30 June, 2011

30 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
30 June, 1944     0930

My dearest girl –

It seems good to at least start writing on a clean sheet of paper. I managed to get hold of some, but how long it will stay clean and unwrinkled is problematical.

Last night I got two more letters from you and now I’m pretty nearly up to date to the 16th of June – which is darned good, I think. There are a few missing, but I’m able to imagine the blank spaces, dear. What makes me ‘mad’ is the fact that on the 16th of June – your latest letter from me was written May 21st. But the other fellows in our outfit say their folks are writing them the same thing, and your reference to the fact that some of the girls are again hearing in 10-12 days must mean that those fellows didn’t go anywhere. By now, anyway, you are hearing more regularly, I’m sure, darling. I’m sorry my letter with the enclosed check didn’t get to you in time but you’ll at least know I tried. At that time I was certain I was writing far enough in advance.

Your mention of the freak storm was interesting and I’m glad that on the whole – your home and surroundings were unaffected – also, that no one was hurt. I remember well the hurricane of a few years back. I was either an intern or resident then at Salem Hospital and we worked a good part of the night using battery lamps – on the casualties that kept drifting in. I was angry, too, because it had been my scheduled night off.

29 June, 2011

29 June, 1944

No letter today. Just this:

* TIDBIT *

about The VII Corps and the "Southout" of Normandy

While the main American effort was being made to capture Cherbourg and to clear the Cotentin area, German forces assembling south of Carentan were using the period of inactivity in that sector to prepare a strong defensive line across the base of the peninsula. Breaking through this defense was the next phase of the invasion for VII Corps.

On 29 June 1944, those German defenders from the port of Cherbourg who had refused to surrender the day before, finally understood that they had lost and further resistance was futile. The repair work of the harbor installations started but it was likely to take much time, perhaps even several weeks, before being able to use this deep water harbor, considered vital for the allied troops. For the Allies, preparations for the Battle of France was now going into high gear. Armored divisions and heavy artillery began arriving. Air bases were moved from England to the continent. An army capable of splitting the Wehrmacht wide open was landing in France.

The breakthrough was to be made on a sector south of Carentan. This meant clearing rugged terrain, full of marshes and swampy rivers -- ground ideal for defense. Germans had dug in for a permanent stay with entrenchments in every hedgerow. To reach firm ground where armored armies could operate, it was necessary to fight through that swamp country. The job was assigned to VII Corps. The 4th Infantry Division was in the star role. And Greg's unit would be right in it, as can be seen in the map below, showing the roads from Rocheville (A) to St. Come du Mont (B), the next town mentioned in The Route of the Question Mark.


28 June, 2011

28 June, 1944 (2nd letter)

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
28 June, 1944       2200

My dearest fiancée –

As I promised – I’m writing again tonight – having written you a hurried V-mail earlier today. However – it’s late and I’ll probably have to finish up tomorrow. Again – excuse the stationery, darling, but wrinkled and dirty as it is – it’s all I could get hold of. For some reason or other the word ‘stationery’ reminds me of the silly joke: Customer to clerk – “Do you keep stationery?”, Clerk – “I do – until the very end – and then I go all to pieces.” Excuse it dear. The fact is I feel very happy tonite because I just got a couple of letters from you – 12th and 13th of June and the latter contained your pictures. And where do you get that photogenic stuff? The pictures are swell! I love them – but they made me feel like wanting to kiss and hug and love you. I got a kick out of the ring and am tickled that you still “love it”. It seemed so strange to see you with a ring on your 4th left finger – and then realize that is was my fiancée. I suppose you think that’s queer, darling, but so many times in the past I’ve longed for a fiancée – all my own – and then I had to go and acquire one by mail and not enjoy the pleasure – the possessive pleasure of seeing her. Anyway, dearest, seeing you standing there – with the ring and realizing that you were actually mine – well, darling – it made me happy and I’m so glad to realize that you enjoy being my fiancée. I won’t let you down, I hope.

28 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
28 June, 1944

Dearest Sweetheart –

I was determined to write you a longer letter today – but the way things are shaping up – I’d better get this off now. If I return in time – I’ll write another.

I got a swell letter from you late last night which certainly helped my spirits. It was nice and long and newsy and generally – in the groove, darling. I’m so pleased you liked the prints, dear – and that they came in good condition. By the way – I don’t remember mentioning – one of my boys made a simple bracelet out of English “three-penny bits”. He made the links and all and then presented it to me for “my girl” – so I sent it on. You don’t have to wear it, dear – although the coins are odd. The bend in them is done by hand.

Was glad to read you were being occupied by the R.C. and roared about your chance of getting diseased from house visits. Don’t you know you must have immunity by now from me! Seriously – there’s no danger, darling – but be careful in general. All for now. Love to the folks and

All my deepest love to you
Greg


* TIDBIT *

about Rocheville and Up in Arms

The Route of the Question Mark on June 27th mentioned that the 438th was in the town of Rocheville. The town of Rocheville is located in the Department of Manche of the French region Basse-Normandie. It is within the township of Bricquebec, part of the district of Cherbourg, just 12 miles south of the port. The and area is about 4 square miles, and the population is just about 660.

