Archive for the ‘May 1945’ Category

I must admit that there’s not too much of interest in these letters – one guy has gone off to France, so Dad’s work load has increased and he’s really tired. He warns Mary that he hopes she’s rested when he gets home “because I’ve been storing up a lot of energy in the past year!!” These three letters have a “day to day” quality – he’s clocking time till he can come home!

But it’s amazing to realize despite the lack of excitement in my Dad’s unit, amazing things were happening in Germany. On May 27, 1945 Buchenwald Concentration Camp was finally liberated. I’m attaching a very moving radio broadcast by Edward R. Morrow, detailing his experience of visiting the camp in April. And here is the lead copy to the broadcast:

On April 11, 1945 the Third U.S. Army reached the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. There were still 21,000 inmates still within the camp after the SS had fled in front of the advancing Allied front. The next day, Edward R. Murrow along with other reporters arrived at the camp. Their horror is reflected in the various reports that came from that encounter. Murrow was not able to get his broadcast on the air until April 15th, and in one of his most eloquent reports he tells listeners the story of his visit to Buchenwald.


24 May 1945 V-Mail

Good evening, Cutie, a very good day for mail!!! Three ltrs from my sweetie and one from my old pal of Basic days, Bob Sammon (Junior, remember? He is now at a POE to be shipped someplace overseas, which means that they are evidently taking a lot of the boys who were formerly considered “limited” and making them into “Occupational” — only a guess, but good news for us “Vets”!) Your Apr 6 ltr arr with May 14 and 18!!! Six days from you to me!!! Unheard of, and wonderful. The lock of Karen’s hair is like a little bit of heaven to me (not meant to be as trite and mushy as it sounds) brings me very close to you guys. Thanks, honey. I’m so glad she likes the “Cubes” game, and she still goes for the music box, hum? Just like her Ma. I’m very intrigued and happy about your blisters and enthusiasm for the garden — and also your avoirdupois! (?) Right or wrong places, what the hell’s the difference—just that much more of you to love, baby —keep putting it on. You had best be pretty rested up when I get home because I’ve been storing up a lot of energy in the past year!! The past week has been like old times for me. My boy  Spalding went to Paris on a deal, so besides my work I’m doing the filing as well, and as we’re expecting an inspection from Army soon, I’m doing a lot of cleaning up of the stuff as I go along —and there is plenty. Remind me to chew his fanny (as we say in the army) when he gets back, for letting so many things go. I’ve been going 15 and 16 hours a day again and AHM tarred. But I love you like anything, my darling

27 May 1945 V-Mail

Oh me, ohmeohmy, am I ever the pooped character! Mail has been coming in fine, got a couple of letters from you last night, and one from Grimes (did I tell you that I had a nice letter from Vee with pictures of Don and the kids? a few days ago?) tonight, but simply haven’t the energy left to get them out and see what you said. Our boy Spalding should be back in a couple of days now (thank gosh) so maybe we will be able to relax a bit. Besides being short a man, we have also had about three times the ordinary stuff coming in, what with all of the readjustment and redeployment business, and besides that we have twice the number of units to handle than we had most of the time. So, like I say, I’m going slowly crazy again. One very good thing is that we have a new adjutant now who is really on the ball. He has given me the job completely, and although it places a hell of a lot of responsibility on me to know where every gosh darn thing is and what is being done about it, I like it fine and have developed several new ways of doing things that are working out much better than formerly, so we are all happy—-but AHM POOPED. Tomorrow being Sunday, we can sleep until 8:30, and although I should get up and work, I figure to hell with it, I’m going to sleep in. Cripes, this whole letter is nothing but how tired I am! ‘Snuff to make you tired, aint’ it?

Sorry baby, the ol’ bean is just dull—gotta hit the sack.
But golly, I love you, and think about you and Karen more every day.

