06 September, 2011

06 September 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Belgium
6 September, 1944       0930
My dearest darling –

I can’t remember when I last wrote you anything like a coordinated letter – although it was perhaps only 2 or 3 days ago. I hate to be repetitious and enthusiastic – but darling – one can’t have entered Belgium – as we did – among the first troops – and not be filled with a spirit never felt before. I can’t possibly write you what my reactions were – let alone try to describe those of the Belgians. They either felt the Nazis more bitterly or are more reactionary; Certainly they have taken up arms more quickly and are hunting down escaping Germans with more vigor than the French.

My driver and I had the fortune to enter a little village that had no troops of ours go thru. Ours was the first jeep they had seen. Crowds swarmed in front of us and asked if we were English, Canadian or American. When we told them we were the latter – the whole town cheered and the mayor or somebody broke thru the crowd, grabbed my hand and shouted “Goodbye!” Then everybody shouted “Goodbye” and started pumping our hands. By this time we were literally pulled out of the car and dragged into a large house. Out came the Burgundy and we drank. At this stage the babies are lifted up by their mothers and you get kissed on both cheeks (wish you were there, darling – you’d get kissed back) – then a line forms and you could stay there for hours – if you wished. In this case – we broke away and started to leave. As we came outside – the crowd cheered. When we got back to the jeep – this is the truth, darling – you could hardly see it for the flowers in and outside it. It was covered with them and the whole back of it – filled. Women and men, too, stood there laughing and crying and honestly, dear, I almost felt like crying myself. All the wasted time, our separation and longing for one another, my inability to do much medical work – all in that moment seemed worthwhile having gone thru – to be able to be part of an Army liberating an oppressed people. Like everyone else – I hardly know what I’m fighting for – but I know this – it is worth fighting for a cause that primarily, at least, frees people and makes them the equal of others. I’ll never forget that experience.


"Crowd in small Belgian village
Belgium - September 1944"

"Crowd in Belgian village preventing our passing
Near Beaumont, Belgium - September 1944"

"Crowd in Belgian village stopping our progress. Picture taken from front of jeep
after it had come to a stop. Routine was for the crowd to swarm in front of us,
stop us and then surround and shower us with flowers and kisses.
September 1944"

"Crowd in small Belgian village closing in on our
jeep after we made our way thru.
September 1944"

"Crowd in Belgian village - swarming all over our jeep.
Driver got out to take picture. Jeep completely hidden by mob. Other
officer is Capt. [Lawrence G.] Davey of B Battery whom I was visiting.
September 1944"
[Greg is in the middle at the top of the crowd, with helmet on.]

This whole Labor Day week-end was like that in at least a dozen towns. In one place – when they saw the Red Cross – I was told about a Baron’s Castle that was serving as a hospital. There were 3 wounded prisoners there and I was asked to look at them since they had no medicine. It was a tremendous place and had been turned into a German hospital. The Baroness – if that’s what you call her – was there to greet us. I was amazed at how kind they were to the Germans. I gave them some Morphine, supplies etc. and did what I could for the 3 of them. Then we had to stay for supper – and that included everything – the Baroness was very interesting; her husband and son were prisoners in Germany; she spoke a little German and quite a bit of English. She told me that Hitler had visited this very same Chateau in 1940.

People stop us and ask us how to make an American flag; all sorts fly from windows – hand made and usually wrong.

"Belgium - September 1944
Home-made American flag with 24 stars and 9 stripes.
This one is better than most."

By the way – the enclosed one is one I managed to get hold of and is the only one like it I’ve seen. It’s a relic of the last war – and I’ll bet there’s few in existence. Although it does have 48 stars – you can see that the flags were being made wrong even in the last war.

"Flag picturing former President Woodrow Wilson"

Well I’ve rambled and rambled, sweetheart, but please excuse it. I just want to give a bit of a personal picture. No doubt all the A.P., U.P. and special dispatches carry more in detail. I just wanted you to know – that in this case – I was experiencing most of what they were writing about. You may wonder why it’s necessary to have to go thru the ritual in every town; sometimes we’re in a hurry and would like to pass thru. It is impossible. They take off their coats – spread them out at knee’s length and form a line across the road. They don’t give ground and you have to stop – then it all starts.

Have I been swept away by it all? Not entirely, dear – for thru it all – my spirit has been lifted by the thought of how swiftly we’re traveling and how soon the war might end from here in. Prisoners are coming in so fast, it’s almost impossible to take care of them. The whole picture is one to make the heart gladden at the thought of an early victory and return home to those we love – you being the principal figure – sweetheart. Maybe it will be earlier than we hoped for and sweetheart – I’ll love you so hard – you’ll never know it was possible. I’ll stop now – because, dear, we’re on the move again. Love to the folks and
My everlasting love
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about VII Corps
and the Continued Liberation of Belgium

The VII Corps web site continues the saga:
During the next three days the carnage continued. Our road blocks and hastily constructed field fortifications stopped the enemy movement to the east, and in the fighting the disorganized enemy suffered heavy casualties, both in killed and wounded. Our artillery and airplanes pounded the long columns on the narrow roads, and the German retreat became a smoking ruin. Elements of 20 enemy divisions were captured or slaughtered as they moved straight into the fires of our troops. Meanwhile, the remainder of the Corps had moved east, occupying Namur and establishing crossings of the Meuse River there. Resistance east of the Meuse and south of Liege stiffened slightly, but our drive never slackened.

By the time the last remnant of the enemy force was mopped up at Mons, supplies had once more accumulated enough to support the continuation of our armored drive, and the 3d Armored tanks, closely followed by the 1st Division's infantry, moved quickly to Charleroi, then on to Liege, Verviers, and Eupen. The enemy had planned to set up a defensive line in the Verviers-Eupen area to keep the Americans off the "sacred soil" of Germany but our rapid advance completely disjointed all such ideas. We were there before he could do much of anything about it. His minefields and stubbornly defended roadblocks slowed our advance momentarily, but no definite line or organization of the defense was encountered. His lack of first-line troops in the sector was apparent, since he was using home guard security, antiaircraft, radar, engineer, signal, military police, and training units in the vain attempt to stop the advance of American fighting men and equipment.

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