Route from the City of Cherbourg to the town of Rocheville
And now a scene from Up in Arms featuring Danny Kaye and Dinah Shore", shown in a hayloft in the town of Rocheville:

27 June, 2011

27 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
27 June 1944

My dearest Sweetheart –

Two nights running now my first opportunity for writing has been just before dark. We were busy today – some of our outfit finally caught up with us. Among them was my driver and our jeep, darling, the one with WILMA painted on the front – in old English letters if you please. I’ll now be able to get around more easily.

Greg with his driver
Just a few minutes ago – one of our trucks drove up with 22 bags of mail and boy – we all ought to get some in the morning. It will be too dark to finish sorting it tonight though.

26 June, 2011

26 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
26 June          1600

Dearest Sweetheart –

If this looks messy and wrinkled, blame it on the rain and darkness. All day I’ve been wanting to take a few minutes off to write you but have been unable to. I almost gave up the idea – but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t write a few lines at least, dear.

Things are going along pretty well and the news is good. Today was a rather blue Monday, though, probably because of the weather. But chalk off another day, darling. It’s one less we have to go.

Will have to stop now Sweetheart because it’s getting practically impossible to write any longer. Love to the folks – and my everlasting love to you, dearest

Greg

* TIDBIT *

about The VII Corps and the Cherbourg Campaign - Part 7

25 June, 2011

25 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
25 June, 1944         1600

My darling Wilma –

I don’t know how far I’ll get with this. I started to use V-mail but changed to this – no matter how little I write. Yesterday we got mail. I got 2 letters – both from you, written on the 6th and 7th; also Time magazine of June 12, and the fortnightly Salem news letter.

I can well imagine how you felt on D-Day, sweetheart. It certainly must be tough for those at home – because over here we know at least what we’re doing and how we’re doing. Faith and trust is all you can lean on, darling. Depend on that and you should find things easier. It certainly helps on this side – otherwise you’d be sure that every shell was coming your way. I appreciate your prayers, sweetheart, and haven’t stopped praying myself. I want so much for us to be together again, happy and living a normal married life – that it just has to work out that way.

Yes, dear, I was glad to read that Stephen was going to Latin School. It certainly is the only school in the city and should get him ready for college – Harvard, I hope. He ought to do well – he seems bright enough.

24 June, 2011

24 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
24 June, 1944         1000

My dearest one –

Today is 11 months that I know you and tomorrow will be seven months that I’ve been overseas. Subtracting 7 from 11 leaves 4 – and I just can’t make myself believe that actually we saw each other during a 4 month period only. It just doesn’t seem possible that we could have gotten to know each other so well in so short a time; well enough to become engaged to each other and to think only in terms of our being married and together for always – someday. I’m actually more surprised at you than I am at myself, darling. The fact is I knew what I wanted for a long time and when I met you, I knew you were it immediately. I’m still amazed at your desire to be engaged to me, to wait for me, to put up with my being away – all this after knowing me for only 4 months. Now – sweetheart – don’t be angry with me. You know how thankful I am for all this. It is because I’m so thankful that I think of it so often. You see, dear, I do not take you for granted.

It would be nice to feel that the greatest part of our separation is behind us. I don’t know what to think on that score, but certainly a big chunk of it is – and the fact that the big battle is on is a big help to all of us. When we were sitting around in England – things were more comfortable all right – but we couldn’t help but feel uneasy about our inactivity. We knew that the longer we stayed in England, the longer we would be in returning home. Now everyone is imbued with a spirit of drive to get the damn thing over with and we all feel that every day that goes by now – we’re accomplishing something towards going home.

23 June, 2011

23 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
23 June, 1944

Dear sweetheart –

Today was a pretty busy one for me – by that I mean that I traveled around quite a bit visiting a couple of the batteries. All is still going well – and if we could only get a little mail, we’d be happy. Something seems to be tying it up.

Yesterday, during a lull, I had a chance to write a few V-mails that were overdue. I wrote Mother B, Granny B, Mary, one of the doctors at the hospital (Don Nickerson) and a Phil Bloomberg of Salem. He had written me some time ago congratulating me on my engagement. He is president of the Naumkeag Amusement Co. which among other things – runs the Salem Paramount. He says I’m still on his preferred list as regards getting into the Paramount and that of course included you. I used to have a yearly pass.

There’s nothing much else I can write you today, sweetheart. I miss you these days something awful – but there’s not a darn thing I can do about it except to hope and live for the end of the war and my return home. I love you, darling, and being away from you is quite difficult at times. So long for now. Love to the folks.

All my love,
Greg



* TIDBIT *

22 June, 2011

22 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
FRANCE
22 June, 1944         0930

My dearest darling –

A nice clear day today – after a couple of rather raw ones. Everything has been going along well dear, and we seem to be making good progress. My radio – which has followed me everywhere in the Army – is still with me and helps keep us posted on what’s going on. That may sound strange, but it’s true. Generally we know only what’s going on in our own sector. It’s also strange to hear a broadcast of jive music, or Charlie McCarthy or Fibber McGee and Molly in the middle of a field – with chaos not too far away. But it does help relax us – and I hope my battery holds out awhile.