31 May 1945 V-Mail

Good Evening, My Darling, This morning I sent you a box of stuff that I think you will like. Eight brandy (whoopy–brandy) goblets!! And crystal yet!! Our pal Spalding brought back the eight from Vise, Belg. Unfortunately, we only get four of them and our friends, the Trombly’s get the other four. They were already packed in the box that you will get them in, so we decided that it would be better to send them the way the manufacturer packed them, and you may send the four on to Mrs. T if you will be so kindly. I don’t have their home address right now, and Trom isn’t around, but I will get it and send it on to you. I hope you like them. Spalding says that they are really quite nice. I have not seen them myself; as I say, we thought it better to just leave them as they were. Be sure to let me know about all of the packages. So far all that I’ve heard about is the first box from Nice. You should have another box of perfume, and a third box with the wooden pictures in it. From here you should g the shotguns, and now the crystal. I haven’t received a box from you for a hell of a long time, and only one of the four or five that Mom has mentioned, but I imagine that they will be along, all beat to hell pretty soon. Mail has been a little slack, of late, but I really can’t complain about it yet. Got a letter from Dad, and I’m much relieved to see that it looks much better, but still have not heard from Mom on same yet. Harold is somewhere in the western Pacific now, but if they keep on with lowering the age limit, maybe we will both have a chance. All of my love, Pappy


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These are uncertain times for the soldiers waiting to go home. In Dad’s unit one guy left this week and another one will be going home next week – they’re all on pins and needles but don’t hold out high hopes. The good news is the censors have left, so he can say anything he wants. This may mean the letters get more substantive from here on out. Again, he’s living for the “games”!

20 May 1945 V-Mail

Hello, Sweetie, Doggone, I’m simply physically pooped! Worked quite hard this morning (for supposedly Sun. off!) and then this afternoon started off by playing three games of volley-ball with one of our companies. We each won a game, and then they completely trounced us for the deciding game. Then the old man asked me to find myself a partner to play him and Lt Roe some badminton. So we played three games of that, and then a couple of more with some other guys when they got tired. Then tonight Col Bettman came in for some more ping-pong, and after about seven games — Ahm pooped.

Your unhappy May 9 letter (along with one of May 10 from your mother – how come, and 3000 miles farther?) arrived last night. Isn’t it funny that VE day left us both so low instead of so high? Natural, I guess, but odd. I’m so glad that both you and Karen are recovering so nicely. We still know nothing about our future. Our guess as to VJ day is anywhere from tomorrow till 1948! This will interest you, I think, as it is the fist time in over year now that you will  know where I am — in Bielefeld, Germ That is about 1/2 way between Hanover and Dortmund, and about 20 miles north of Kassel. Can you find it on your map? It is a fairly big place.

Keeping busier than hell is the best antidote for homesickness in the world. That is why I find all of the athletics very fine indeed, plus the fact that I also like playing practically anything. Damn, I wish that they had some golf around here, but they don’t. But I sure do miss you, honey. Give Karen a big hug from Daddy, and here are huge ones for you

22 May 1945 V-Mail

Happy anniversary at Marseille, my darling. Seven years ago today was a day I shall never forget. Remember how we started for the Palisades, but somehow never got there? Someday we will have to pay another visit just for the hell of it. The Crisps, from Boston, I remember. another thing I was thinking of today (re your mothers ltr on Patty’s desire to wed) was whether her boy-friend will have the fun trying to convince the Shannon’s that I did. I think the story of our courtship would make a very amusing story. Have you ever thought of writing it? Maybe I will. Your mother tells me that I write very well, and coming from her (who has done more reading than somewhat) I consider it a great compliment. Might be rather interesting to have a writer in the family, at that….Got your 13 May ltr today!!! Now, that is what I call service! (and it’s about time) The unit censor has gone off of us here now, so I can say anything … but I’ve got in such a rut that I’m still unconsciously cautious. Besides I can’t think of anything. What do you want to know about? Ask for details of anything I’ve written that you’re curious about and I’ll fill it in now. The new campaigns have been announced, and I’m entitled to four bronze stars now, instead of three, meaning I’ll have 64 points toward going home — someday! We had one guy from here leave for home today, and one more has enough points and the rest of us are just sweating. Hope that that congressman gets his way and has all fathers sent home. Cause I wanna go home to you and Miss K.
All my love — Pappy

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It feels like we’re entering a new period in the direction of my Dad’s letters now that the war has officially ended in Europe and he’s not sure of his direction. This long letter to Mary shows concern for all the things that are out of his control at home: his daughter is in the hospital, Mary’s very unhappy, and his Dad is not well and no one is telling him what’s wrong. Meanwhile, ping-pong has become the major source of joy in his life! Go figure?!

