11 August, 2011

11 August, 1944


438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
11 August, 1944          0900

My dearest fiancée –

Here I am writing you a little bit earlier than usual. One thing about actually living under war conditions is the comparative freedom of our private lives. By that I mean – we’re under no training schedule as we were in the States and in England. When I stop to realize that while in England we used to be doing calisthenics at 0630 and the boys were making long marches daily – I’m glad to be over here – where 0900 seems early. We don’t have the inspectors or the inspections we formerly had to endure – either. And another thing, dear, we don’t have to worry whether our blouse and pinks are cleansed and pressed. I’ve had mine out of my val-a-pak once since leaving England – that was to air it in the sun one day – after a long rainy spell. It was a mess – as are all our clothes – but there’s nothing you can do about it.

Yesterday, Sweetheart, I got your V-mail of July 27th. In this direction there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the time to reach here – between V-mail and airmail. I’m still surprised to find that airmail reaches you earlier. They keep telling us to use V-mail because it’s quicker – but I don’t like it. I don’t mind getting them from you, though, dear. They are quicker and easier to dash off and as long as it’s a letter from you – I enjoy it. So don’t hesitate using V-mail as often as you like, darling.


I sure would like to see that shiny new red raincoat of yours. Is it one of those transparent types? You should see the one I have, dear, it’s an oilskin and about a size 46 or 50. I got it that way on purpose. I can wear it over my trench coat and it reaches down over my overshoes. So that when it really rains – I can keep pretty well covered. Incidentally – I can now tell you that I had plenty of opportunity to use it here in France.

What made you think of my clarinet – darling? I did bring it with me and on one occasion since being here I played it – while sitting in the back of the truck. It had been raining for about 7-8 days. There wasn’t a dry spot around anywhere. We practically lived in the truck and everyone was getting bluer and bluer. I dug it out and tried a few songs. It was a sad attempt. But the strangeness of a squeaking clarinet in a spot not far from a battlefield – made everyone laugh and we had a good time for awhile. I haven’t had the opportunity or inclination, for that matter, to play it since.

The German prisoners that worked at the hospital were quiet, well-behaved and good workers. They were guarded only at nite – sleeping together in one large tent. During the day – they came and went freely. In all the time they had prisoners – not one tried to escape. You see, dear, they were all first-aid men in the German army. They made bandages, cleaned instruments, helped carry litters – etc. They would keep a batch about 10 days and then ship them off to England. They hated to leave the hospital – by the way. Several of them told me they didn’t know what treatment to expect from the English or the Americans, and a good many were under the impression they would be emasculated. That was the reason, they said, so many of them fought so stubbornly. That’s the sort of rotten propaganda we have to fight, dear, and that’s why – among other reasons, of course, the Germans won’t give up but will have to be whipped.

And one more thing, sweetheart, I want to clarify. The day I went to the beach – was not a day of relaxation. I went back to the beach head where we had landed just to see what it was like. It was still bristling with guns, etc. that we had seen on our arrival. It was a beautiful day – the day I returned there, dear, and I would have loved to have gone for a swim – but there’s not much of that going on over here yet.

I got a letter from Lawrence yesterday telling me about his dilemma i.e. the Army not wanting dentists etc. Poor kind – he’s always running into problems. I hope this one straightens out soon.

Last nite I dreamed of you, darling. I was getting ready to buy you a wedding ring and I was darned if I knew what type you liked. As most dreams are – this one was hazy – and I never found out. I don’t believe we ever discussed it, dear. What type do you like? Incidentally – the part you played in the dream was very very nice. Wish I could dream more often. We sure did love each other – but then we do!! More and more I do, sweetheart – and it pleases me so to realize you feel the same way. Gangway for the explosion!!

Love to the folks, darling,
All my everlasting love –
Greg


The Route of the Question Mark

(B) La Chapelle-Cecelin to (A) Milly, France (22 mi)
5 August to 11 August 1944
(Note: Stretch from Avranches to Mortain was Germany's Goal
in Operation Lüttich begun on 9 August 1944)


From Page 26 from The Route of the Question Mark:

August 11... Milly. Here the Nazis dropped orange chandelier flares on our field all night. Pvt HAYES acquired a pet duck that followed the Col's chicken around continually. We took sunbaths and rummaged through the rooms of a nearby chateau, and T/4 LANG and T/5 CONWAY rode a horse that had been abandoned there.