The mail in this direction is still a bit confused and so I haven’t heard from you for several days. Just like everyone else – the APO is en route a good part of the time and I know that we’ll all get mail perhaps today or tomorrow. But I don’t mind sweetheart as long as my mail is reaching you – and I hope it is.

21 June, 2011

21 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Somewhere in France
21 June, 1944       0930

My dearest sweetheart –

I’ll have to write small and excuse the crinkled paper. The latter is scarce here and hard to keep when you’re on the move. I’ve wanted to write you a letter for some time now, darling, just to ramble on without the confines of a limited space of V-mail – but I just haven’t been able to. As a matter of fact, dear, few of the boys in this campaign have found much time to write at all, but I’m doing all I can to get something off to you daily. Some days it doesn’t even go out because we’re moving or not certain of the post-office location. And the drivers are very careful when on the road – because it’s easy to land in enemy territory – and it’s so different from maneuvers!

I don’t intend to give you any of the morbid aspects of warfare, sweetheart, but I can sum it up in one word – “terrible”. And yet – as unhumanitarian as it may seem for a doctor to express himself so – I have not been able to feel one bit of pity for the hundreds of dead Germans I’ve seen along the roads and in the fields. The French feel the same – despite the fact that many of them had become quite friendly with the German soldiers after having them billeted in their homes for 4 years.

20 June, 2011

20 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
20 June, 1944

Dearest darling Wilma –

In the midst of war and all that goes with it – I had a pleasant dream last night. It was all about you and me and our becoming engaged. I got up feeling swell – and here I am. I do get such a lift, sweetheart, every time I stop to realize that I have a fiancée and that it is you. The war is really easy to take knowing that and I can’t tell you it often enough. You will have to excuse the continued use of V-mail, darling. Right now it is the only thing available and the easiest to dispatch.

Things are going along well here. Last evening we stopped near a farm house and I went over and chatted (what an overstatement!) with the farmer and his wife. I ended up by drinking 2 glasses of Normandy champagne, and left with 2 fresh eggs and a head of lettuce. I’ve gotten hold of a French dictionary and I’m picking things up rapidly.

As for news, Sweetheart, it’s good – as your radio is telling you. Things are still easy for me and I’m going to keep telling you not to worry – so many times that you’ll have to believe me, dear. I love you, Wilma, darling and aim to return to marry you – and therefore I’m taking good care of myself for you. Love to the folks and

All my love is yours,
Greg


* TIDBIT *

about The VII Corps and the Cherbourg Campaign - Part 3

19 June, 2011

19 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
19 June, 1944         0915

Wilma darling –

Still on V-mail ration, dear, but soon I may be able to find a spot to write an Air-mail. A wonderful thing happened yesterday when I got two letters from you – one written May 31st and the other June 5th – with a cute postcard enclosed. It sure was good to get – and the Army is doing a swell job in keeping the mail going. I’m sure you must be hearing fairly regularly by now, sweetheart.
Mobile Post Office near Cherbourg

18 June, 2011

18 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
18 June, 1944

Dearest sweetheart -

It doesn’t seem like Sunday today although someone just reminded me that it was in fact. One day runs into the other in an amazing manner. I can’t write you much, darling, exasperating as it must be for you – but that is the way it has to be for now. I can give you some impressions though. The country here – Normandy – is very pretty and has an air or age about it that makes even parts of England seem modern. I’ve had occasion to go to some native farm houses and have got quite a kick out of making myself understood. Quite a bit of my French is coming back and the people seem to understand it – anyway. I wouldn’t say the people are unduly friendly, although not hostile of course. As for myself, sweetheart, I can only say that I now love you from two foreign countries – England and France – and that’s something. I can’t believe I’m actually in France – but I’ll get used to it soon. Believe me, dear, that regardless of distance and excitement – you are never out of my mind and your picture which is always with me in my shirt pocket – has been great comfort. Love to the folks and explain to everyone – Mother, Granny, Mary etc. that I haven’t written because there’s been no time.

All for now dear.
My deepest love –
Greg

* TIDBIT *
about The VII Corps and the Cherbourg Campaign - Part 2

[Click to enlarge. Back arrow to return]

With the seizure of the bridges at St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte and Ste. Colombe, the 82d Airborne Division and the 9th Division had completed the mission of clearing the east bank of the Douve River as far north as Ste. Colombe. By the evening of 16 June, the 82d Airborne Division securely held St. Sauveur, west of the Douve. About the same time, leading elements of the 9th Division also established a bridgehead across the Douve, at Ste. Colombe. These gains broke the main enemy resistance; and while the 82d pivoted to the south to protect the corps' left flank, the 9th continued its attack to the west, fanning out into open ground through both the Douve bridgeheads. Early on 18 June, the 9th Division occupied Barneville, and by evening, the VII Corps had driven a corridor five miles wide across the peninsula. The enemy north of the corridor counterattacked in a vain effort to reestablish contact with the Germans to the south and then fell back in some disorder toward Cherbourg.

Aerial view of Barneville-Carteret looking south.
Barneville and the Channel are on the right, Cateret at the bottom.
On 18 June 1944 the U.S. 9th Infantry entered Barneville
4 years to the day after the Germans had entered the town.
The prime objective of the VII Corps was achieved: the Cotentin Peninsula was cut in two according to a line which connecting Utah Beach and Barneville. The German forces defending the surroundings of Cherbourg, the new objective of VII Corps, could not join their lines in the South any longer and were condemned to receive no more supplies. There were nearly 40,000 men in this critical situation. The Americans, on their side, maintained the pressure and kept bombarding the German lines of defense which moved back hour per hour. The engagements were violent, although the defenders' morale was low.

