20 August, 2011

20 August, 1944

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

Sweetest girl –

Yes we both have been good at writing – and if I’ve ever complained, darling, it was not at your writing – but at the service. And when you come down to it – there’s been little reason to complain. It does amaze me the way we do manage to get mail at all. Sometimes our mail clerk makes a 50 mile trip to the rear – to get mail – or 100 miles round trip.

Yesterday I got 3 letters – all from you and all so wonderfully pleasant. You do tell me – and in so many ways, sweetheart, that you love me – and I hope that I’m making myself as clear to you. Certainly my life is wrapped up inexorably and inextricably with yours, dear – and that we’ll be happy together – I don’t doubt at all. I’m sure of it.

One of your letters mentioned Stan and then I suddenly remembered the Wilcoff girl. The name had not meant a thing to me and apparently – neither did her face; but when you mentioned Youngstown, steel and millionaires – I remembered it all. I did meet her at Irv’s house – I believe it was a Saturday p.m. after a game at the Stadium. There must have been 20 couples there that p.m. As I remember it I went to the game – stag and later dropped over to see Irv and Verna. As I recall it further – I was told the “qualifying” points of Betty W. and rather urged to pay a little attention. She too had no date and had I cared to stay around – I could have gone out with them that evening. I stayed around about one or one and ½ hours and then said I had to return to Salem. Now – remember, darling, I’ve been in the Army 2 years and I may be all confused about time. As a matter of fact it seems to me this all happened when I was at Edwards in ’42. Anyway – I do remember that I didn’t find her the least bit attractive – millions or otherwise. She made very little impression upon me and that was that.

So that’s the Wave Stan has been taking out? You know, dear, sometime later – I saw Stan and he asked me why I hadn’t taken her out, pointed out her assets etc. I told him what I thought and he laughed and agreed. Well – it just goes to show how much he’s changed. About one thing I have no doubt – and that is that he’s looking for security; he made that clear when he took out what’s-her-name, I can’t seem to think of it now; you know – when the 4 of us went out together. I’m sorry for Stan – and more so for the girl, because if he does follow this up – and very apparently he is – he’s not marrying for love – and what you say about his being a good husband – may not be. I hope I’m wrong. One thing is sure though – if he does marry a rich girl – he’ll have one swell time, because Stan does know how to live. Anyway, I’ll be interested in how he makes out.

I was sorry to hear about your spending a hot Sunday at home when you might have been at the beach with the folks. I agree with you 100% about disliking crowds, crying babies and lunch boxes – but it would have been cooler. I’m sure Mother A wants you and why she didn’t invite you – I don’t know – except that in fact she thought you’d come over anyway. Well, I hope before the summer is over, you get over a few times. Boy – I hate the hot weather also – although I can manage to keep going. But I am thankful that we’ve had no hot weather. It’s been mild and luke warm and very livable.

I was glad to read about Mary’s new teeth and the fact that she liked them so well. Lawrence had written me about it – and the truth is – he said he wasn’t too satisfied with them. Apparently there had been some difficulty because of occlusion – or some such thing. As long as she likes them – that’s all that matters, I guess.

Well – darling – I’ll have to close now – I’m going to a town about 30 miles off to try and buy some combat shoes. I have one pair, but this is a new style and will do away with my need for leggings. The country here is really pretty and I enjoy driving through it. Incidentally I still have that German car. We have large Red Crosses and U.S.A.’s painted over it and it comes in handy when we’re pinched for space.

Until tomorrow then, Sweetheart, so long. Remember, dear, that I love you more than anyone in the world and dream only of you and me as married happily together and doing the things we want to do in life – also together.

Love to the family and
All my love, darling


about Mont Ormel Ridge (Hill 262) - Part 1

Hill 262N and 262S in the dark brown areas
with Mont-Ormel in the center

From Wikipedia comes this information:

Northeast of Chambois overlooking the Dives River valley, an elongated, wooded ridge runs roughly North to South above the village of Coudehard. The ridge's two highest peaks — Points 262 North (262N) and 262 South (262S) — lie on either side of a pass within which the hamlet of Mont-Ormel, from which the ridge takes its name, is situated.

