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Archive for August, 2011

I’m writing this on Saturday August 27th, figuring I’ll post it tomorrow, Sunday assuming we all haven’t been blown away by Hurricane Irene! It seemed like a fitting tribute to the weather this weekend, and who would have dreamed this was one of the hazards of driving those Army jeeps through small town streets!! I remember my Dad saying how much he loved the cartoons in Stars & Stripes.

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I found this little packet of photos amongst my Dad’s war memorabilia. The wax paper sleeve contains 10 black and white photos and a list of each photo – I was able to extrapolate the identities of most,  I’m not sure about several of the “street scenes”. If anyone reading this has any insights, please share with us. I’m assuming he purchased this, similar to a post card packet – most likely put out by the Army.

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This last group of letters from Dad have had very little substance, most of his conversation is focused on whether or not he’s received mail and wishing he was home. He made one reference to not having anything to say because he can’t discuss what they’re doing militarily. Here’s what wikipedia has to say about what was happening in January 1945 on the Western Front in Germany:

Winter counter-offensives

Main article: Battle of the Bulge

“American soldiers taking up defensive positions in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge.

The Germans had been preparing a massive counter-attack in the West since the Allied breakout from Normandy. The plan called Wacht am Rhein (“Watch on the Rhine”) was to attack through the Ardennes and swing North to Antwerp, splitting the American and British armies. The attack started on December 16 in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. Defending the Ardennes were troops of the U.S. First Army. Initial successes in bad weather, which gave them cover from the Allied air forces, resulted in German penetration of over 50 miles (80 km) to within less than 10 miles (16 km) of the Meuse river. However, having been taken by surprise, the Allies regrouped and the Germans were stopped by a combined air and land counterattack which eventually pushed them back to their starting points by January 25, 1945.

The Germans launched a second, smaller offensive (Nordwind) into Alsace on New Year’s Day, 1945. Aiming to recapture Strasbourg, the Germans attacked the 6th Army Group at multiple points. Because Allied lines had become severely stretched in response to the crisis in the Ardennes, holding and throwing back the Nordwind offensive was a costly affair that lasted almost four weeks. The culmination of Allied counter-attacks restored the front line to the area of the German border and collapsed the Colmar Pocket.”

13 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Hot ziggity – 3 ltrs from you & one from Mom today! Two of yours Dec 28th (that’s really fine – 2 a day!) and Jan 1st. I’m so glad that you finally got my box from Eng (only 7 mo. for that pkg!!) with my good old hair brushes – but can understand your feelings at that time. I’m sorry, darling, but you stop worrying. You know me. Rough & tough. Poor li’l kid. Things kinda piled up on you there for a while, didn’t they?   Speaking of Bill & Ellen’s spare bedroom – oh me – I can hardly stand it! Your top coat sounds like a honey. Wish I could see you in it. Or out of it!    Haven’t you read a ltr about the bracelets yet? Strange. Yes, send one to Mom. She’d like it. You should have lots more of those Dutch kerns by the time you get this. Dispose of as you wish.   Karen sounds more wonderful all the time. I love to hear about how she feeds the cat and puts on own shoes, etc. Stick in all you can about her, darling. Gee, but it’s good to get ltrs like these. Brings back fine memories. I particularly remember Bill & Ellens. And do you remember the Avery Hotel? and the Marseilles? Oh me oh me ohhh
Pappy

15 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Dearest Mary – read your Dec 7 letter today. Ain’t mail mixed up, though? So Bar is still kidding everybody along? but who is she kidding? How long can that sex of hers last? And then where is she? Poor darn ol’ Bar! Do you suppose she’ll ever grow up? I hope so. She could be a swell gal if she only had 1/2 as much “upstairs” as in the front hall – with “welcome” on the doormat!        You & your folks must be having a grand time about now. I wish I was there – maybe with a good part in a big hit that we could take them to. Maybe even a night club afterward? I think they’d enjoy it! Also like to see your dad bouncing Karen on his knee. Kinda like to bounce her on my knee, for that matter! Gosh darn it –

We go to the 6:30 movie every night now. Some good, most fair – many we’ve seen before – but they’e also getting short subjects now which we enjoy immensely. Besides, it kills a lot of time. It’s now ten of ten PM, and time for me to be climbing into my sleeping bag. No news at all baby – except that I love you so much that sometimes I can hardly stand it. Be a good girl –
All my love – Rollie

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11 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Hello, Cutie – Kinda expected some mail today when I didn’t get any yesterday – but had to settle for my 1st copy of Equity Mag and a couple of Varietys. Woke up to our coldest day yet this morning. When we went to breakfast there was just a sliver of a moon, and the silver frost has made telephone wires almost an inch thick. Patches of fog, and pin point snow made visibility very low indeed. Guys who were out any length of time came in with frost tipped collars looking like silver foxes. Had to pull my wool knit cap way down to keep my ears warm – on trip for mail – and my big schnoz is still beet red. Thank gosh there is no wind – or this bldg would be really rugged.

