26 September, 2011

26 September 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
26 September, 1944      1000

Wilma, darling –

No mail yesterday and the government owes me a whole bag full by now. Although I’ve continued to hear intermittently, there are a lot of gaps to be filled in, dear, but as long as I continue to hear even sporadically, I’m satisfied.

Yesterday was a miserable, wet day and the tent was cold. We have a good gasoline lantern for it now – but that was not enough to make it comfortable. So although we’re entitled to an oil stove on our table of basic allowance, I’ve been in the Army long enough to know that we’ll probably get it in the Spring. Accordingly, dear, I got into our jeep and headed back to Belgium. I had already been on a scavenger hunt here – but these Germans are completely electrified and an electric stove is no good for us. I was going to go to Liege, but stopped short of there in a city of about 100,000 – Verviers. I’m still amazed at Europe and the products it has. If it is emaciated and starved – none of us has seen it so far. And the large cities may have gone without food, but they didn’t go without clothes and accessories. For example – the city I visited yesterday had 3 large, modern department stores and they had plenty of merchandise to sell. We passed some jewelry stores with the windows loaded with watches, clocks etc.

Vervier - Place du Martyr
and today

Verviers - Victory Monument - Frans Jochems, Sculptor
and Base of Statue today.

Anyway I finally found what I wanted – a heating unit that works with kerosene or gasoline. It cost 400 Belgian francs and about 450 French francs. The exchange actually is 88 Belgian for 100 French. The monetary system for the G-I is really screwed up – and will be worse with the next payday. I understand we will get paid in marks – one mark being worth 10 cents. Say, that reminds me, dear – did you ever get the letter I sent you way back in Normandy with a couple of invasion notes and a pound note from England? I just wonder if that letter went astray.

Well – in the evening – the Colonel came over again and we had another swell game of bridge. That’s about 4 times we’ve played in the past 5 or six days and I’ve enjoyed each session. I pulled a couple of inexcusable boners last nite, but otherwise held my own.

I’m sorry dear you didn’t write me before about Dad B’s birthday. I could have at least sent him a card. As for your buying him a gift and including me in it it, that’s thoughtful – but you were correct, I’d much rather pitch in – and if you did buy anything expensive, I hope you’ll tell me and let me be a partner.

I’d like to have been in Cambridge eating with you when you were visiting Verna and Irv, dear. It seems so far away now. No I don’t recall the Athens Olympia. As for Irv and Verna saying nice things about me – what else do you expect, darling, when you’re a guest? You do get along with Verna, though, don’t you dear? I’m glad because she’s a difficult girl to know, I believe and I’m glad you have that faculty. About Betty – you must think I’ve been reticent about admitting I knew her. The fact is that she impressed me so little that I just forgot I ever did meet her. You recall to my mind the fact that she contacted me at Salem. Actually it was Maynard Kaplan who called me one night and told me the girl from Ohio or Pittsburgh – I forget which – was coming down and would I drop over. I honestly don’t remember whether I did or not – but I do recall that when I found out she was the same girl I had met at Verna’s – I lost interest quickly. I don’t remember her as being attractive – although she may well have been. The fact is that I hadn’t yet met the girl to whom I was attracted the way I was to you, sweetheart – and I’m the luckiest guy around for having waited.

About my APO 230. Your memory is good. We did have it for about 2 days – when we moved from our defense of an airport near Ipswich – to Sherborne. APO 230 is First Army – as is generally known. We were assigned to them and then reassigned to Third Army. After we left Normandy we were again reassigned and this one should be permanent.

No, darling I won’t forget the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met – and you shall hear it all – if you want to – when I get back. I don’t know why you haven’t followed my progress. When I went to Paris – our outfit was about 20 miles South of it – but that seems like a long long time ago.

Well, dear, enough for now. I’ve been interrupted several times and it is now close to noon. The boys tell me it’s clearing out and I certainly hope so. It’s been a hellish week. Give my love to the folks, dearest and for now

My sincerest love,
P.S. Happy New Year to all of you


about "A Bridge Too Far"
Operation Market Garden - Part X of X

Of Urquhart’s British First Airborne's original 10,000-man force, only 2,163 paratroopers made it to the south bank of the Rhine. More than 1,200 died, and 6,642 were missing, wounded, or held prisoner. Overall Allied casualties were more than 17,000; German casualties were between 13,000 and 15,000. The worst part was that Arnhem was never reached. Despite all the men who gave their lives to hold the bridge and its perimeter, it proved to be "a bridge too far". In October of 1944, the American Air Force destroyed the Arnhem Bridge.

On the 28th of September German frogmen succeeded in placing explosives under the railway bridge at Nijmegen, and on 29 September the charges exploded causing the middle part of the bridge to fall into the river. The fighting in the Nijmegen area became unbearable for the civilians. Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated. The Dutch government in exile in Great Britain incited a strike of railway personnel, causing the Germans to bring transport in the Netherlands to a standstill. Food produced in the northern and eastern Holland could not reach the west. The 'Hongerwinter' (winter famine) followed in the west, adding another 30,000 victims of the war. It wasn't until May 1945 before all of Holland was liberated.

In light of events, Field Marshal Montgomery made two mistakes. First, he downplayed the failures of Market-Garden; in fact, it is not until October 8 that Eisenhower was told the full extent of the failure. Second, at the same time, Monty overplayed the minimal progress made in clearing the Scheldt Estuary which was preventing cargo from reaching Antwerp. On Eisenhower's order, Montgomery's armies cleared the estuary of mines in late October, allowing cargo to flow through Antwerp to the front beginning 8 November 1944.

Montgomery still called Market Garden 90% successful. Looking at the number of captured bridges, Montgomery's statement was correct. From a military point of view it was anything but true. The 80 kilometer corridor which was held had no, or at best, little strategic value. When Eisenhower had a clear understanding of the situation which had faced the 21st Army Group, the Supreme Commander refused to trust Montgomery again.

From "Operation Market Garden" on Amazing Planet's web site:

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