Interesting note hand-written above the date of the letter about the stamp on the envelope. I’m including the image here in case anyone reading this knows about the value of this “fake stamp”?

Hand-written at top: “Note the trick airmail stamp! Think it might be a curio someday? Such as the misprint coins? It’s a military necessity, they tell us”

18 May 1945
Good evening darling, Poor li’l kid. You sound so unhappy in your May 7 letter, and I can’t blame you, with Karen in the hops. How is she now, baby? I’m very anxious to hear. I also recvd a ltr from Dad, and I’m very worried. His last letter was pretty disorganized, and this one made me feel a little sick. It was not only practically illegible, but the words didn’t make sense. I have just written to Mom to ask her to have Rene find out what the story is and tell me. I have hunch that they know but are afraid to tell me anything. Just wanted to tell you about it.

I’m enclosing another picture of the Admin. section, and a couple of action shots of me and Lt Moore shooting a game of horseshoes. That’s some fanny I got there, ain’t it? And in case you wonder what the hell I’m doing in the other one, I’m scraping the dirt back into the hole with my left foot as he’s shooting.

The box with the china and pictures (I’m hurt. I thought that the wooden pictures were pretty nice, and you don’t even mention them) was from Nice, as was the perfume and a third box of pictures (which my friend Madeline was to mail for me). Three boxes, in all, from Nice, and I’m sure that I wrote to you about them, and you probably have the letters by now, anyway.

Doggone it, I can’t get over Dad’s letters. I wrote to him yesterday, but went on the same as though his letters were perfectly normal. I also wrote to Ruth Wilson today. She sent me a five dollar bill in a letter a few days ago. Why don’t you give her a ring and invite her up some week-end?

Since I started this letter, Col Bettman came in and says “Neibauer, I think I’m ready to trim the pants off of you in ping pong”. So I says something modest like “I hate to take the confidence out of an aspiring young athlete like this, BUT —” and we went out and had four fast games and I’m still champ. Them Spalding and I were trounced at two fast games of badminton by the old man and Lt Roe, after which we took them down to the rathskeller and bought them a couple of beers, and now I’m finishing this letter to my ol’ cutie-pants.

Be sure to let me know all about how Karen is doing. I haven’t received the V Mail that you mention intending to send anent (?) same. I must go up and wash and shave before I go to bed, darling, and there isn’t much of anything new anyway, so I think I’ll be running along. I hope that you didn’t worry too much about Miss K, and that she didn’t have too much trouble. I imagine that they had her pretty well doped up so that she didn’t know much of what was going on, hmm? Did she know you when you went to see her? Was she upset about being away from home and mama? Let me know all of those little things about her, darling. You see, I’m missing out on all of the cute things that she says and does, so if you have time to put them in a letter, I’d love to hear them. Gee, but I miss you guys. All my love, darling, Rollin

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Dad’s been promoted to Sargeant and in this letter to Mary he describes in much greater detail, his job in the Message Center. The date is confusing as it conflicts with the envelope I found it in, and from the content of the letter, it’s not very clear either whether the war has indeed ended or not! I reposted the pictures as he gives great descriptions of his pals in this letter.

Letter says “6 April” but it was in an envelope dated May 10, 1945
I think he meant “6 May”

Well, look what I went and done! And those stripes look very good on my underwear, too. The Special Order came out yesterday and today the Col called a formation outside, and along with raising our flag for the first time, he also had us men step forward and he pinned our stripes on us. As you can see, I’ve also enclosed a copy of our paper telling about the ping-pong tourney, and some pictures. Now you may get an idea of the different guys when I talk about them in the letters. Msg Cen is included in the Administrative Section, that’s why I’m there. “My” sect. includes Stolz (a kid who left the States Feb 28 THIS year) who actually does the recording in of all the documents now, and Spalding (file clerk). At present, I keep busy being the big executive who takes the stuff as Stolz regs it in, and shove it into boxes for the various sections. If the thing is going to have some kind of action taken on it, I have to put it on a buck=slip (which I record) for inter-office routing. In other words it has worked out now so that if anyone comes up and says “Where is that letter on captured material?” I got be able to put my hands on it, whether it’s been filed or is kicking around the Hq somewhere. We can now tell exactly how long each section has a certain thing before they do something about it. A very interesting job, because before I can pass a  ltr or anything on I naturally have to read it and know all about it, or otherwise how would I know which section to send it to?