I ate the last of your date-nut cookies with great regret last night, sweetie. They’re really delicious. Do you suppose you could whip me up another batch? (PM – please note – that’s a request!) Bt the by – if you ever send cigarettes, pack ’em in a different shaped box. Seems as though a single carton of cigs is too great a temptation for some guys along the postal route. You know I love you don’t you? And miss you & Miss K terribly?
Rollie

12 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Good afternoon, my darling – a good mail day! Six letters including yours of Dec 6 – and Xmas day. You don’t sound too happy, sweetheart. But I’m so glad you had a good day – and Karen – cripes, I’ll bet she was wonderful!!! I also got a “confirmation” (carbon copy) of your Dad’s Nov. 21 letter (mailed Nov 22-I got original couple months ago – an idea of BTO mail!) Mercedes & Dolores certainly went all out in presents for us, didn’t they? They should not have spent so much, but you tell them for me, I think it was mighty sweet of them. You done mighty good in the gift dept, no? Did my picture arrive in time? Mailed it Nov 23, so it should have. Sending individual packs of cigs is a fine idea.We get 5 packs per week now, but could easily use a couple more. By the way, how has my mail been coming through? You haven’t mentioned any of my letters for a long time, and I’m curious.

Doggone it. Every time I write, I get about this far and then can’t think of a thing to say. It’s very different trying to keep letters interesting – and still give you an idea of what I’m doing – without giving away military info. But I’ll never be able to tell you how homesick I get for you and Karen
All my love, Rollin

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Three letters all written the same day: one to Mary, one to his Dad, and one to some folks called “The Nesbitts” (no idea who they are). This last letter sums up his experience of the moment brilliantly: living in a burned out apartment building in the dead of winter, one of the few remaining structures in the town. It sounds surreal and I am picturing the film version of this as I read his letters.

9 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Hello, honey – your Dec 18 letter came today – along with one from Mickey (he finally got my Xmas ltr). He was having a furlough and you have undoubtedly seen him by now. Old Flave is doing all right, isn’t he? A Lt. Cmdr, no less. I never knew him, except for your talking about him. Hell of a note to be away from home four Xmases in a row. Very nice that you could put him up.  I’m most anxious to get your Xmas letters to hear about Karen. Damn mail, now I don’t know anything about her rash! Oh well.

I was on coal – detail today – loading a 2 1/2 ton truck for all of our stoves. Pretty rugged. Golly, but I’m in lousy condition. After about first half hour of shoveling I was pooped. Worked up a good sweat – and got dirtier than a son-of-a-gun. But we’ll be warm for another week. Golly the way we go through coal is a crime. But it will take a lot of burning to dent some of the piles you see around. The slag piles you see in the country are like mountains. Some are so old they have 20′ timber growing on them! It’s been snowing most of the day. Roads are like ice. We’ve found a place to go to movies almost every night, now. Only trouble is seeing a lot that I’ve already seen at ninth Army Hq.
All-but-all-my love
Pappy

9 Jan 1944 V-Mail
Germany

Dear Dad, Haven’t heard from you in some time, but it’s understandable, as our mail has been snafu – received only about 10 letters in the past month. We’ve had a lot of snow the past week. Small blizzard yesterday. Driving an open jeep (not even a top) is pretty rugged. But we bundle up in our mackinaws & raincoats & keep fairly warm. Roads are like ice, of course, with big trucks packing it down as fast as it falls, so I’m pretty careful. Sure is a good thing you can throw ’em into 4 wheel drive whenever you want to. Sure simplifies many situations. I’d like to have a car in civilian life the same way. Practically impossible to get stuck – in anything. That little jeep would make a hell of a good car for hunting or fishing trips. You can put it in low range and go practically straight up a wall, if you want to. Wouldn’t be too good for taking your girl for a ride – but what the hell – you can always buy a Packard for that!

