07 September, 2011

07 September 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
7 September, 1944       1800
My dearest fiancée –

I’ve just returned from being out all day and I thought I’d write you before ‘dining’ – Yesterday evening I heard from you via two letters – 14th and 17th August. It was good hearing from you, sweetheart – and I do love your letters. In one of your others – you mentioned Stan’s getting married. I wasn’t too surprised – because I know he wanted to very badly; but I hope he’s marrying for love and I hope he’s happy. I’m glad you sent his address because although I haven’t heard from him since April – I guess I ought to drop him a note and wish him luck. I do envy his ability to get married on whatever date he wishes – but I'll tell you this, dear – that is all I envy, because I know that I have the sweetest girl in the world waiting for me, and that I love her and want to marry her because I do, and because she’ll make the kind of wife I’ve always dreamed about – and for a hundred thousand other reasons. Darling – it’s been a long hard struggle waiting this thing out – and despite war etc., it has undoubtedly been more difficult for you than for me. Don’t think I don’t realize and don’t think I’ll ever forget what an angel you’ve been about it. It has really been an inspiration for me, darling, to know that despite the way you may feel at times – your spirit is always excellent when you write to me. I do appreciate it, dearest.

I was glad to read that you might get that R.C. job. Darling – it seems funny my wanting you to have a job – I hate women working and I could never have a wife of mine do any – unless it was social work or philanthropic – but I do know that at present – a job is the best thing in the world for you (next to me) – because it will continue to keep you busy enough to make waiting less tiresome – and I don’t want you to get tired of waiting, dear – even subconsciously.

Out here, sweetheart, I almost feel ashamed to write you how easy things have been our last several moves – but darling – it has been so – and it will be hard to get used to digging in and living in and on the ground. Our colonel makes a specialty now – when he goes on reconnaissance for a new spot – of finding a large home, mansion, chateau or castle. Of course – the military situation at present allows this – because very little of our fire is being returned. The latest spot tops them all. We are living in the Castle of the Prince Alexandre de Mérode of Belgium and it is the grandest place ever. Besides the many servants – there are only the Prince – the Princess – who is French – by the way – and their two children – living in a tremendous place. When we live in a house – we run our own kitchen out in the field of course – except this place. The prince saw us eating outside once and then insisted we eat all our meals in – i.e. all the officers – and his food. Well – I can’t describe it all – but it’s in fact royal. Uniformed butlers and waiters, wines and even menus. I never dreamed it possible. And this is the first place – since England – that we’ve had electricity and running water. I’m going to hate to leave this spot.

Château of Prince de Mérode where we stayed one week.
Belgium - September, 1944
Young Prince Alexandre, age 10, is in the foreground.

Château of Prince de Mérode, Belgium, 1944
Prince Alexandre is in the foreground

Château of Prince de Mérode, Belgium, 1944

Château de Neffe today

The enclosed papers, dear, are from an underground worker I met. To be caught with these before liberation meant certain death to a Belgian. This particular man harbored 3 ‘German” spies in his home – who were actually doing counter espionage for the English; talk about your intrigue. You’ll note that one of the notices is printed in Flemish – also. I have some others I’ll send along. I found them interesting.

Well – sweetheart – that’s all for now. I’ve got to get ready to eat. I hope to get a letter from you tonight. I hope also, dear, that all is well with you and the folks. Send them my love – and for now – so long.

All my deepest love, darling –

P.S. My radio cannot be fixed and I’m writing for one today.

Route of the Question Mark

(A) Beaumont to (B) Saint Gerard (30 miles)
4 to 7 September 1944

September 7... St Gerard. Here the Officers lived in Prince de Merode's palace and ate their meals there also. The men stayed in the woods, well out of sight. We discovered the hospitality of the cafes of St Gerard, and grew to admire the Belgians very much.

The woods around the Château


about Prince Alexandre de Mérode

The Telegraph (UK) published this obituary about the Prince on 27 November 2002:
Prince Alexandre de Mérode, who has died aged 68, held the controversial position of chairman of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission for 35 years. De Mérode was at the center of a number of alleged scandals involving drug-taking at the Olympics, notably at Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988. Yet his own integrity was never doubted by his colleagues, who knew him as a fervent defender of Olympic values and a fierce opponent of drug-taking in sport.

Alexandre de Mérode was born in Brussels on May 24 1934 into a family whose line went back to a 13th century Archbishop of Cologne, and was prominent in the creation of the Belgian state in the 1830s. He studied Classics at Godinne College, Philosophy at St Louis University in Brussels, then Law at Louvain. He was also a competent water-skier, cyclist, windsurfer and parachutist.

Elected to the IOC at the age of 30, de Mérode was the third longest serving of the present 128 members. He was on the IOC's executive board from 1980 to 1998 and was twice vice-president, in 1986-90 and 1994-1998.

Both the medical commission and de Mérode himself were criticized for complacency. But the difficulty was that the IOC's jurisdiction over competitors was confined to the period during which an Olympic Games took place, while responsibility for vigilance over drug abuse at other times lies with individual international sports federations.

De Mérode was also accused of lacking professional medical qualifications - though Lord Killanin, IOC president from 1972 to 1980, believed that this enabled de Mérode to demonstrate a more independent view.

Founded in 1960, the medical commission's early concern was with gender testing; but the issue of drug abuse escalated soon after de Mérode's appointment in 1967. He presided over the introduction of testing for anabolic steroids and other hormone drugs at the Montreal Games in 1976, but the first controversy to cast a shadow over the commission was the failure to find a single positive test at Moscow four years later.

Following the Los Angeles Games of 1984, a number of positive tests had failed to result in official action; the relevant laboratory papers were allegedly shredded after disappearing from de Mérode's hotel. Suspicion inevitably fell on the chairman, but Don Catlin, head of the UCLA laboratory responsible for testing, said that de Mérode "never did anything to hide or obfuscate any test results". Fifteen years later the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency diminished the significance of de Mérode's position. But he sat on its board and served on the Reform Commission appointed to propose changes to the constitution in the aftermath of the voting corruption scandal surrounding Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

De Mérode's concern throughout his time in charge of the medical commission was not only the protection of the Olympic Games from cheating, but also of those competitors who risked their health by taking drugs. His alarm was heightened by the premature deaths of Vladimir Kuts, the Soviet long-distance runner, and Florence Griffith-Joyner, the American sprinter.

Had de Mérode been more ambitious, he might at one time have become a candidate to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch as president of the IOC; but he steered clear of so public a role.

De Mérode died on November 19. He was unmarried.

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