A word about the pictures. First; the Admin Sect with me standing. Kneeling in front of me is me pal Spalding (I just remembered a very funny Memo that he wrote up and ran off on the Mimiograph machine the other day, so I’m enclosing a copy — maybe all of the humor for us won’t be evident to you, but I think you will get an idea —for instance, Muscles Urhammer is the anemic Chaplains asst. That’s-an-Order Snyder is our first Sgt, and Oh-My-God MacNamara is the worrying personnel sgt who has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and everything that happens is the last straw! And something happens every five minutes!) Where was I? Oh yes, the picture. Alongside of me (and also under my section) is our poor messenger who drives from two to four hundred miles a day just delivering and picking up messages and mail! Next is Capt Shugart (Shuggies who is leaving us in a couple of days) and next Oh my God MacNamara and then GrapeEyes Thomas who is a wild man and crazy as a loon (albeit a very bright kid, and the developer of these pictures and another group which I will send another time) The rest of the front row we may pass over. In the “Pyramid” picture, you can see Kip, and my other buddy Trombly. We were clowning around at noon time and Thomas got the shot. The picture of the officers is a very good one. You can see Heffron (the CO at the 3513th, and who gave me a good boost in getting into this outfit) The Elmer Gantry Chaplain, my ping-pong partner Lt Col Bettman, et al. Don’t they look like a bunch of good eggs? End of guided tour.

It is beginning to warm up a bit (and it’s damn well time) and we hope to get out for some volley-ball which we have had to lay off of for some time now. We’ve been concentrating on our indoor (in the ball-room) badminton. I’m getting so that I can ping the li’l ol cock around pretty well again.

Well, Sweetie, I gotta be getting on. Cer’ney hope that I get a whole mess of letters from you one of these days. They’re due. But I still love ya, anyway. Am I kidding? Cripes, but I miss you guys.
All, but ALL my love to you, my very darling,

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Now that the war is over, Dad’s spirits are plunging. He’s heard news that there may be a points system announced for who will get released to come home and doesn’t think he has nearly enough points. He’s fantasizing about the kind of life he will have with Mary and Karen when he gets back, including walking down the block to get an ice cream every evening!

11 May 1945 V-Mail

Good evening, darling. I’m a very low character for no good reason tonight. I’m combined CQ (Charge of Quarters) and Sgt of the Guard (in my new capacity as Sgt I no longer pull guard standing a post, but instead am in charge of the guys standing the posts). After lowering the flag and posting the guards, I stood around at the gate and watched the kids in their play suits (it is now full fledged summer weather, and the kids are barefooted and practically naked — same as in the States) and looked out over the hills of woods and listened to the calm summer evening noises — and got homesick as hell. I just finished a ltr to the Lemonts, and as I think about it now, I wish I hadn’t sent it as it must be pretty morbid. We heard a radio broadcast the other night defining the point system for discharging, and in case you haven’t paid any attention to it in the states, the guys with 85 points can expect to be taking off in a few weeks (this is strictly unofficial—only radio–as we have had nothing down from Army on it yet) and then maybe they will work their way down to guys with less points.  I have 59 points, the way I figure it. 12 points for Karen. 24 points for 12 months overseas. 8 points for 8 months in the states. And 15 points for 3 bronze campaign stars (Battle of Normandy, Battle of Northern France and Battle of Germany)—the only 3 campaigns in the ETO) Total of 59 points. Cripes, how I wish I could beg, steal or borrow another 26 points somewhere!!! We are going on the same as we have for the past month—just working—and waiting—and hoping—

Received your Apr 23 and 24 and 29 letters yesterday, but still not the one from Chi, but gather that you were struck down by a kidney virus of some kind. Wish I knew what the hell it was all about, but suppose you are back at work now, and I hope feeling fine. Must have been pretty lousy being cooped up all the time, though. Hope it wasn’t too bad and is now finis. Pore li’l kid. All my love to you, my darling