The cutting of the peninsula by the 9th Division marked the end of a phase in the VII Corps' operations in the Cotentin Peninsula. With the southern flank of the Corps secured, and the remaining German units bottled up in the peninsula, the Corps could now make a coordinated attack northward to its final objective, the port of Cherbourg. Generals Bradley and Collins decided to use three divisions for the attack to the north. The 4th Division launched a surprise night attack near Montebourg, and the 79th and 9th Divisions began their northward advances early the next morning. That evening, as the 4th and 79th closed in on Valognes, the Germans decided to withdraw to the strong defensive perimeter they had established in the hills around Cherbourg.

Later on 18 June, General Manton Sprague Eddy, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, commended his troops for their accomplishment, and General Montgomery, commander of 21st Army Group, sent personal congratulations to the VII Corps commander, General J. Lawton Collins, on the "roping off" of the peninsula.

17 June, 2011

17 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Somewhere in France
17 June, 1944

Hello darling!

I know you don’t like V-mail letters – but I’ll switch to Air-mail at the first opportunity. From the heading – you can see we are now allowed to state our general location. I understand that we now have an APO here for outgoing mail so I hope this gets to you soon.

No doubt you’re anxious, dear, to know about all that has happened – but really, darling, nothing much here. I’m well and safe and not the least bit worried. Naturally, it has been thrilling, but hell – to have been in the Army for 2 years and have missed this – would have been disappointing. Anyway, dearest, all is under control and I’m taking good care of myself for you – so don’t worry too much! Remember, dear, I love you and miss you. Will write more when I can. Love to the folks

All my love
Greg


The Route of the Question Mark

16 June, 2011

16 June 1944

No letter today. Just this:

* TIDBIT *

about The VII Corps and the Cherbourg Campaign

On the 16th of June, the 438th AAA AW Bn (M) was assigned the task of defending two vital bridges on the main supply line which had just been established at St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte. They were also assigned to defend VII Corps Artillery for the cutting of German forces on the Cherbourg Peninsula and the attack on Cherbourg. Greg's unit was certainly in the thick of it...

On the afternoon of 15 June General Collins announced: "The major effort of the Corps is now to cut the peninsula." By this time the advance westward had progressed sufficiently so that the entire effort could be focused toward that end. For 16 June General Collins ordered an attack all along the line from the Douve River to Gourbesville. The 82d Airborne Division was to continue toward St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte. Developments in the vicinity of St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte suddenly changed the whole tempo of the battle. The 82d Airborne and 9th Division units jumped off at various times between 0500 and 0800 on the morning of 16 June, but it was the attack of the 325th Glider Infantry, Regiment (GIR) assisted by tanks of Company A, 746th Tank Battalion, which touched off the complete rout of the remaining enemy units east of the Douve and paced the 2-division drive to the Douve line.

15 June, 2011

15 June, 1944

No letter today. Just this:

* TIDBIT *

about Hedgerows and the French Countryside

Diagram of a hedgerow
The terrain features of the French countryside had a particularly strong influence on the conduct of operations. The terrain on the Allied left, held by the British Second Army, was an expanse of gently rolling pastures and cultivated fields. The relatively dry and firm ground in the British sector facilitated armor operations and the construction of forward airfields. The boundary line between the British Second Army and the U.S. First Army began on the coast near Port-en-Bessin and extended inland for approximately twenty miles, ending a few miles east of the village of Caumont. The U.S. First Army was responsible for operations along a wide arc that stretched westward from Caumont to the port of Cherbourg, a frontage of more than fifty miles.

14 June, 2011

14 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
14 June, 1944

Dearest sweetheart –

Again I can write you just a few lines with not much in the line of news, I know, but just to let you now that everything is well with me. I hope you are not worrying too much, darling, although I know a certain amount would be natural these days. But honestly, dear, I’m comfortable, relaxed, eating and sleeping regularly and taking things in stride.

That’s all for now, sweetheart. I think of you constantly and find great solace in the thought of our love for each other – for which I am ever thankful. Give my love to the folks, dear.

All my love to you
Greg


* TIDBIT *

about -Day plus 8

13 June, 2011

13 June, 1944

No letter today. Just this:

Greg arrived on Utah Beach on 12 June, 1944 to join the VII Corps under Collins. The progress of VII Corps can be seen on the map below, where Allied forces are shown in blue and German forces in red. [Click to enlarge, back arrow to return.]

Map of the movement of Allied and German Forces
from D-day to D-Day plus 6 (12 June, 1944).

The small town of Carentan occupied a pivotal position between Omaha and Utah Beaches, and its capture was one of the most important American priorities in the days immediately after D-Day. Carentan was naturally protected by the swamps of the lower Taute and Vire rivers, and artificially by inundations created by German flooding. The only good road across this area ran through Carentan and on to Périers, but this single road was very easily defended.

