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Archive for the ‘March 1945’ Category

In this letter, my Dad explains the hierarchy and abbreviations of the chain of command from the top down in the field of battle. This give me a much better idea of the complexities of his job. I gather that he’s one of the guys who helps direct mail and communications up and down the chain, top down to bottom up. So a few days after the crossing of the Rhine River, and major forward advances on the battlefield – my Dad and his comrades are playing volleyball! This could be a Fellini film! I’m also including a few snapshots that I wasn’t sure where they fit in, but Dad mentions pictures taken at Ninth Army “Hqs” – and there are pictures of a building that could be just that, along with names he’s written on the back of the pics. I’m hoping that someone else out there is related to one of these guys and we can compare notes!

27 March letter

Good evening, my very darling, As, usual, I’m a very beat chick, with great need of sleep,but I had a couple letters from you the last few days which bucks us up a bit, you know? Especially, the one with the picture of Mary. Doggone, honey, you really look good!!! And that’s a mighty fine looking jacket! The snow all around looks good. You go right along side of Miss K under my big glass on my desk, and you have drawn many a low whistle from Captains on down!!!

I’m sending you some German marks. These (obviously) are worthless, but when you figure that a mark is worth ten cents, you can see that a few of these little old papers were WORTH something once! Also a few more “Huberts”. Do you like him? OH, yeah, I don’t ever remember you acknowledging the pictures that I sent you way back in Dec. The regular “posed” photo for Xmas, a couple of snaps taken when I was working up at Ninth Army Hqs. Did you ever get those? My garish, but you’re dumb when it come to army lingo (almost as dumb as I until I got “in”). What is the difference between a HQ (headquarters and a Gp (group) — indeed!!! Oh me, this is going to be complicated. At the top you have an Army Hq, including the different branches of the service, such as Signal, Artillery, Ordnance, etc. Under that Ordnance Officer (Army) are Gps, such as this 79th Ord Gp Hq. Under this Hq (79th) are Bn (battalion) headquarters, which in turn have Cos (companies) under them. The companies are the only ones who actually do the work of repairing trucks, guns, etc. The Hqs are merely offices that consolidate and break down the paper work that goes up and down “thru channels”. For instance, if the Army Ord Officer decides that he wants to tell Joe blow in such and such a company something, he can’t just write to him and tell him. He writes first to the Gp, who indorse the “document” down to the Bn, who do same on down to the company and finally to Joe. Joes answer goes back up the same way — through channels. You can see that if you want to say something official to some guy in an entirely different army you’d do better to wait until the war is over and call him at home. Is this all as dull as it sounds?

We have had a lot of fun the past few days playing volley ball. Some of the boys strung up a net out in a field, and we knocked off at 4;30 and had several games before supper. The strange part of the story is, that the officers (including the “old man”, who is as good a man as they have on the officers team) knocked off with us and we had an Off. vs EM match — and you must know how it turned out! We beat them four games straight. It was really a hell of a lot of fun and I have a feeling that comes the end of this lousy war (and while we’re waiting for whatever is going to happen to us) we are going to have some very good times playing ball of one sort or another.

Golly, but the war news is really good, now isn’t it? We’re feeling pretty good about it all hoping to hell it won’t be too long now. I must hie me upstairs for a shave before I go to bed and as it is it is 10:30 already I’d better be going. Gee, but I miss you guys and love you with all my heart. Be a good girl and give Karen a huge hug for daddy “in the Ahmy”
Rollie

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Well this appears to be one of the most important events my Dad has been a part of during the course of the War – the crossing of the Rhine River! I’ve read a number of different historical documents about this, but think this short video is extremely powerful in its telling of the story – the images are heartwrenching. http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/focus/liberation/signal-corps/?content=2  And from another site this quote:

25 March Military History Office

It was during this week, in late March of 1945, that the U.S. Third Army under Gen. Patton, began its famous bridging and crossing operations of the Rhine. After the completion of the Battle in The Ardennes, Patton and his Army turned to the south and east attacking toward the Rhine. Without the luck of the 9th Armored Division, further to the north, who were able to capture the only intact bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, Patton’s Third Army faced the necessity of bridging the wide river with their own resources. There had been a total of 22 road and 25 railroad bridges spanning the Rhine into Germany, but with the exception of the Remagen Bridge, they had all been destroyed.