13 May 1945 V-Mail

Good evening, sweetie. This has been a very pleasant Sunday. Another new thing has gone thru now, in which we now have Sundays off ( except for the work which has to be done—including Msg Cen, NATurally). I’m not sure what the status of our mornings off is going to be now, but all day Sun is better anyway. Got up about eight this morning and worked until noon cleaning stuff up in here, but this afternoon had a very swell time. Began by Col. Bettman and I beating my pals Spalding and Trombly a couple of games of badminton and then a couple of ping pong. Then found a small piece of ice and made us a gallon of ice cream!!! Actually! Of course, it was more like a very thick malted because of lack of ice, but man it tasted good. That is going to be a MUST on most of our menus WHEN I get home darling. And probably a quart or so every night. Is there a nice drug store near by, so we can walk up in the evening and get the papers and ice cream? Golly, but I’ll like that! Then Spal and Trom and I went for a long walk up in the hills and woods. A couple of German women stopped us and wanted justice done. It seems that some Russians had held them up and stolen one of the women’s wrist watch. We just said Yeah Yeah and walked on. Anybody who gets mixed up in any of those messes is crazy. Had a beautiful view of this town and the valley from up on the hill. Saw where the Jerries had had billets (?), and it was really nice. Arrived back just in time for supper. Then had some horseshoes and volleyball and several beers and the boys are now seeing a stinker of Benny Goodman in “Low Down and Blue” or some such, which I saw back in Aachen in January. Golly, it is really hot here now. Everyone is getting quite tanned. I wrote your folks a letter this afternoon. I must write to Bill and Ellen, too, as I owe them a couple, but dammit, I simply have to drive myself to sit down and write anymore. Weather like this makes me just want to sit around and think about you and Karen. Guess I’ll go up and hit the sack. Maybe I’ll have a nice long dream about you. I love you like anything, baby

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This letter clarifies my suspicions from yesterday’s post (letter to Mary on May 7th) that the reason he and his pals are not excited about the end of the war in Europe is they’re afraid they’re going to get shipped out to the Orient. He wants more than anything to go home, but figures he’s probably still going to have to spend another year or so in the Army.

He’s become quite the sports fanatic however – and I’ve included the copy of “The 79th Variety” subtitled “Recreation Gains Momentum”. It appears the Army is shifting its focus from war to sports as a way to keep the guys busy (until they know what to do with them?) – or just busy? not sure! And on the second page a whole article devoted to the ping-pong tournament, praising my Dad as the winner!

Oh yes, Dad got promoted to Sargeant!

9 May 1945 letter

Dear Dad, Well, it’s over. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, and yet, now that it’s here it really doesn’t seem so much. I think that if this were all it would be different, but we are still up in the air about what is going to happen to us, and are sweating out the possibility of the Orient (as is everyone over here) so how the hell can we be very excited about a little thing like VE day?What we all want most is to get home to our families, and then if we are the luckiest guys over here (hand=written: and do get a chance to go home) it looks as tho it will be six months to a year before that happens, so as I say, every one was pretty calm about the announcement. A few of the boys got pretty plastered last night, but they are the ones who would get plastered VE day or no VE day, so it doesn’t count.

I am sending on a couple of papers which may interest you. One promotes me and some other guys (now if I can just figure out how to put my stripes on my summer underwear….) and on the sports page of the other you will see where I won the ping-pong tourney! Boy, when these Neibauers get going you can’t stop ’em (but it takes too damn long for them to get started!) I’m also doing fairly well at horseshoes, although we haven’t started a regular tourney of any kind yet. Today we went down and played our first soft-ball, and boy were we lousy!  But I think with a little practice we mill be able to whip together a fair team. Later on we plan to have games with our Ens. The past few day have turned into real summer, and we have been running around in shorts, and in just two days I have the beginnings of a very good tan. Our CO gave us from yesterday noon until this noon off to celebrate VE day, but someone had to be in Message Center this morning to receive the stuff from the Bns, and get the Messenger off to Army, So I got up this morning as usual (there weren’t too many of us who were able to get up this morning at all )! I played about 15 games of horseshoes, five games of volleyball, 7 games of ping-pong and three games of badminton yesterday, and several more games of horseshoes and a softball game today — s , man, ah’ m really ready for bed tonight.
Send my very best on to Harold
also Rene  and Aunt Mag
Love to you, old droopy drawers as ever,  your son

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I have to admit that I expected some real dramatic stuff going on in my Dad’s letters when I got to the beginning of May – knowing that the war was coming to a close. I’ve been shocked by his preoccupation with volleyball and ping pong – wondering why he wasn’t concerned with more substantive things related to the war around him. This letter is one of the most revealing yet! He admits it, he’s numb. Great letter Dad!!