12 June, 2011

12 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
12 June, 1944

My dearest Sweetheart –

I can’t write very much now, but I thought a little would be better than nothing at all – while the opportunity presented itself. Naturally I can’t tell you yet where I am or what we’re doing but soon perhaps – I will. The fact is, though, darling – that no matter where I am or what I’m doing – you are constantly in my mind – and more so now than ever before. The thought of you and your love and constancy is wonderful tonic and a letter of yours written June 2 which miraculously reached me today – certainly helped in keeping my spirits up. I don’t know where you learned it – or if you took a course – but your letters are made to order for a guy overseas, sweetheart, and I can only say that you’ll never know my appreciation. I have to admit over and over again that I love you more and more – and hope that you won’t tire of hearing just that. But if you’re interested in knowing that I was never more certain of anything than I am of my desire to make you my wife and live with you happily in Salem – then I’ll tell you just that – because darling I mean to do just that. Remember dear that it is you and only you I love, think of, dream about and desire – everywhere and always.

Dearest – I can’t write more now. I do hope you’re hearing from me by now – and don’t worry because everything is going along fine. I don’t believe I wrote you yesterday or the day before – but I’m not positive, dear. I’ll try to write as often as I can. Love to the folks and my love is yours forever,
Greg


* TIDBIT *

about -Day plus 6

On 12 June, 1944, the Americans of the 502nd and 506th regiments of the 101st Airborne managed to control a part of the town of Carentan in the evening, after difficult street fighting. The junction between the American troops coming from Utah Beach and those coming from Omaha Beach was now carried out. The five bridgeheads were joined together representing a 80 kilometers long zone from Sainte-Mère-Eglise in the West and to Ouistreham in the East, reaching 10 to 30 kilometers of depth.

By this time, a third wave of Allied forces had landed. There are now 326,000 troops, 104,000 tons of supplies and 54,000 vehicles deployed in Normandy, France. Elements of VII Corps advanced across the Cotentin Peninsula and southwest. Also, the 4th Division was engaged at Montebourg, Crisbecq and near Azeville to the northward drive on Cherbourg. V Corps assisted VII Corps and advanced toward St Lo. Caumont was captured and Foret de Cerisy and the Bayeux road were reached.


[Note from FourthChild: Although it will not be written in a letter here, Greg later told of arriving on Utah Beach on D-Day plus 6. He would joke that he rolled onto the beach in a jeep, without even getting his feet wet. Perhaps his experience was something like this...]
Troops aboard an LCT on 12 June, 1944

Jeeps roll off an LST on 12 June, 1944

Newly landed U.S. Forces move along Utah Beach
at Les Dunes de Madeleine, on their way to the front
to reinforce troops facing the enemy on 12 June, 1944
.

11 June, 2011

11 June, 1944

No letter today. Just this:
 
The Route of the Question Mark

Part of Page 11 of The Route of the Question Mark gives this timeframe:

June 11: An advance party composed of half the battery leaves Sherborne on the first move of the journey across the channel.
Page 21 includes this portion:
The night before D-Day when we saw all the bombers go over, and suspected that something important was about to happen... Departure of our Advance Party for France, and the desolate appearance its absence caused in Sherborne...

Meanwhile, on Utah Beach:

Nazi 88mm guns pound Utah Beach as
American troops push into Normandy, France.
11 June 1944

And in the air, here is an account of just one bomber raid, this on the 21st Panzer Division (click to listen ):

10 June, 2011

10 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
10 June, 1944

Dearest sweetheart –

Sorry that I have to use this V mail, but if I’m going to get anything at all off to you today – I’d better write this – now. As things looked last night, I didn’t think I’d be able to write you today, but for one reason or another, here I am, dear.

I got a letter from Charlie yesterday, written in this country on the day he left for the States. He was remarkably frank and said he was going to ask Pauline to divorce him – which I don’t think she’ll do. I really feel sorry for the guy and I hope he readjusts himself.

09 June, 2011

09 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
9 June, 1944       0725

Dearest sweetheart –

There is no question about it now – as of the above new APO number, this outfit has broken all records in the number of APO’s in this war or any other war. Don’t try to figure out the reason, dear. Undoubtedly there is one, but so many times now have we been given a new number, with no effect, that we don’t wonder anymore.

Last night I got some mail – one from my father and two from you, dear – postmarked May 26 and May 31. I suspected you hadn’t been hearing from me for some time, and your letters confirmed that. It must be damned difficult, darling, but there’s nothing to do about it except to reassure yourself that I am writing at each and every opportunity. But remember that I’ve tried to imply in a few of my letters that there were bound to be delays – and I know there will be more – so please keep a stiff upper lip, sweetheart.

In one of your letters you had me hanging onto the edge of the chair, tongue hanging out, and just beginning to drool. That was when you mentioned that one fine day when we were together in Salem, I’d have you to come back to each night, home-cooked meals, our own place – etc. You know, darling, that’s hard to take; the strain is too much; just give me a little at a time. I have thought about such a set-up with you as my own, my very own – so often, dear, that I absolutely feel that nothing else but that will materialize. It just has to be – and it will! Will we be happy, will we find life interesting, are we worth it? I can answer the first two questions in the affirmative; the last one – I hope so.