(remembering that my father is part of the 9th Armored Division, they would have been the ones to cross on the only intact bridge at Remagen). Interestingly enough, Dad mentions what a huge deal this is, then goes on to talk about the movie he’s just seen, the weather and playing touch football!


24 March 1945 V-MAIL
GERMANY

Good evening, sweetie, Before I forget it, Mom’s address is Mrs. J. Swaldi 4621 South 150th St. Seattle, Wash. OK? Yesterday was a fine day again. First, I got three letters from my sweetie (finally figured out that I had moved, did you? Oh, big stupid) and then last night was something special in the way of war news. You have probably read about the crossing of the Rhine, but it will always remain as something of a big night to me, such as the night we drove around Paris. Didn’t get to bed until around 3:30, and couldn’t sleep much after that, what with the damn big guns shaking the whole house, but seeing what it meant we didn’t mind and it was worth it to feel like a zombie today.     A couple of days ago I saw “A tree Grows in Brooklyn”. A quite good movie which followed the book surprisingly closely. That little girl (I don’t know what her name is) did a hell of a good job.     We have had really magnificent weather ever since we’ve been here. Actually hot in the day time, and so bright and clear at night that you can see a block away. Of course, the smoke of German cities drifts over like the forest fires used to, which deadens the glare a bit, but we don’t mind that either.    Each noon after we finish eating, we get out for about a half hour of touch football and have a hell of a good time. We could work up a pretty darn good team if we had a bit more time. Doggone, I simply can’t get caught up on my sleep!! Every night it is one thing or another that keeps me up until around midnight, and when I get up, come 6:15, my eyes burn, and my nose runs, and my throat is sore, but somehow, after a couple of hours I forget about it and go on a-registering and distributing like a goon.    You know, I get more pleasure out of that picture of Karen than any other one thing I have. All I have to do is look at it — and laugh!! Everybody says she looks like one hell of a swell kid, and I’m not even modest about it, I’ll drag out the other pictures at the drop of a helmet!! because I love you guys so much… Rol

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Dad’s back in Germany again and it sounds as though they’ve traveled through some pretty war torn areas to arrive at his current location. His description of his environment is once again illustrative! It appears from the research I’ve done that the troops and division that Dad is part of (9th Armored Division) is moving fast into German territory. This newsreel footage really captures the essence of the moment:

http://www.videojug.com/film/allies-open-final-drive-in-germany-15th-march-1945

20 MARCH 1945 V-MAIL
GERMANY

GOOD EVENING, MY VERY DARLING, AH ME, I’VE NEGLECTED YOU FOR SO LONG THAT I’VE HAD TO STOP TO THINK WHAT MY SERIAL NUMBER IS!! WE’VE BEEN ON THE MOVE AGAIN AND ARE NOW ENSCONCED IN A BEAUTIFUL BLDG! MICKEY WOULD ENJOY SEEING ME SITTING IN MY PRIVATE LITTLE CAGE HERE, DISPENSING DOCUMENTS LIKE A MAD THING. EVERYONE THAT COMES ALONG USES A VARIATION OF THE SAME GAG “I WANNA CASH A CHECK FOR, ETC”. THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL SET-UP, THE BIGGEST CATCH BEING THAT WE WILL HAVE ONE HELL OF A LOT OF FUN MOPPING IT UP FOR INSPECTIONS EVERY MORNING AT EIGHT SHARP. BEFORE I FORGET IT AGAIN I MAILED YOU A BOX OF EXCESS STUFF THE OTHER DAY. MOST OF MY XMAS PRESENTS THAT I HATE TO WEAR ON ARMY TIME! PUT ‘EM IN MOTH BALLS FOR ME PLEASE, DARLING, AND I’LL HAVE ME SOME NICE STUFF TO START IN ON WHEN I GET HOME!!