I carry the bible you sent me with me all the time, Dad. Did you receive the Rosary from the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in time for Xmas? I hope so. Mary & Karen are both fine. So am I. Best to you, Aunt Ag, Harold & Rene,
As ever, Rollin

9 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Addressed to Mr & Mrs Hugh Nesbitt, Mendham, NJ

Dear Mr & Mrs Nesbitt – Received your Nov 21 letter a couple of weeks ago and was delighted to hear from you. (next line blacked out). Its a shame to drive between piles of rubble that was once a beautiful building. One old cathedral built in 85 AD is nothing but a charred shell. We’re living in part of one of the few apt buildings still intact. Four men to a room – spring beds & mattresses! Like heaven! Of course there is a bomb hole right down through the middle of the building, and our halls & steps are frequently 3 or 4 inches in snow, but we have small stoves & coal to keep us warm if we care to bother – which we usually don’t. Taking a hot sulphur bath in a six-step-down sunken tub is quite exhilarating – especially when you look up and see the snow drifting down through the smashed roof onto your (what we laughingly refer to as “clean”) underwear. But you lie & ponder the famous people who’ve probably been there in the eighty years before you. Finally, you get back into your open jeep (not even a top) and with snow pelting you in the face drive back to work. Sometimes – I wish I was a civilian again. Am I kidding!?Best to you – as ever Rollin

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This series of letters starts out chatty, but the last letter hit me with a real punch! In the first letter, Dad’s missing his Broadway roots, mentioning an Ethel Barrymore production where he knows almost everyone in the cast. Brief research shows a Barrymore production in 1944 called Martha. He mentions sending home a map of his route from Normandy to Germany in the next letter.

The last letter finally helps me begin to put some of the puzzle pieces together. For the first time in one of her letters, Mary has mentioned “Flave” (old college heart-throb, dancing at the Roosevelt and having him for Christmas dinner). I knew that name rang a bell, so I went back to my research and found that indeed this is the man Mary fell in love with and eventually married. They all went to the University of Washington together – so that’s the connection! That’s how they all met! Further research shows that between 1942-45 he was the Captain of a ship with operations off Okinawa, the Phillipines, and Japan. This explains my father’s comment about him being on leave and how nice to have Christmas dinner in someone’s home!

5 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Hello, Sweetie – Guess what? I got a letter from you today Nov. 22! And a NY Times & a Variety. See lots of name I know this time – and wish to hell I was there to be working in some of these fat shows. Know most every one in Ethel Barrymore show, and Jack Effrat, Phil Brown, etc in the Jap-war play – forget the name, off – hand.   You ask if I like the dates. You said it, kid! With you. (and consider this a request for both kinds. Do you suppose you could be dehydrated and shipped over here? Then all I’d have to do is add water, and there you are!)     I imagine your folks will be there by the time this is (although I haven’t heard lately) so give them my very best. Hope you all have a fine time.    So ol Karen is getting fat? Golly I’d like to have seen her at the Thanksgiving table. Does she eat mostly grown up stuff now? Or do you still have special jars or cans of stuff for her?

Nothing new here, except it’s fine & bright for a change. I miss you & love you more each day
Pappy

7 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Hello, Mary darling – ain’t you the cute one, though? I got another package from you today! The one with the two New Yorkers, book, dental floss, dice (those are really swell) horn, pencil sharpener & pineapple & lobster! Etc!! Really swell, baby. I got such a kick out of it. Damn, I wish I could have had a few more things at Xmas time – maybe would have felt better – but what the hell. It feels good now. Dec. was very bad month for mail – and still is! S&S says there is a lot of mail backlogged in Paris and we’ll get it as soon as transit is available. Anyway, I know you’re writing and I’ll get ’em sometime, so keep at it – the climax of each day is when I get a letter from you. Yesterday I sent you a sawed- out section of a bed post (don’t get frightened of a bomb when it arrives) with a map get up by the outfit we’re connected to, showing our route from Normandy to Germany. Ours was same, generally, except we were advanced & near where they were. Think it will be nice to keep. Also included is an amazing sheet get up like a circular. And a special order you can read if you promise not to breathe a word of it to anyone. Be a good girl, sweetheart – I love only you – Pappy

8 Jan 1944 (must mean 1945) V-Mail
Germany

This is a big day! Four (4) letters, are from Mom, one swell one from old pop Grimes (and, oh yes, a couple of cans of super, nut candy from Marge Grimes) and Dec 21 & 22 letters from you!! You’re a fine one. Almost forgetting our wedding anniversary. Don’t you know that forgetting same is strictly a husbands prerogative? (Pretty smart of Karen to remember!) I must be missing letters with earlier mention to Flave (you mention dancing at Roosevelt, and his coming to Xmas) Wasn’t he one of your college heart-throbs? Mighty nice for him to have Xmas dinner in a home, I’ll bet. And as for dancing with my wife – well, he couldn’t ask for much more on a furlough. What’s he – in for repairs or something? How’d he know where to find you?

