24 August, 2011

24 August, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
24 August, 1944         1330

Dearest sweetheart –

First of all – note my new APO number of 230. You may or may not remember that one time in England I wrote you that that would be our new number and a few days later it was changed. Well – it is now official and apparently permanent – so start using it, dear. It has no significance whatsoever and our situation is unchanged.

This morning I decided to go out to one of the line batteries and stay for a few days. I’ll then return to battalion and stay awhile and then visit another battery – etc. It will give me a chance to see how things are going and be a change from the hum-drum of headquarters. Right now I’m at A Battery – which is in fact only about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from battalion. I had lunch here and have already seen a couple of sections. I was all ready to relax for the afternoon but just received a call from the battalion that a civilian came in looking for an M.D. From what I could gather by phone – a woman must be having a miscarriage or an abortion. By the way, dear – you do know the difference, don’t you? If not – medically speaking, an abortion is loss of pregnancy in the 1st 3 mos., miscarriage – in the middle 3 mos., and premature labor – in the last 3 months. Anyway – as soon as I finish writing this – I’ll go back to battalion and see how I can help, but I’ll return here again afterwards.

This postcard was enclosed in a letter.
Perhaps Greg passed through Mortagne-sur-Orne
(now called Mortagne-au-Perche) on his way to A Battery.
Postcard of Mortagne-sur-Orne, Notre Dame Church

Notre Dame Church today.
This photo belongs to Dominique Pipet's Flickr Photostream

Postcard of La Chapelle-Montligeon
...and the same today

Yesterday, darling, you remember I told you my radio needed some repairing. It seemed that the battery was dead – and it was. I had brought along an extra one from England – but we didn’t have to use it. The boys had found a German truck with some batteries in it and I now have nine batteries (German) just the right voltage for my set. I do hope, sweetheart, that I return home long before I can use more than one or two of them.

The news has certainly been staggering of late and I’ll bet it must be a pleasure listening to the radio or reading the papers these days. Close as we are to things – we still get the same kick out of it too and every day seems full of more surprises. The news of Paris’s liberation was an amazing tonic for the French people – and although I personally wasn’t a witness to it – the people around here really went wild. They dug up (literally) bottles of fine champagne and wines and many a Frenchman was pretty high last night. And the collapse of Romania certainly is a good omen – for us. If it can only all end up in an early cessation of the damn thing and a speedy return home, darling, it will be wonderful. For certain it is that the agony of waiting is just that – agony. There doesn’t seem to be an earthly reason why I should be away from you, delaying our start in life – and yet here I am sitting here killing time. When I get to thinking of it for any length of time – it becomes almost maddening – and then I push it from my mind for awhile and try to forget. I have a feeling though that from here in – it will be quicker than we dared hope – and I certainly hope I’m not wrong in that feeling. I’ll close now, Sweetheart – I love you and want you more each day! Will write tomorrow; Until then – love to the folks and

All my deepest love


about The Collapse of Romania

News certainly traveled quickly on the front. Greg mentioned the collapse of Romania the day after it occured. From Wikipedia comes this information:

On 13 April 1939, France and the United Kingdom had pledged to guarantee the independence of the Kingdom of Romania. Negotiations with the Soviet Union concerning a similar guarantee collapsed when Romania refused to allow the Red Army to cross its frontiers. In September 1940, the pro-German anti-Bolshevik régime of Prime Minister Marshal Ion Antonescu staged a coup d'état against King Carol II, whom the Marshal claimed to be "anti-German". Antonescu suspended the Constitution, dissolved the Parliament, and re-installed the 18-year-old Michael as King by popular acclaim. On 22 June 1941, Germany launched "Operation Barbarossa", attacking the Soviet Union on a wide front. Romania joined in the offensive and fought side by side with the Germans onward to Odessa, Sevastopol, Stalingrad and the Caucasus. The Romanian contribution of troops was enormous. The total number of troops involved in the Romanian Third Army and the Romanian Fourth Army was second only to Nazi Germany itself. The Romanian Army had a total of 686,258 men under arms in the summer of 1941 and a total of 1,224,691 men in the summer of 1944.

By 1944, the Romanian economy was in tatters because of the expenses of the war, and destructive Allied air bombing throughout Romania, including the capital, Bucharest. In addition, most of the products sent to Germany were provided without monetary compensation. As a result of these "uncompensated exports", inflation in Romania skyrocketed, causing widespread discontent among the Romanian population, even among groups and individuals who had once enthusiastically supported the Germans and the war. On 23 August 1944, just as the Red Army was penetrating the Moldavian front, King Michael led a successful coup with support from opposition politicians and the army. King Michael, who was initially considered to be not much more than a figurehead, was able to successfully depose the Antonescu dictatorship.

King Michael
A great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria
by both of his parents,
and a third cousin of Queen Elizabeth II

The King then offered a non-confrontational retreat to German ambassador Manfred von Killinger. But the Germans considered the coup "reversible" and attempted to turn the situation around by military force. The Romanian First, Second (forming), and what little was left of the Third and the Fourth Armies (one corps) were under orders from the King to defend Romania against any German attacks. King Michael offered to put the Romanian Army, which at that point had a strength of nearly 1,000,000 men, on the side of the Allies.

This resulted in a split of the country between those that still supported Germany and its armies and those that supported the new government, the latter often forming partisan groups and gradually gaining the most support. To the Germans the situation was very precarious as Romanian units had been integrated in the Axis defensive lines: not knowing which units were still loyal to the Axis cause and which ones joined the Soviets or discontinued fighting altogether, defensive lines could suddenly collapse.

In a radio broadcast to the Romanian nation and army on the night of 23 August, King Michael issued a cease-fire, proclaimed Romania's loyalty to the Allies, announced the acceptance of an armistice (to be signed on September 12) offered by Great Britain, the United States, and the USSR, and declared war on Germany. The coup accelerated the Red Army's advance into Romania, but did not avert a rapid Soviet occupation and capture of about 130,000 Romanian soldiers, who were transported to the Soviet Union where many perished in prison camps. The armistice was signed three weeks later on 12 September 1944, on terms virtually dictated by the Soviet Union. Under the terms of the armistice, Romania announced its unconditional surrender to the USSR and was placed under occupation of the Allied forces with the Soviet Union as their representative, in control of media, communication, post, and civil administration behind the front. It has been suggested that the coup may have shortened World War II by up to six months, thus saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

As the country declared war on Germany on the night of 23 August, border clashes between Hungarian and Romanian troops erupted almost immediately. On 24 August German troops attempted to seize Bucharest and suppress King Michael's coup, but were repelled by the city's defenses, which enjoyed some support from the United States Air Force. Ambassador von Killinger, a Navy officer who had been representing the Third Reich in Romania since 1941, chose suicide over being handed to the Soviets.

Other Wehrmacht units in the country suffered severe losses: remnants of the Sixth Army retreating west of the Prut River were cut off and destroyed by the Red Army, which was now advancing at an even greater speed, while Romanian units attacked German garrisons at the Ploieşti oilfields, forcing them to retreat to Hungary. The Romanian Army captured over 50,000 German prisoners around this time, who were later surrendered to the Soviets. The Romanian Army ended the war fighting against the Wehrmacht alongside the Red Army in Transylvania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Austria and Czechoslovakia, from August 1944 until the end of the war in Europe. In May 1945, the First and Fourth armies took part in the Prague Offensive. The Romanian Army incurred heavy casualties fighting Nazi Germany. Of some 538,000 Romanian soldiers who fought against the Axis in 1944-45, some 167,000 were killed, wounded or went missing.

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