THIS IS VERY  NICE COUNTRY THROUGH HERE, BUT MY GOLLY, I DON’T SEE HOW OUR BOYS WERE ABLE TO MOVE SO FAST OVER IT! EVERY FIFTY FEET IS A ZIGZAG TRENCH; EVERY TEN FEET ALONG THE ROAD IS A FOXHOLE, AND EVERY SO OFTEN IS BIG TANK TRAP TRENCH, COMPLETE WITH PILL BOXES, ETC. BESIDES, YOU SEE A LOT OF WHITE TAPE, LAYED BY THE ENGINEERS, MARKING OFF MINED AREAS. AND SOME ROADS WILL HAVE LITTLE HOLES EVERY TEN FEET OR SO, WHERE MINES HAVE BEEN DUG OUT. TOWNS, OF COURSE, ARE PRETTY BADLY HIT, IN SPOTS. IF THE GERMAN PEOPLE NEVER KNEW WHAT WAR WAS BEFORE, BELIEVE ME, THEY DO NOW!!!

HAVEN’T HAD ANY MAI LTO SPEAK OF IN SOME TIME, DUE TO MOVING, ETC, BUT I SURE DO LOVE YOU GUYS, TO BEAT ALL GET OUT!! ALL MY LOVE
PAPPY

22 MARCH 1945 V-MAIL
GERMANY

HELLO, SWEETIE, IT’S A FINE DATE, A FINE DAY, AND I CAN THINK OF NO BETTER WAY TO SPEND A FEW MINUTES THAN TO WRITE TO MY CUTIE-PANTSES!! HAD A VERY GOOD DAY YESTERDAY. HAD THE AFTERNOON OFF!!! SO PLAYED A LITTLE TOUCH FOOTBALL WITH THE BOYS AFTER DINNER (LUNCH) AND THEN WENT UP AND HAD A HOT BATH ( ACTUALLY, WE HAVE A HOT WATER HEATER IN THE BLDG) (MY FIRST BATH OF ANY KIND IN NINETEEN DAYS!!) THEN CLIMBED INTO MY SLEEPING BAG AND SLEPT FOR THREE HOURS. GOT UP, HAD SUPPER, AND DROVE A COUPLE OF MILES TO A THEATRE TO SEE THE “MASK OF DIMITRIOS”, WITH PETER LORRE, SIDNEY GREENSTREET, VICTOR FRANCEN ETC — A DARN GOOD CAST, SWELL DIRECTION AND A VERY GOOD ALL AROUND MOVIE! GOT BACK ABOUT TEN, HAD SOME WORK THAT THE FELLOW PINCH HITTING FOR ME HAD LEFT (ALSO STRAIGHTENED OUT SOME THINGS THAT HE HAD MIXED UP) AND GOT TO BED ABOUT ELEVEN THIRTY! A GOOD DAY!!!

THREE OF US ARE SLEEPING IN ONE ROOM NOW; SPALDING, THE SUPPLY SGT (TROMBLY) AND I. THEY HAVE A COUPLE OF BEDS TO SLEEP IN, BUT I’D JUST AS SOON NOT GET ACCUSTOMED TO IT AND THEN HAVE TO CHANGE AGAIN THE NEXT TIME WE MOVE SO I’M SLEEPING ON MY COT. WE HAVE IT FIXED UP PRETTY WELL, WITH A CORD OVER THE BED TO TURN OUT THE LIGHTS AFTER YOU GET IN BED!! WE ARE EATING THE BEST OF ANY PLACE SINCE I’M IN THE ARMY, WITH OUR OWN MESS (FOR JUST OUR OWN HQ—ABOUT 50 MEN ALL TOGETHER) AND WITH REAL PLATES WHICH A COUPLE OF HIRED GERMAN GIRLS WASH AFTER WE HAVE LEFT!! BOY, I SURE HOPE THAT I DON’T GET TRANSFERRED BACK INTO THE ARMY AGAIN!!