7 May 1945 V-Mail

A guy ran up and down the hall this afternoon yelling, “The war is over”. We said “No kidding?” and he said “‘S fact!” We said “Well”, sat around and looked at each other a couple of minutes, and went on working.We ate supper and went out and played some volley-ball. About 7:30 we start hearing train whistles and sirens and sporadic (as we say in the Army) small arms fire. A few minutes later somebody comes out and says it is official, war is over. We say “What’s the score?”—and go on playing volley-ball. About 8:30 we retire to the RatsCellar for a few beers. We read about the CBI and hear about how they are tearing up ticker-tape in New York. We say “Hey, fellas, the war is over!” Somebody says, weakly, “Yippee” and we drink our beer and read the S & S, where it says Service Troops will mostly be shipped direct to the CBI. We come upstairs and wander around, not many guys working, finally dig up a ping-pong game, wallop his fanny four or five games — hi ho ….

The WAR IS OVER!!! Nope, even writing it like that doesn’t make me excited. What the hell is the matter with us? Are we numb? This is a day we’ve been looking forward to for a long time now … Do people really get as excited as the newspapers would have you believe? Is it mass hysteria, or is it different at home? There is nothing the matter with us, but by golly, for some reason, this just doesn’t mean as it should. Maybe there are too many things that can still happen to us before we get home. After all, we’re still a long ways from home, and we are too well trained to expect much of break — I mean something such as going home. It will take me some little time, I’m afraid, to actually believe that this business is all over — even when I get home. What is there but routine and orders in life, anyway? I don’t really mean that, of course, but it is going to take some time to realize it.

I frankly haven’t the vaguest idea of what is going to happen to us, and no one else has either, I think. Everybody has good sound reasons to believe that we will be going home; going to the CBI; staying here—have a cigarette. Thank you very much, I think I will.

Had four lovely letters from  you last night –lovely, but maddening. Why maddening? Because they were April 16 and 17, then skipped to 27 and 28, at which point you say the doc says you will be able to go back to work in a couple of days, and the kittens are doing fine!!! What the hell goes on? I didn’t even know that you were sick or that the cat was pregnant!! And no mail tonight to clarify the situation. Just as a guess, I’d bet that you were simply wearing yourself out and not getting enough sleep, etc. Even if that isn’t what put you in bed directly, it still goes. You relax more. That’s an order.
the old sarge

Side note: didn’t know what “CBI” was or what he was referring to here – Wikipedia says that stands for “China Burma India Theater”. I imagine Dad and his buddies were afraid they were going to get shipped off to another part of the war going on in these regions.

And in doing more research about this day, it appears there were great contrasts in people’s feelings – of course we’re all familiar with the classic images of soldiers kissing girls and banners in the streets, but this quote from the BBC website also shows that it wasn’t just my Dad that had mixed feelings about the end of the war:

“For many the great excitement came on 7 May, rather than on the official day of victory the next day. All across the nation the people tuned in to the wireless to find out more. They were told that Allied victory in Europe was to be celebrated officially the following day, but many people had already begun their celebrations. People were out on the streets, hanging bunting and banners and dancing. The famous World War Two diarist Nella Last recorded the scene in her diary:

‘…all the shops had got their rosettes and tri-coloured button-holes in the windows and men putting up lengths of little pennants and flags. Till at three o’clock, the Germans announced it was all over. As if by magic, long ladders appeared, for putting up flags and streamers. A complete stranger to the situation could have felt the tenseness and feeling of expectation. Like myself, Steve [Howson, a wartime friend] has a real fear of Russia. He thinks in, say, 20 years or so, when Nazism has finally gone, Germany and not Russia will be our Allies.’

So although war was won and the threat of Nazism removed, there was still some uneasiness. The war in the Pacific was unresolved, and millions of people in Europe and Russia had to rebuild their lives.

Nella Last goes on to note that the decision to celebrate victory the following day led to a feeling of anti-climax, and when VE Day arrived she felt ‘curious, flat’. She spent the time quietly at home.”

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