08 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 654 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
8 June, 1944      0735

Wilma darling –

Another day passed and the tension goes on. The news reports are good, however, and everyone is confident.

I didn’t hear from you yesterday, dear, and I don’t suppose I will for a while yet. I do hope that you are hearing from me with more regularity.

Yesterday I spent the whole day supervising the servicing of a jeep. I don’t believe I mentioned this before to you – but by some arrangement or other – I have a jeep of my own now – for how long, I don’t know. But it needed a lot of work done on it – so yesterday I had half of my Medical detachment working on it, and the same goes today. No, sweetheart, I am not having it simonzied! But they are doing about everything else to it, including repainting. Today I hope to get “WILMA” painted on the front if it. You know, dear, I asked your permission to use your name a long time ago – and never got it – but I’m using it anyway.

I’m really anxious to know how you’re making out with the Red Cross, darling. I hope you are continuing to find it interesting and I hope it occupies your time and mind enough to make you forget other things – temporarily. Say – and I am glad we’re engaged! Don’t forget to flash that ring, sweetheart, at any GI or other person that happens to get any ideas!

07 June, 2011

07 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 654 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
7 June, 1944       0740

Dearest sweetheart –

I don’t suppose you’ll get this letter or some of the preceding ones for some time – because apparently the mail has been delayed all along the line. It’s tough, too, I know – for those at home, because it’s usually when you want to know most of all – that they cut down on it.

By the time you get this – Invasion will be old stuff to you, dear. How did you react to it, and were you worried? For us here, it was just another day. How long it will stay that way is now past the stage of conjecture, darling, but only by mail – or the sequence of my letters, that is, will you be able to surmise – if not how or where – at least when.

The general feeling here in England seems to have been one of relief that it finally got started. Everyone – soldiers and civilians alike had been very tense for some time – because the signs all around us were so unmistakable. Now I think everyone is ready and eager to give the Heines Hell.

06 June, 2011

06 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO654 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
6 June, 1944        0725

Dearest darling Wilma –

It seems like ages since I wrote you last – but it was really only the day before yesterday. If you remember, darling, I mentioned on Sunday that there was a possibility that I might go to London Monday on business – but I didn’t think I would go. I was wrong – and the reason I didn’t write to you yesterday, dear, was that I was away all day. I got up with the birds and was well on my way when the sun arose. I wanted an early start because I had several matters to take care of. I was glad I went, after all, because I hadn’t been away from the outfit since March 1st – when I had my leave – and the change was good. London – although I had been led to believe the contrary – was just as busy as ever and just as full of GI’s. Among the things I had to get was a violin for £5 and an accordion for the same price – both for the Special Service officer, and that took up most of my time.

At any rate, darling, I arrived back quite tired – it’s quite a round trip for one day – and after reading a letter from you which I found waiting for me – I went to bed. The letter was written on the 23rd, dear, and you had had you first day with the Red Cross and seemed quite enthused over it. I’m really glad and I hope it remains interesting for you – because it will help the time go by and in a constructive manner, too. The work you’ll have to do should shape up as a very stimulating job, I should think. Frankly I never thought much of the R.C. until I hit England. In the last war, the general consensus of veterans I’ve known said it failed miserably and that the Salvation Army outshone it. I still don’t know what it’s accomplishing in the States – but in the E.T.O. it has become the home and haven of officers and enlisted men alike. The girls are all swell – and really human; they try to make their clubs as American as possible. There’s at least an enlisted men’s club in about every city in England and in the larger ones – an officers’ club too. Aside from snack and donuts and coffee which they all have available – they do go into the social service aspect too, from helping one soldier to find a buddy of his, to straightening out muddled love affairs between the Americans and British. I really feel that you’re in a worthwhile spot now, sweetheart, and I hope you find the work interesting.

Darling – I’d like to write more but there’s lots of details waiting for me at the Disp. You know – with Charlie gone – when I leave, the work accumulates until I get back. I missed you very much, dearest, as I rode along with plenty of time to think and dream yesterday. My only conclusion was that I love you dearly, darling, and I just can’t wait for the day when I get back. For me, sweetheart, that will be D-day.

Love to the folks.

All my love to you, dear
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about Eisenhower's Words to the Men
and a Brief Summary of D-Day


The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne assault parachute landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6:30 AM. Beginning at 0130 hours, over 800 transport planes dropped the parachute elements of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions on the Cotentin Peninsula, just north of Carentan and inland from the beach. Before daylight, the paratroopers of the 101st had seized the western exits of Utah beach to prevent enemy reinforcements from hindering the landing. Click here for great detail about the Airborne Assault of Task Force "U" of VII Corps.

On D-Day, VII Corps sent its Assault Force "U" to Utah Beach
At 6:30 a.m., American troops came ashore at Utah and Omaha beaches. Click here for great detail about the Seaborne Assault of Task Force "U" of VII Corps. At Omaha, the U.S. First Division battled high seas, mist, mines, burning vehicles and German coastal batteries, including an elite infantry division, which spewed heavy fire. Many wounded Americans ultimately drowned in the high tide. British divisions, which landed at Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches, and Canadian troops also met with heavy German fire, but by the end of the day they were able to push inland. Despite the German resistance, Allied casualties overall were relatively light. The United States and Britain each lost about 1,000 men, and Canada 355.

