19 August, 2011

19 August, 1944


438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
19 August, 1944            1400

Dearest sweetheart –

For some reason or other – Saturdays seem to be very busy. For one thing – our weekly report is due on Sat. Yesterday I got one letter from you, also letters from Lawrence, Florence B. and the Salem Hosp. Florence is getting to be quite a correspondent and it’s very sweet of her to keep writing. I’m anxious to get to know her better when I get home. Which reminds me – your last letter sounded a trifle blue, darling – for which I can’t blame you. I wonder how you can sound so cheerful so often. I don’t know what I can write to make you feel a bit better, sweetheart, except to say that I miss you terribly and I too, resent very much having to be separated from you. Darling I love you very much and I hate the time that we’re wasting, but what can we do? We must be thankful that at least we’re winning the war. Just think what it would be like if we weren’t. We’re all optimistic about things over here. The Heinies are really in an awful mess right now.

You must really be desperate, darling, mentioning what you did about the ARC. I laughed, dear, although – don’t get me wrong – I love you for thinking of it. But it would never work out – and as you say, the idea does not appeal to me particularly. Perhaps I’ll change later. My CO, by the way is a reasonable man and takes considerable stock in the R.C. Have to stop now, sweetheart. Hope all is well at home. Love to the folks and

My sincerest love


about Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von Kluge
(30 October 1882 – 19 August 1944)

Günther "Hans" von Kluge

Günther von Kluge was a German military leader, born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht. His nickname among the troops and his fellow officers was "der kluge Hans" (“Clever Hans”). "Hans" was not part of his given name, but a nickname acquired early in his career in admiration of his cleverness, as "klug" is German for "clever". The nickname was a reference to "Clever Hans", a horse which became famous for its apparent ability to do arithmetic.

During World War I, he had been a staff officer and in 1916 had been at the Battle of Verdun. By 1936 he was a lieutenant-general, and in 1937 had taken command of the Sixth Army Group. Von Kluge disliked Hitler's gangster-like Nazi entourage and was appalled at the persecution of the Jews. He was among those many officers of the General Staff who feared Hitler's warmongering would lead Germany to disaster. But like others, von Kluge soon succumbed to Hitler's spell.

Between June and July of 1944, during the invasion of Normandy by Allied forces, Erwin Rommel had commanded Army Group B under Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt. Rommel had been charged with planning German counterattacks intended to drive the Allied forces back to the beaches. On 2 July, von Kluge had replaced Rundstedt, because Rundstedt was advocating negotiation with the Allies. Two weeks later, Rommel had been wounded and von Kluge had taken over as commander of Army Group B as well.

Von Kluge found that German forces moving towards Normandy were constantly being attacked by Allied fighter-bombers. The climax came with U.S. tanks advancing towards Granchiel and Avranches. "The enemy air superiority is terrific and smothers almost every one of our movements," phoned Field Marshal von Kluge to General Warlimont, Hitler's personal representative in the West. "Every movement of the enemy is prepared and protected by its air force. Losses in men and equipment are extraordinary." Von Kluge himself was not immune to personal danger. In July, USAAF Group Commander Colonel Howard F. Nichols and a squadron of his 370th Fighter Group's P-38 Lightnings blasted von Kluge's headquarters, skipping a 500-pound bomb right through the front door. The blast killed several men, though von Kluge was not present at the time.

Later in July, von Kluge had been approached by Henning von Tresckow to join in the plot to overthrow Hitler. He refused, but was kept informed about the conspiracy. After the failed July Plot the Gestapo informed Hitler of their suspicions that von Kluge was now unreliable. As the Normandy front unraveled, von Kluge desperately tried to convince Hitler to withdraw the western armies back to the Rhine and hold the line there, but Hitler refused to yield an inch of territory.

On August 15, as British and American armies cut deep into the forces of Army Group West, von Kluge decided after all to contemplate surrender and left his headquarters all day. At fuehrer headquarters, an American radio transmission was intercepted asking for von Kluge's whereabouts. Hitler immediately suspected von Kluge of attempting to negotiate an armistice and called it the worst day of his life. Dr. Udo Esche, Kluge's son-in-law later told Allied interrogators that von Kluge had contemplated surrender and "went to the front line but was unable to get in touch with the Allied commanders." George Pfann, secretary to General Patton, later revealed that Patton had also vanished the same day and that the American general had tried to make contact with a German emissary who had not appeared at the appointed place. Montgomery's Chief of Intelligence also confirmed that von Kluge was reported missing and that he warned his general that they might receive a message from Kluge at any moment.

When asked by fuehrer headquarters about his being out of touch for an entire day, von Kluge replied he had gone off to meet with General Paul Hausser and General Heinrich Eberbach. He went on to say that his radio car had been destroyed by fighter-bombers, and that he had spent the time hiding in a ditch. A suspicious and livid Hitler rebuffed von Kluge's story and sacked him immediately. He replaced him with a fanatical Nazi - Field Marshal Walter Model. On the 17th of August, Field Marshal Model arrived with a letter relieving von Kluge of his command. The war was over for him.

Von Kluge started his journey back to Germany on the 19th of August. He appeared to suspect an ill fate upon his return and ordered his driver to stop at Metz, where he had fought some of his WWI battles. He spread a blanket on the ground and took his own life with a cyanide capsule. He left the following farewell letter to Hitler:
"When you receive these lines I shall be no more.... I do not know if Field Marshal Model, who has proved himself in all respects, will be capable of mastering the situation. I hope so with all my heart. If that is not to be the case and if the new weapons - especially air weapons, which you are eagerly awaiting, are not to bring you success, then, my Fuehrer, make up your mind to finish the war. The German people have endured such unspeakable sufferings that the time has come to put an end to their terrors. There must be ways to arrive at this conclusion and, above all to prevent the Reich from being condemned to the hell of Bolshevism....I have always admired your greatness and your iron will to maintain yourself and National Socialism. If your destiny overcomes your will and your genius, it will be because Providence has willed it so. You have fought a good and honorable fight.

History will bear witness to this. If it ever becomes necessary, show yourself great enough to put an end to a struggle which has now become hopeless.

I depart from you, my Fuehrer, as one who stood nearer to you than you perhaps realized, in the consciousness that I did my duty to the utmost."

Hitler reportedly handed the letter to Alfred Jodl and commented that “There are strong reasons to suspect that had not von Kluge committed suicide he would have been arrested anyway.” He had von Kluge quietly buried with Military pall bearers, but no Military honors. He was officially pronounced dead from a cerebral hemorrage.

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