29 August, 2011

29 August, 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
29 August, 1944     1000

Dearest sweetheart –

It’s raining like fury outside right now – but I’m nice and dry, seated in a large arm chair facing a large window with thrown-open shutters. One thing about the Colonel – he likes to look for comfortable spots for his C.P. Sometimes there are such comfortable places around – but for reasons of safety, etc. – we don’t use them. We’ve been here for two days now and it sure is a grand place. The owner is an old man, dapper and cosmopolitan. He speaks English fairly well. That is true of many many Frenchmen in this part of France, by the way; the lady of the house is ill and spends most of her time in bed. Also living here are a son and daughter-in-law with their 3 children – ages 3, 8, 12. There are 3 cooks and I don’t know how many caretakers. It’s a large estate and only a wealthy man could own it. These people are wealthy. The son is president of a tremendous factory darling with automotive parts – etc. I say tremendous – dear, because I saw the factory yesterday. About 8 of the officers are living in the house and it’s quite comfortable. It is beautifully and richly furnished and I think you’d love it, darling.

Yesterday – I was invited to ‘dejuener’ today. Dejeuner is lunch or dinner here – although for the poorer class, dejuener is breakfast. The master of the house asked me to see his wife yesterday. She has hypertension and they’re having a doctor in today to see her. I’m to meet the doctor and then we’ll all have lunch together. You must think darling that it’s some war I’m fighting. It certainly is – but everything is a paradox and the contrast between where you are and how you live one day or part of one day – and how you lie crouched in a foxhole – the next – is understood only when you study the military situation. It certainly is fluid. At any rate – when you have a chance to be comfortable for even a day or two – we snatch at it. But what makes me wonder – is the fact that it all seems so natural to be under a roof. I’m glad though because I’m sure it will be the most natural thing in the world going back to a normal life. The grounds here – are beautiful. There are large flower gardens – and at one end of the estate is a swell tennis court. There are no tennis balls available, however.

“The ‘first’ time I saw Paris” – sweetheart, I was honestly thrilled. Somehow the thought of all that great city had gone through in the past and the fact that here I was riding through its streets – was something hard to describe. Certainly I was more thrilled than when I first entered London – but then, the comparison is not fair, because the situations were different. There weren’t many soldiers in the part of the city that I was in. My driver, the dentist and I took a ride to see if we could get into the city – past the MP’s etc. To our surprise – there was nobody around to stop us. We just drove in – like conquering heroes – and we were mobbed. Every time the jeep stopped – throngs gathered. If we stopped to try to take a snapshot – Frenchmen took pictures of us. We passed one of the many sidewalk cafés which we see so often in the movies. I thought it would be fun to dash out of the jeep – sit at one of the tables – while our driver took a picture of us. Well – sweetheart – as soon as we sat down – a crowd at another table called the waiter and ordered a bottle of white wine. I didn’t have any opportunity to say ‘no’. The driver – from the curbstone was trying to take our picture – but the crowd was now so big – he had to stand up in the jeep and look down at us. When the man who ordered the wine saw that we were going to have our pictures taken – he and his crowd (there were 3 or 4 couples) – got up and sat at our table. Everybody was laughing, yelling, singing, – the waiter poured wine – and I hope my driver got the shot – because it ought to be a good one. By this time – without exaggeration – there must have been 250-300 people around us – and I was getting worried – because if an MP happened to come by – we would have had a lot of explaining to do. But none came. We pushed thru the crowd – shaking hands, getting patted on the shoulders; waved at, sung at and finally drove off to a chorus of cheers. If I ever was impressed by a people’s emotionalism, sincerity and warmth, it was there, darling – and I mean it when I say I was thrilled. We didn’t see much of Paris – a couple of department stores from the outside, – Place de la Bastille, Place de la Republique – and throngs and throngs of people – happy people, walking the streets. We saw no evidence of damage – and heard and saw no snipers. We scooted out of the city and headed back here. I’ll never forget yesterday morning.

Pictures taken 28 August, 1944
[Remember to click to enlarge.]

"Paris - August 1944 - Place de la Bastille
Man in foreground took our picture in Jeep."

"Paris - August 1944 - Place de la Republique"
(Greg, identified by his armband, is by the rear leg of the Lion.)

"Sidewalk cafe - Paris - August 1944
All these people had been at other tables and surrounded us
when we sat down just to have our picture taken by our driver.
Woman's arm around me - put there at last moment
and removed immediately - so help me!"

"Paris - August 1944
The Seine from one of the bridges with
Cathedral Notre Dame in the distance."

Well – I’ve rambled on – darling – but I thought you’d like to hear about my experience. I’d like to come back to Paris – and with you. It looks like the sort of place people like to live. Perhaps one day we may be able to make it, sweetheart. I sure would love to have you with me to see some of the things I’m seeing. I would enjoy it so much more. I go no place – but what I imagine you with me – enjoying things together – but we will some day, dear, whether it’s here – or in our own place in Salem. It won’t make much difference – as long as I’m married to you and we are companions. I’ll have to stop now, darling, and when I finish this – I think I’ll spend a little time dreaming. Love to the folks – and
My everlasting love and affection

The Route of the Question Mark

(A) Perthes to (B) Gretz (23 miles)
27 to 29 August 1944

August 29... Gretz. Here we visited the Rothschild Chateau, found it as large as a hotel, and looked for Jerry soldiers in the neighboring woods. We had a showing of THE SONG OF BERNARDETTE in the theater in town, and the entire civilian population tried to get in.


about The American Parade in Paris

On 29 August 1944, the day after Greg visited Paris, a second parade was held - this one for the Americans. Here is a video of what led up to the Liberation of Paris, produced as a newsreel in 1944. At the beginning and end, the second parade is shown:

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