08 September, 2011

08 September 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Belgium
8 September, 1944       0930
Wilma darling –

At last a chance to write you early in the a.m. before I start chasing around. I don’t have a heck of a lot to do – but somehow the days whiz by. Last night I got a V- mail from you – dated 22nd Aug, and this morning – apparently part of the same mail – letters of the 24th and 25th. All were most welcome.

You were pretty nearly correct in your surmise about where I was when Paris was liberated and darling – from what I saw of it, there was really very little damage. It’s a beautiful city – but people here tell us that Brussels is just as pretty – on a smaller scale.

I really enjoy hearing about your work, dear – particularly – I like your enthusiasm. Nothing makes a job more interesting than a comprehension of what that job is – and I guess you know. Still – I wish you had had that vacation. You implied you might take a week off near the end of August – but I see no signs of it yet.


Your interpretation of news events, sweetheart, is really inspiring – but I believe you’re probably going to be correct. From what we see here – I can’t understand how they’re continuing. Some prisoners I’ve interviewed are all confused, they lose contact with their outfits easily and are left to shift for themselves. I’m more or less official interviewer for the battalion when we take prisoners – because I’m the only one who speaks a bit of the language. The Germans – even small groups of them – would rather fight it out and get killed – than to give themselves up to the F.I. (forces of the interior) in Belgium – or as it is called here – “l’armée blanche”. They give themselves up without too much struggle to the Americans – and prefer surrendering to us – rather than to the British – if they have a chance.

Last night – we had dinner – 12 of us – with the Prince, Princess, the little Prince and the governess. It was wonderfully done – the whole affair – and believe me, darling, war or no war – these people really have a design for living. The Prince is only about 35 years old and very charming – as is his wife. They’re very cosmopolitan – but somehow – have never come to America. The Princess and I exchanged addresses – you never can tell, she may look us up because they’re planning a trip to the U.S. – after the war. For my part – I told her I was getting married as soon as I returned (yes, dear – she was surprised I wasn’t already – whereupon I showed her your picture – which she genuinely admired) but that someday – I might revisit Europe and look her up. The enclosed card bears her address etc. – and the other side is the address of another nice family I met – in this same Province. Save the card, darling – you never can tell.

[Princess Amélie Marie Albertine Guillemette de Tulle de Villefranche, was born on 1 January 1911 in Chaussey, France and died 21 October 2006 in Brussels. She was buried in Everberg, Belgium. She was the daughter of Henri de Tulle, Marquis de Villefranche (1880-1946) and Thérèse de Merode (1885-1962). She had been a lady in waiting for Queen Fabiola. She was married on 29 March 1933 in Paris to Frédéric de Merode XVI (1911-1958) and had two children: Prince Alexandre and Princess Thérèse Marie, born 17 May 1943.]

Princess Frédéric de Mérode" in 1962

Later today I’m going looking for an outfit that may be able to develop my films – a G.I. outfit. I now have half-a-dozen rolls and I would like to see how some of them came out. Then I could try to send some home to you. I have one good lead – a Signal outfit – but they travel around so – it’s hard to keep up with them.

I got a letter and a couple of snapshots from Lawrence – yesterday, also. He sure is mixed up, poor kid. I really feel sorry for him – because he’s a darn nice fellow – and it has nothing at all to do with the fact that he’s my brother. He just never seems to get the breaks.

If I still have time when I finish this and a V mail to the folks – I’ll jot Stan a note. I wonder where he’s planning to get married. That reminds me – I don’t think I commented on that divorce you wrote about. I really was taken aback – because I thought they were very much in love. Incompatibility covers a multitude of sins – but at any rate – I feel sorry for both of them. It’s a tough break.

Well – darling – that’s about all for now. Events certainly seem to be leading to an early victory and boy! how I’m looking forward to my return home to you. We will have a great life together – sweetheart – and I’m sure of it, too. So long for now, dearest – love to the folks and

My everlasting love to you –
Greg


* TIDBIT *

about the "L'armee Blanche" (White Brigade)

Marcel Louette (1907-1978), was the founder of the Belgian resistance called the White Brigade in 1940. Before the war he had been a school teacher in Antwerp. Even while he was incarcerated in a German concentration camp, and right up to his death in 1978, Marcel Louette remained the symbolic leader of the Belgian Underground movement.

These Belgian Resistance fighters became known as the "White Brigade" because of the white butchers' coats they assumed as their uniform on moving their operations "above ground". From a total of 3,750 men, the White Brigade lost 400 through active war service. During the liberation of the harbor of Antwerp, the brigade worked with other underground groups (the Belgian Secret Army and Group G).

Belgium had been drawn into the war when the German armies marched into the country in 1940. The Belgian Army tried unsuccessfully to stop the Germans - they fought very bravely for eighteen days all the way through Belgium, from the Albert Canal near the German border to the North Sea and both suffered and inflicted heavy losses but, after the Belgian capitulation on 27th May 1940, they were forced to surrender arms. The Belgian King, Leopold III, in his capacity as Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Belgian Army, had asked the Germans for a suspension of arms as he wished to spare his people further bloodshed. The King was made a prisoner of war and the Belgian Cabinet (which had disassociated itself from his actions) set up a government in-exile in London and announced its resolve to continue war at the side of the allies.

At this time, many thousands of Belgians were deported to Nazi Germany as forced laborers; 25,124 were Belgian Jews destined for the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau (two-thirds murdered upon arrival, 1,207 survived the war. Many ordinary Belgians put their lives at risk to save people from deportation and to harass the occupier. It was not long before two main underground organizations emerged: the "Secret Army" and the "White Brigade". Together, the brave men and women of the Belgian Resistance finally helped to oust the Germans from their country in 1944.

A large number of British, American and allied men whose aircraft were shot down, either on their way to bomb Nazi installations or on their way back home, were given assistance. They were given civilian clothes and frequently moved from house to house, staying with Belgian families who supported the resistance. The resistance would aid the airmen by giving them false papers and guiding them to either neutral or Allied occupied territory. They were guided along the "Comet Line", a series of safe houses, through German occupied towns and villages to the French border where members of the French section of the Comet Line took over and guided them through France, over the Pyrenees and into Spain. It was a very long and perilous journey.

Andrée de Jongh ("Dédée" or the "Little Cyclone"),
a 24-year old Belgian woman who established the Comet Line

There were also a number of Russian evaders. Mostly soldiers who, as prisoners of war, had been interned in Belgium, some in the "Russian Camp" (official designation, "Stalag IV H - 1304") just outside the village of Eisden. In this camp, the poor unfortunates were used as slave labour in the Eisden Coal Mines - Nazi Germany needed all the resources it could get and coal was a valuable resource. Those who escaped were helped. However, the majority of evaders were aircrew. Some of these men actually bailed out over Germany itself or Holland, and had already come a long way before reaching Belgium.

Resistance fighters were also credited with stopping a train which was transporting Jewish prisoners to Auschwitz. This train was labeled the Twentieth convoy. In fact, the German Army lost thousands of trains during the war due to acts of sabotage. German units were spread throughout Europe and many smaller units were targeted by resistance fighters. Ambushes were a common tactic used. Rail lines were very often targeted to disrupt the flow of materials and men for the German Army. Stretches of track were rigged with explosive charges and would be set to explode as the train passed over them. The resistance groups cost the German Army millions of dollars worth of equipment and had a large psychological effect on the German soldiers. By stalling and delaying the German forces, the Belgian Resistance group prevented the Axis from ever establishing a stable base of operations in occupied Belgium.

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