I MISS YOU, MRS B — AND OLD MISS K — BE A GOOD GIRL — I LOVE YOU
PAPPY

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These two letters show a side of my father that I’ve only really learned through reading his letters – despite the most intense adversity, he does his best to create a comfortable “nest” for himself! In the first letter he describes taking over a “room upstairs” that was a wreck and with the help of a buddy, they turn it into a “cozy little nest”! I’m remembering back to his various fox holes in France and his similar efforts. What a guy! In the second letter, he mentions that he can’t stand the smell of himself after not having taken a shower for two weeks! Many of us suffered power outages after Hurricane Irene blew through the Hudson Valley, and I know how I felt after three days of no showering – hard to imagine working under the conditions he describes and going that long without a shower!

14 MARCH 1945 V-MAIL

HELLO, SWEETIE YOU ARE BEING WRITTEN TO BY ONE BEAT CHARACTER! AH’M REALLY POOPED! THIS WORKING ALL HOURS IS CATCHING UP WITH ME AND I’M GETTING SO THAT I FEEL, AND MUST LOOK LIKE A TIRED TURNIP. I’VE MADE A DARN GOOD BUDDY OF MY FILE CLERK AND WE HAVE MOVED INTO A ROOM UPSTAIRS HERE IN THE OFFICE BLDG. IT WAS A MESS — FULL OF BROKEN GLASS, STALE BED CLOTHES, NUMEROUS CRUCIFIXES AND CATHOLIC PICTURES AND AN OLD FASHIONED UNDER-THE-BED TYPE POT!! AFTER A COUPLE OF HOURS WORK WE HAVE MADE A VERY COZY LITTLE NEST OUT OF IT WITH A COUPLE OF EASY CHAIRS, A DESK LAMP, DRESSER AND HAD REAL GLASS PUT BACK IN THE WINDOWS (BOY, A GLAZIER WILL MAKE A FORTUNE OVER HERE IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS!) WE MADE SUCH A GOOD DEAL OUT OF IT, IN FACT, THAT FIVE OTHER FELLOWS HAVE NOW MOVED OVER HERE, AND MORE ARE WISHING THAT THEY HAD KNOWN OF IT SOONER. THE FILE CLERK (SPALDING) IS A VERY WITTY GUY AND WE HAVE ALOT OF LAUGHS. HE’S ABOUT THIRTY, FROM CHICAGO, AND IS PRETTY WELL INFORMED ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS. BY THE WAY, DID I TELL YOU THAT THE LITTLE “GOOFY” PENCIL SHARPENER THAT YOU SENT ME FOR XMAS HAS BEEN A GODSEND TO THIS HQ? IT’S THE ONLY P S IN THE OUTFIT, AND DOES IT GET YEOMAN DUTY? WE’RE A PENCIL PUSHING OUTFIT (WE’LL GET THE BRONZE TYPEWRITER RIBBON WITH THE OAK LEAF CLUSTER WHEN THIS IS ALL OVER) AND A DOZEN GUYS A DAY COME UP TO BORROW LITTLE “GOOFY”! I’M A LITTLE GOOFY MYSELF ABOUT NOW. AND I’M GETTING GOOFIER ABOUT YOU EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY! GOLLY, BUT THE BIG TRUCKS REALLY GO A-ROARING PAST HERE ON THE WAY UP FRONT WITH BRIDGES, AMMO, GAS – EVERYTHING — ROLLING AND A RUMBLING, AND I THINK I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, MARY DEAR
ROLLIE