Before the day was over, 155,000 Allied troops would be in Normandy. By nightfall, the initial hold on the peninsula was 4,000 yards wide and up to 10,000 yards deep. However, the United States managed to get only half of the 14,000 vehicles and a quarter of the 14,500 tons of supplies they intended on shore.

According to History.com:
Three factors were decisive in the success of the Allied invasion. First, German counterattacks were firm but sparse, enabling the Allies to create a broad bridgehead, or advanced position, from which they were able to build up enormous troop strength. Second, Allied air cover, which destroyed bridges over the Seine, forced the Germans to suffer long detours, and naval gunfire proved decisive in protecting the invasion troops. Thirdly, division and confusion within the German ranks as to where the invasion would start and how best to defend their position helped the Allies. Hitler, convinced another invasion was coming the next day east of the Seine River, had refused to allow reserves to be pulled from that area.

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, commander of Britain's Twenty-first Army Group (but under the overall command of General Eisenhower, for whom Montgomery, and his ego, proved a perennial thorn in the side), often claimed later that the invasion had come off exactly as planned. That was a boast, as evidenced by the failure to take Caen on the first day, as scheduled. While the operation was a decided success, considering the number of troops put ashore and light casualties, improvisation by courageous and quick-witted commanders also played an enormous role.

The following three outstanding color videos show the convoys heading to France for the invasion, D-Day and its aftermath. They were found on YouTube and refer to the web site: http://www.romanoarchives.tk

1 of 3

2 of 3

3 of 3

05 June, 2011

05 June, 1944

No letter today. Just this:

* TIDBIT *

about The Prelude to Invasion
and The "Blood and Guts" Speech of George S. Patton

The day of the invasion of occupied France had been postponed repeatedly since May, mostly because of bad weather and the enormous tactical obstacles involved. Finally, despite less than ideal weather conditions — or perhaps because of them — General Eisenhower decided on 5 June to set the next day as D-Day, the launch of the largest amphibious operation in history. Ike knew that the Germans would be expecting postponements beyond the sixth, precisely because weather conditions were still poor. In fact, bad weather and an order to conserve fuel grounded much of the German Air Force on 5 June reducing greatly its reconnaissance flights.

Among those Germans confident that an Allied invasion could not be pulled off on the sixth was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who was still debating tactics with Field Marshal Karl Rundstedt. Runstedt was convinced that the Allies would come in at the narrowest point of the Channel, between Calais and Dieppe; Rommel, following Hitler's intuition, believed it would be Normandy. Rommel's greatest fear was that German air inferiority would prevent an adequate defense on the ground; it was his plan to meet the Allies on the coast—before the Allies had a chance to come ashore. Rommel began constructing underwater obstacles and minefields, and set off for Germany to demand from Hitler personally more panzer divisions in the area.

04 June, 2011

04 June, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 654 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
4 June, 1944        0810

Dear Sweetheart –

It’s rather early for a Sunday morning but we have to get up for calisthenics on Sunday too – only one hour later. I have a busy day coming up – but most of the morning is free and I’m going to try my best to play a round of golf with one of the other officers. Something had always turned up to prevent it – and there won’t be much more opportunity. After all, darling, I must be able to say I played golf in England.

There is nothing new at all to report from here – everything just moving along normally except for the mail situation which has deteriorated. I could go to London on business tomorrow – for the day – but I’m letting someone else go in my place. It’s quite a ride and I’ve seen enough of London so far. That’s all for now, sweetheart. Will write more later. Love to everyone at home and

All my love to you, dear
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about The Prelude to the Invasion
and Invasion Stripes

After a long day of discussions with his commanders General Eisenhower finally gave the order on Sunday 4 June 1944 at 21.45 hrs for the invasion to go ahead. He was standing outside his headquarters at Southwick House in Hampshire, it was still pouring with rain, but a break in the weather was expected for Tuesday, 6 June, 1944 and this was now the date set for D-Day. In all, 47 Allied Divisions would be committed to take part in the Battle of Normandy: 26 British, Canadian, Commonwealth and Free European troops, and 21 American Divisions.

Earlier in 1944, by means of a top secret Operation Memorandum Number 23, entitled “DISTINCTIVE MARKING – AIRCRAFT", an order had been issued to all USAAF and RAF aircraft units in anticipation that the German Luftwaffe would respond in great strength during Operation Overlord (D-Day landings). The order was effective 11am, Sunday, June 4th , 1944, and stated that no aircraft were to fly without Allied Expeditionary Air Forces Special Markings, known as Invasion Stripes. This order was the result of a profound fear that allied aircraft would be mistaken for the enemy by the Allied ground troups, Navy and Air Force. Experience during the landings in Sicily learned that distinctive markings greatly reduced the number of so-called “friendly-fire accidents”.

The markings consisted of five alternating 18-inch wide stripes (white/black/white/black/white) around the rear fuselage and around each wing. The stripes on the wings were to be 15 inches wide. On the wing, the outer white stripe was to be 6 inches from the national insignia. On the fuselage, the edge of the rearmost stripe was to be 18 inches from the leading edge of the tailplane, but the stripes should in no case obscure the national marking.

