can. Add them all together & mail ’em. Tell me all the little details & things. And I could use another money belt. Can’t get ’em here. Also some adhesive tape (1″ roll), some (doz or so) band aids, and a couple of packs of Exlax gum. Home made candy would always be nice – & canned fruit. Gee, but it was swell to hear from you, Mrs. B – Mr. B.

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It hit me like a lightening bolt that my Dad also wrote letters to his father, Frank, who was living in Seattle, Washington. I realized it would be important to include those letters in sequence as well – so here is the letter he wrote to his father on D Day. Interesting how the tone of the letter is slightly different, mano a mano!

6 June 1944
To:
Mr. F.J. Neibauer, 1402 East Fir St, Seattle, Wash

Dear Dad – This is undoubtedly a great day for all of the Allied countries – but for us it’s just another day of training. In fact, we know nothing of what was going on until a captain came along and told us while we were having a formal inspection on the parade grounds. There was a little scattered cheering for a while, but then most everyone realized that a lot of guys were probably having a pretty rugged time somewhere – and we heard no more until we got back from a 12 mile hike in the afternoon, when we listened to radio reports on the public address system. You, on the outside, probably knew sooner (and will get more details as time goes on) than we did, because about the only news we get is in Stars & Stripes – the Army newspaper for this theatre of war.

By the way, did I tell you that the boys now call the bitters (beer) Lightning, because you drink one bottle and P38. Another funny thing to me, was a guy from Texas who simply can’t get this English money straightened out. He was in a crap game, and when he’d shoot he’d lay down a coin and say “Now never mind putting in change – just lay down a coin exactly like mine and then I’ll shoot you for it!” I’m doing fine, Dad – don’t worry about me –
Lots of love – Rollin

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