17 MARCH 1945

OH, ME, HERE I AM AT ELEVEN PM JUST GETTING AROUND TO WRITING TO YOU, & I STILL HAVE TO SHAVE YET!! HOWEVER, I CAN’T COMPLAIN BECAUSE I TOOK THE EARLY PART OF THE EVENING OFF TO GO AND SEE THE BEST PICTURE I’VE SEEN IN THESE PARTS “GOING MY WAY”. THE FIRST TIME I’VE LEFT SINCE WE MOVED UP HERE, BUT I’VE BEEN WAITING TO SEE IT FOR A LONG TIME, SO I JUST TOOK UP AND LEFT A STACK OF PAPERS ON MY DESK (AND THEY WERE WAITING FOR ME WHEN I GOT BACK). HAVE YOU SEEN IT YET? YOU MUST IF YOU HAVEN’T SWEETHEART, IT IS REALLY VERY GOOD, AND WHAT A JOB OLD BARRY FITYGERALD DOES — WONDERFUL!!! I GOT YOUR MAR FIRST LETTER YESTERDAY AND BIG STOOP MARY NOTICED THAT I HAD MOVED BACK TO HOLLAND BUT NOT THAT I WAS IN A NEW ORGANIYATION!! BUT IT WAS A VERY NICE LONG NEWSY LETTER SO I FORGIVE YOU. MAIL WAS PERHAPS SNAFUED AND YOU GOT ONE OF THE LETTERS AHEAD OF TIME. IF I DON’T SEEM TO MAKE MUCH SENSE TO YOU IT’S BECAUSE I’VE BEEN SHUFFLING PAPERS AROUND UNTIL I’M SEEING SPOTS, AND I CAN ALSO HARDLY STAND THE SMELL OF MYSELF!! HAVEN’T HAD A BATH IN TWO WEEKS (TODAY) BUT EXPECT TO TRAVEL ABOUT FIFTY MILES TO GET ONE TOMORROW!! SHAVE IN COLD WATER EVERY NIGHT (COULD GET A CUP FULL OF OF HOT IF I WANTED TO BOTHER TO HEAT IT OVER A LITTLE STOVE, BUT WOULD RATHER HAVE MORE COLD WATER AND CLEAN THAN A DAB OF HOT AND DIRTY! DOGGONE, I STILL HAVE TO LAUGH EVERY TIME I LOOK AT THE PICTURE OF OL KAREN! AND AT NIGHT WHEN I CRAWL INTO MY SLEEPING BAG I THINK ABOUT HER SAYING HER PRAYERS FOR ME. MAKES ME FEEL DAMN GOOD. GOSH!!! BUT I LOVE YOU GUYS **** MORE & MORE & MORE!!
PAPPY

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This letter is so easy to read, I’ve decided to post it as is and not transcribe it. To me, the most powerful message in the letter are these words: “Boy, those guys up front are really going again and our hopes are dreaming up ideas. We’re torn between two instinctive feelings of not being able to comprehend the day when this damn thing is really all over (you get to the point where you simply forget to think of yourself as anything but a cog that just goes on grinding in the ‘Ahmy’ until eternity) and vague fancies of getting on the boat over here —seeing the Statue of Liberty — walking in the front door — etc —“.

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Dad got a raise – $16 a week! and in his first letter he describes a dance club down the street where about 20 girls get together and invite small units of soldiers for a mass date! chaperoned by their mothers – hmmm? But he as one of the “old men” went to the movies instead. His second letter is probably one of the most playful I’ve read since he’s been in the war – describing the joys of using a German-made typewriter. I’ve posted this one for you to read, as I wasn’t able to recreate many of the symbols on my Apple keyboard!