The outer white stripes obliterated most of the individual aircraft letter and the second letter of the squadron code. In some cases they were painted around and in others reinstated. After invasion, the stripes were found to compromise camouflage. Therefore, on July 6th, 1944 The U.S. 8th Air Force started removing upper stripes and many other units followed suit, though no order from SHAEF has been found. On August 1st, 1944 Amendment 3 (to Operational Memorandum 23) ordered all wing stripes removed from August 25th onwards. Fuselage stripes were to remain intact. Many units removed the upper fuselage stripes at this time in a "liberal" interpretation of the order.



In December, the remaining portion of the markings on the underside was to be deleted by the last day of the year.

03 June, 2011

03 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 654 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
3 June, 1944        0715

Dearest darling –

Seems like at least 24 hours since I last wrote I loved you so I’d better tell you again right now, dear; I do love you sweetheart and miss you – and it makes no difference where I am or what I’m doing; I always feel the same.

Yesterday, darling, I had a half day off – which I do very rarely. I decided to go over to the next town – which is roughly 3 times larger than this one – perhaps about the size of Beverly or Framingham, Mass. At any rate, it has a shopping center of a sort and I wandered around. There was nothing to buy though; there never is. Everything is couponed and everything is practical. I went into a book store and bought a couple of small books on England and London – illustrated – just to have as a memento. A good many of the places portrayed – I’ve been to or passed through. I’ll send it to you anyway, dear.

The outside cover of one of the books

The frontispiece and title page of the other book
Well it was now about 1600 – so there was nothing to do but have tea – of course, which I did. I’m quite fond of tea as a matter of fact. Then I went to the theater – or flicks as they insist on calling it here. I saw an English picture – and a good one this time “Fanny by Gaslight” – from the novel by Michael Sandleir. It was well done – a romantic story. When that was over – I ate at the Mermaid Hotel, about the only place in town that serves a decent meal – and darling, for dessert – I had fresh strawberries which were wonderful and totally unexpected. Things we miss most over here are fresh fruits, fresh eggs and milk. I haven’t had a glass of milk since I left the States – but don’t tell my mother or she’d worry herself sick – because she knows how much I used to like it. Anyway I then took the bus home – or back here, rather.

02 June, 2011

02 June, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 654 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
2 June, 1944       0720

Dearest darling –

A nice cool day today and it’s welcome after the past several days’ heat and humidity. I’ve just come up from breakfast and here I am. It just dawned upon me, dear, that you don’t know much about the start of our day; I usually start you off with the dispensary. Actually we get up at 0615 and all go down to the big lawn where we have calisthenics starting at 0630 and lasting for 15 minutes. I then go up and shave – while listening to the news and go down to eat at about 0700. I usually return in 15-20 minutes and I find now that the least interrupted part of my day is from that time until about 0800. The reason I could never write before at that time was because Charlie was living with me then and we used to lie on our beds and gab.

What started me on the subject of calisthenics, Sweetheart, is the fact that something unusual occurred this morning. Three of the fellows in our outfit who have been sweating out their promotions for a long time – had them come thru last nite. This morning, when we were all lined up for exercise – we made a drive for all three and carried them down to the pond and threw them in. It was really something to see. The Colonel – by the way – had been consulted, and he thought it was a fine idea.

Yesterday, darling, I got two letters from you – one V-mail and one regular. The V- mail mentioned for a second time something about the Red Cross – and I’m curious to know how you’re going to like it. Is the position purely voluntary and do you work gratis – or is there pay associated with it after awhile? And what office do you work in – I mean what part of Boston or Brookline? I’m glad you’re starting it, dear, not because I think you should be reproached for hanging around, but because it will occupy your time and make the days go by faster. I jut don’t want you to get tired of waiting, darling.

01 June, 2011

01 June, 1944


438th AAA AW BN

APO 654 % Postmaster, N.Y.
England
1 June, 1944        0740


Dearest sweetheart –

Another month started and I wonder what it will have in store for us? I guess millions of other soldiers must be wondering the same thing. The spirit of expectation is terrific and one can just imagine how the Germans must feel.

I can hardly believe that it is really summer and that so much time has elapsed since we last saw each other. That’s the aggravating thing about time – it keeps moving along, but your mind is reluctant to keep moving with it. Anyway – this particular fine morning it is cloudy out, warm, with occasional light sprinkling. A sort of fresh healthy day – despite the fact that the sun is not out yet.

Last night we had an interesting evening for the first time in a long while. We had a fairly good show – “Phantom Lady” – i.e. it was comparatively new and interesting in its attempt to portray a psychiatric character. As far as it went – it was all right, but the dialogue didn’t quite tell as much as it could have, I thought. Following that (the picture was over at 2100) we had 4 Red Cross women entertain us. They had been present earlier as guests for dinner. One of them was Bessie Love – whom I’m certain you couldn’t remember; I did only by name. She was a star of the silent screen and just barely into the talkie era. She last played in something called the ‘Broadway Melody’. Your mother no doubt remembers her. She looked younger than she probably is and very demure. She was the Mistress of Ceremonies for the group – which sang, played the piano, accordion etc. – a typical Red Cross traveling group. The show didn’t break up until about 2230 and then we continued singing songs around the piano. It was 2330 when I got to bed – but the evening went by quickly.