* TIDBIT *

about Montgomery's Message
and The Plan to Close the Falaise Gap


From the U.S. Army Center of Military History's "Command Decisions", Chapter 17 by Martin Blumenson, comes this slightly modified excerpt:

Allied commanders first discussed the idea of ensnaring the Germans on 8 August, the day after the German attack, when Bradley, in the presence of General Eisenhower (who was visiting Bradley's headquarters), telephoned General Montgomery and secured approval for a change in plan. His proposal was based on the fact that while the Allied armies in Normandy had fought hard during the first week in August against bitter opposition conducted from good defensive positions, American General Haislip's XV Corps had rounded the left flank of those defensive positions and was attacking through lightly defended territory. The XV Corps was well on its way to Le Mans. By capturing Le Mans, the XV Corps would have moved an enveloping Allied arm around the German left flank to a point 85 air miles southeast of Avranches. By turning the XV Corps north from Le Mans toward Alencon, the Americans would threaten German forces from the south. This action seemed doubly attractive because the First Canadian Army on that day, 8 August, had launched its attack south from positions near Caen toward Falaise, thereby threatening the Germans from the north.

The formation of the Falaise Pocket, from 8-17 August 1944.
It suddenly became apparent to the Allied commanders that the Germans in Normandy, by attacking westward toward Avranches, had pushed their heads into a noose. The bulk of their forces-two field armies amounting to more than l00,000 men-were west of a north-south line through Caen, Falaise, Argentan, Alencon, and le Mans. If the Canadians attacking from the north took Falaise and if the XV Corps attacking from the south took Alencon, thirty-five miles would separate the two Allied flanks and the Germans would be virtually surrounded. Allied possession of Falaise and Alencon, besides threatening the Germans with complete encirclement, would deprive them of two of the three main east-west roads they still controlled. If the Canadians attacking from the north and the XV Corps attacking from the south pressed on beyond Falaise and Alencon, respectively, and met at Argentan, or as General Montgomery put it, "If we can close the gap completely, ... we shall have put the enemy in the most awkward predicament." He projected a meeting of Canadian and American forces just south of Argentan, forming an encirclement of the Germans. The British Second Army and the First U.S. Army, pressing from the west, were to herd the Germans into the Canadian-American line and assist in the total destruction of the surrounded enemy forces.

On 9 August the Canadian attack bogged down in the Caen-Falaise corridor eight miles north of Falaise. But on the same day the XV Corps took Le Mans, and on the 10th it jumped off to the north. General Montgomery made a new analysis of the situation on 11 August and attempted to anticipate the probable consequences of the implicit juncture of Canadian and American troops. As the gap between Canadians and Americans narrowed, he estimated, the Germans could bring up additional divisions from the east, or, more probably, could move their armored and mobile forces eastward out of the pocket toward ammunition and gasoline supplies. If the Germans chose the latter course of action, they would probably operate in the Argentan-Alencon area "to have the benefit of the difficult 'bocage' country" there. Their purpose would be to hold off the Americans while they used the more advantageous terrain in that region to cover their withdrawal. Expecting, then, the Germans to mass stronger forces in defense of Alencon than of Falaise, Montgomery concluded that it would be easier for the Canadians to make rapid progress. The Canadians could probably reach Argentan from the north before the XV Corps could attain Argentan from the south. General Montgomery therefore ordered the Canadians to continue their efforts to capture Falaise and proceed from there to Argentan. Meanwhile, the XV Corps was to advance through Alencon to the army group boundary just south of Argentan.

Meanwhile, although the Germans had started on 11 August to withdraw to their salient at Mortain, Hitler was still insisting that another attack toward Avranches was necessary. In order to maintain the conditions that would make it possible, he ordered an attack against the deep left flank of the XV Corps.

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