3 MARCH 1945 V=MAIL
HOLLAND

GOOD EVENING, BABY. ON THE LETTERHEAD YOU WILL NOTICE THAT I HAVE GONE UP ONE NOTCH, ANYWAY. NOT TOO PROUD OF IT, BUT IT’S SIXTEEN BUCKS A MONTH MORE MONEY. I’LL BE SENDING  YOU A MONEY ORDER IN A FEW DAYS AND WHEN I DO I’LL ENCLOSE A COPY OF THE SPECIAL ORDERS. I’VE ALSO JUST GOT OFF A LETTER TO YANK MAGAZINE IN N.Y.C. SENDING YOU A YEARS SUBSCRIPTION TO SAME. THEN YOU’LL SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT “SAD SACK”. OH YES, I’LL BE SENDING YOU SOME CARTOONS I’VE BEEN CLIPPING FOR YOU TOO.   YOUR FEB 15TH LETTER ARRIVED TODAY AND YOU SEEM TO BE GETTING BUSIER ALL THE TIME INSTEAD OF TAKING IT EASIER.     LAST NIGHT THE EM OF THE OUTFIT HAD A PARTY AT A LITTLE TAP-ROOM UP THE STREET AND HAD ABOUT TWENTY FAIRLY NICE GIRLS. SEEMS THE GIRLS HAVE A DANCING CLUB AND ACCEPT MASS DATES FROM SMALL OUTFITS SUCH AS OURS FOR DANCING PARTIES. OF COURSE, THEY WERE CHAPERONED BY A FEW OF THEIR MOTHERS. FIVE US US “OLD MEN” WENT TO THE WORLD PREMIER OF “MY REPUTATION” WITH BARBARA STANWYCK AND FATTISH GEO. BRENT. IT WAS A PRETTY GOOD SHOW, AND AFTERWARDS WE DROPPED INTO THE PARTY FOR A FEW BEERS AND HOME ABOUT TEN. THE BOYS, NATURALLY, CAME DRAGGING IN UNTIL ABOUT TWO, WAKING EVERYBODY UP EACH TIME TO TELL WHAT A PARTY!! A LOT OF GOOD IT DID ME TO HIT THE SACK EARLY. THIS HAS BEEN A FREAKY WEATHER DAY. BEAUTIFUL SUNRISE THIS MORNING *** CLEAR, WITH THE MOON LIKE A SILVER DOLLAR. AND INTERMITTENTLY THROUGH THE DAY, IT RAINED, HAILED AND SNOWED! AND ENDED UP WITH BRIGHT SKIES AGAIN, AND THE FIGHTER PLANES OUT ZOOMING AROUND — ALMOST AS FAST AS MY LOVE GOES SWOOPING OVER TO YOU & MISS K
PAPPY

6 MAR 1945 V-MAIL
HOLLAND

GOOD EVENING? SWEETIE, (PARM THE TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR? SUCH AS I’VE JUST MADE, TWICE, — I MEAN THE QUESTION MARKS AFER “EVENING” AND “ERRORS”. THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN COMMAS, AND THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN COMMAS ON AN AMERICAN MACHINE, BUT THIS — MY MSG CEN TYPEWRITER NOW — IS A GERMAN MACHINE, HENCE, THE DIFFERENCES)     NICE TYPE? 6 (DAMN IT, I’M ALL CONFUSED’ 4 & # SH? WELL) HERE’S AN IDEA OF WHAT I’M UP AGAINST. IF I PUNCH UP HERE WHERE THE “Y” IS SUPPOSED TO BE? I GET “Z”.— AND VICE VERSA. FOR THE FIGURE ONE (1), I GOT ONE, UP TOP LEFT (AND VERZ NICE IT IS? DON’T ZOU THINK, (ONE OF THESE DAYS I’M GOING TO GET THAT DAMN COMMA, WITH THE QUESTION MARK ON TOP WHEN YOU’RE WRITING IN CAPS AS I AM) STRAIGHT!!!) ALL OF THE OTHER KEYS ARE THE SAME, BUT THE EXTRA LITTLE SIGNS THAT WE USE ARE FOULED UP. ABOVE THE “3” I GOT A VERZ FANCZ 6 – I MEAN (HAVING JUST A BIT OF TROUBLE WITH THE “Y”? AIN’T I< HEH? HEH, //) & THAT’S A “M”, BUT WHY? THEN I GOT NO FANCY LITTLE GADGET TO MEAN “NUMBER”, SO I USE THIS TRICK THING ABOVE THE 9, TO WIT (a symbol not on my (MA’s) keyboard) TOP TWO KEYS ON RIGHT ARE NICE, ON LOWER CASE WE GOT “B” AND IN UPPER CASE “:”. HERE ARE SOME OTHER THINGS SCATTERED OVER HERE ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE. (keys not on my keyboard) THEM IS UMLATS. YZOU KNOW WHAT AN UMLAT IS? SOMETHING YOU HAVE FOR BREAKFAST, AND WHEN SOMEONE ASKS ME “DO ZOU LOVE ZOUR WIFE?” AND I SAY “UMLATS!!!!” 1 + = ‘how’m I doing, ? = OH, THE HELL WITH IT. NO WONDER THE GERMANS DO THE THINGS THEY DO! THEIR TYPEWRITER DROVE ‘EM CRAYZ!!!! BUT I LOVE ZOU ON ANY AND EVERY MACHINE
PAPPY

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