View of Mont-Ormel from "Hill 262" today

Of the approximately 20 German infantry and armored divisions trapped in the Falaise pocket, around 12 were still operating with a degree of combat-effectiveness on 19 August 1944. As these formations retreated eastwards they fought desperately to keep the jaws of the encirclement — formed by the Canadians in Trun and St. Lambert, and the Poles and Americans in Chambois — from closing. German movement out of the pocket throughout the night of 19 August cut off the Polish battlegroups on the north side of the Mont Ormel ridge. Lacking sufficient means to either seal the pocket or fight their way clear, the Poles decided that the only chance of survival for their force was to hold fast until relieved. Although the Polish soldiers on Point 262N could hear movement from the valley below, without possession of Point 262S they were unable to interfere with the large numbers of German troops slipping past the southern slopes of the ridge.

As it grew light on 20 August, Lieutenant-Colonel Zdzisław Szydłowski, commanding the 9th Infantry Battalion, prepared to fulfill his orders of the previous day for an attack across the road towards Point 262S. However, hampered by the wreckage littering the pass, the attack soon bogged down in the face of fierce German resistance.

Wreckage of a German convoy

Field Marshal Walther Model, who upon succeeding von Kluge two days earlier had authorized a general withdrawal, ordered elements of two SS Panzer Divisions — located outside the pocket — to attack Hill 262. After an hour and a half, they were beaten back by the Polish forces. Meanwhile, from within the pocket, German formations seeking an escape route were filtering through gaps in the Allied lines between Trun and Chambois, heading towards the ridge from the west. The Poles could see the road from Chambois choked with troops and vehicles attempting to pass along the Dives valley and subjected them to an hour-long bombardment, breaking them up and scattering their infantry.

Around midday the Germans opened up an artillery and mortar barrage that caused casualties among the ridge's defenders and would last for the entire afternoon. By mid afternoon about 10,000 German troops had escaped the pocket through a corridor past Point 262N cleared by units of several Panzer divisions. Although another early afternoon German assault on the ridge was eventually repulsed, with a large number of prisoners being taken and artillery again causing significant casualties, the Poles were being gradually pushed back. However, they managed to retain their grip on Point 262N and, with well-coordinated artillery fire, continued to exact a toll on German units traversing the corridor.

Exasperated by the casualties to his men, German Seventh Army commander Oberstgruppenführer (General) Paul Hausser ordered the Polish positions to be "eliminated". By 1700 the attack was at its height and the Poles were contending with German tanks and infantry inside their perimeter. The integrity of the position was not restored until 1900, by which time the Poles had expended almost all their ammunition leaving themselves in a precarious situation. A 20-minute ceasefire was arranged to allow the Germans to evacuate a large medical convoy, after which fighting resumed with redoubled intensity.

Earlier in the day Canadian Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds had ordered his troops to "make every effort" to reach the Poles isolated on Hill 262, but at "sacrificial" cost the remnants of the German 9th SS Panzer and 3rd Parachute Divisions had succeeded in preventing the Canadians from intervening. Dangerously low on supplies and unable to evacuate their prisoners or the wounded of both sides — many of whom received further injuries from the unremitting hail of mortar bombs — the Poles had hoped to see the Canadian 4th Armored Division coming to their rescue by evening. However, as night fell it became clear that no Allied relief force would reach the ridge that day. Lacking the means to interfere, the exhausted Poles were forced to watch as the remnants of the Panzer Corps left the pocket. Fighting died down and was sporadic throughout the hours of darkness; after the brutality of the day's combat both sides avoided contact although frequent Polish artillery strikes continued to harass German forces retreating from the sector.

Lieutenant-Colonel Aleksander Stefanowicz of Poland's 1st Armored Regiment, himself wounded during the day's fighting, struck a fatalistic note as he addressed his men on the evening of 20 August:

Gentlemen. Everything is lost. I do not believe [the] Canadians will manage to help us. We have only 110 men left, with 50 rounds per gun and 5 rounds per tank... Fight to the end! To surrender to the SS is senseless, you know it well. Gentlemen! Good luck – tonight, we will die for Poland and civilization. We will fight to the last platoon, to the last tank, then to the last man.

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