Under other conditions, this could be a mighty pretty day. Snowed about 2″ last night. Still snowing and blowing – a small blizzard. Driving an open jeep is very interesting. We weren’t immediately affected by the thing that worried you at that time, but we had plenty to worry about, too. Beside, you know me. Can’t nothing’ hurt me!! I’m too tough, remember? Besides, I’m careful, and don’t want to be a hero. I just want to come home  – and make love to you – for years & years & years
Pappy

Almost forgot to mention, the “super, nut candy” came from my Mom, Marge Grimes! So in this paragraph, he mentions his future wife and her future husband! Fascinating!!

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2 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Good evening, sweetheart. My first letter to you in the New Year! Should have written to you yesterday, but we went to a movie & got involved , so didn’t get around to it. It wasn’t much of a day to write about anyway. Today ta-ra-ta-ta-ta! I got a couple of letters!! A card & note from Don & Vee – E 227 Marshall, Spokane, Wash – where Don is working for a rival of Kenworth! And a nice letter (Dec 3) from you. Don’t know what party you refer to (ain’t you lucky, tho? A 25 buck war bond!) but probably will be cleared up in mail eventually.

This has been a good day – evening, I should say.We had an orientation (bull session) tonight on compulsory Mil. Training. I’m inclined to believe it would be neither bad nor good – but a hell of a waste. Problem could be solved much better by making the Army an attractive & worthwhile job for anyone who is interested – and there would be plenty. Then I listened to some nice music on the radio as I played a couple of games of chess – breaking even – most enjoyable. But I do miss you, Mary dear – and Karen. Keep writing regularly – & more. I’ll get ’em sometime.
All my love, Pappy

4 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Hello, honey – yesterday I received your can of date and nut cookies – and they are very good! Ain’t you getting to be the domestic one, though! The can was considerably dented, but not a cookie smashed – fine system for packing. If I may put in a regular weekly order for same cookies (or reasonable facsimile) consider this a request. Really good. I’ll bet they’re all right with tea & a spot of rum, too = hum?

It’s now 10 AM – snowing – and looks as though it will go on all day. It’s nice. Covers a lot of faults in the landscape. Unfortunately, it also accentuates some – and most important fault, of course, is it hinders the air force. It also makes driving a jeep very interesting. Up here we’re not allowed to have tops up (so you can see what’s going on up stairs, and be ready to jump – in case) so you roll along & the snow bats you in the face, and the wind, too, when you catch up to a truck and before you pass it. It’s funny – you always have a sniffle – but never a cold. Oh me – but I’d really like to be driving home to you & Miss K today
Love love love Pappy

Good evening, sweetheart. My first letter to you in the New Year! Should have written to you yesterday, but we went to a movie & got involved , so didn’t get around to it. It wasn’t much of a day to write about anyway. Today ta-ra-ta-ta-ta! I got a couple of letters!! A card & note from Don & Vee – E 227 Marshall, Spokane, Wash – where Don is working for a rival of Kenworth! And a nice letter (Dec 3) from you. Don’t know what party you refer to (ain’t you lucky, tho? A 25 buck war bond!) but probably will be cleared up in mail eventually.

This has been a good day – evening, I should say.We had an orientation (bull session) tonight on compulsory Mil. Training. I’m inclined to believe it would be neither bad nor good – but a hell of a waste. Problem could be solved much better by making the Army an attractive & worthwhile job for anyone who is interested – and there would be plenty. Then I listened to some nice music on the radio as I played a couple of games of chess – breaking even – most enjoyable. But I do miss you, Mary dear – and Karen. Keep writing regularly – & more. I’ll get ’em sometime.
All my love, Pappy

4 Jan 1945 V-Mail
Germany

Hello, honey – yesterday I received your can of date and nut cookies – and they are very good! Ain’t you getting to be the domestic one, though! The can was considerably dented, but not a cookie smashed – fine system for packing. If I may put in a regular weekly order for same cookies (or reasonable facsimile) consider this a request. Really good. I’ll bet they’re all right with tea & a spot of rum, too = hum?

It’s now 10 AM – snowing – and looks as though it will go on all day. It’s nice. Covers a lot of faults in the landscape. Unfortunately, it also accentuates some – and most important fault, of course, is it hinders the air force. It also makes driving a jeep very interesting. Up here we’re not allowed to have tops up (so you can see what’s going on up stairs, and be ready to jump – in case) so you roll along & the snow bats you in the face, and the wind, too, when you catch up to a truck and before you pass it. It’s funny – you always have a sniffle – but never a cold. Oh me – but I’d really like to be driving home to you & Miss K today
Love love love Pappy

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