26 December, 2011

26 December 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
26 December, 1944      1430

Wilma, darling –

I’ve just returned from Dog Battery, having spent all morning and the early part of the p.m. there. I should have been there the past two days also – but I couldn’t make it.

And today is just like you’d expect the day after Christmas to be – more quiet and subdued. So I’ve spent two Christmases away from you and home – sweetheart. Gosh – it’s really 3 of them away from home – because I was on maneuvers 3 yrs ago and had my pick of Christmas or New Years for my Leave, and I took the latter. It surprises me how used to things a fellow can become. I guess it’s because even mental resistance seems futile after awhile and you begin to realize that there’s not a goddam thing you can do except to have patience. And that’s what I’m trying to have, darling. I suppose the Christians mind being away on Christmas more than I do – but it’s just the idea of it’s being a Holiday that I mind.

Our present set-up perhaps helped us through Christmas more easily than had we remained at our last C.P. The natives here were wonderful to us and they were coming in all day with bottles of wine, cognac and liqueur – and of course they had to insist that we drink it. By 5 o’clock we were feeling pretty high. Pete came into Battalion mid-afternoon, sent his love, and had a couple of drinks. We had our Turkey dinner – not quite with all the fixings – in the evening. It was well roasted and well enjoyed. We played a little Bridge later on and then to bed.


The best part of yesterday, darling – you’ll never guess – I received a, one (1) letter from you, dated the 1st of December, and believe me, dear, it was nicer than any Christmas gift I could get. It was the first and only letter I’ve received in some time and came unexpectedly. I found it very interesting, too, dear – because you discussed somewhat in detail things about your folks. I didn’t get to know your folks very well due to the shortness of time but I depended on my ability to make good judgements and I know I wasn’t wrong. Your letter helped me get a clearer picture of some of the things I didn’t know and about which I’ve sometimes wondered. The very first important thing I liked them for was their fairness in allowing us to become engaged. That – in my mind – took a little courage and a good deal of broadmindedness – and I admired them for both.

You mention that your mother is hypersensitive and I wonder if she’s always been that way or only in recent years. Women often get that way at about you mother’s age. You say that in spite of all her faults – you love her, dear, and that I’ll feel that way, too. Well – she may have faults that you didn’t mention; what you did enumerate were characteristics, not faults – and I’m certain, too, that I’ll love her for what she is.

Being in a rut – is another thing entirely and it’s difficult to say what causes a married couple to get that way. Usually it’s the fault of both sides because if one half has the energy he can usually persuade the other to “get going”. I hope we never get that way, darling, and I doubt if we will. I don’t think it would make any difference what profession I was in. I like to get around, visit, go places and I know you’ll be the same. As a matter of fact – the medical profession is a handicap to all that but I hope it won’t get in our way.

I think your dad is swell and as regular as they come and what you have to say about his disposition gibes with my own impressions. All in all I know we’ll get along. I guess I have plenty of faults of my own – but I’ve never had much difficulty in getting along with people and when those people happen to be my relatives – I know all will be swell.

You also ask me in the same letter – how I can bear this war, and the fighting and the suffering. I honestly haven’t suffered a heck of a lot myself although I’ve seen my share of it and perhaps have been near enough to it. But if I stand it – it’s because I too have faith that all will be well, that I’ll return safely, that we’ll be married and will get out of life what we want. I’ll repeat again, darling, that this war would have been infinitely more difficult for me had I not met you, learned to love you, became engaged to you and always remembered that you were at home and willing to wait for me. For that, darling, I thank God – and you.

Have to stop now, dear. Hope to write again tomorrow. My love to the folks – and

All my sincerest love,
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about The Third Army to the Rescue

This summary was found on the page called "The Battle of the Bulge: The Third Army in the Bulge" on Dave Depickere's web site called "World War II, analyzed!"
When Eisenhower and his staff at SHAEF began to worry that they had underestimated the ability of the Germans, they feared that the Germans might be able to use their massive offensive to go to the north and west to capture the cities of Liege and Antwerp. Liege was extremely important because the Allies had large supply dumps there. If the Germans managed to seize those supplies, they could possibly push the Allies back to the coastline, causing them to lose all the ground they had gained. Antwerp was important because it was a port city. If captured, the Germans could use it to bring in badly needed supplies.

At a special meeting of all the highest ranking generals in the American, British, and Canadian armies, it was decided that the toughest job would go to General Patton and his Third Army. They would have to relieve the soldiers who had been surrounded by the Germans at the Belgian city of Bastogne. After the meeting, Eisenhower, who had just been promoted to the five-star rank of General of the Army, was talking with General Patton. He remarked, "George, every time I get promoted I get attacked." Patton shot back with the comment, "And every time you get attacked, I pull you out!"

While the 101st Airborne Division, commanded by Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, was holding out and fighting off the fierce attempts by the Germans to overrun Bastogne, the Third Army had to stop a full scale attack they had started to the east, pull back the entire army, swing around ninety degrees to the north, and then begin another full scale attack on the southern flank of the German forces. Nothing like that had ever been done in the history of warfare. Everyone thought it was impossible except General Patton. He knew his men could do the impossible.

It only took three days for the Third army to perform that massive maneuver. Today, military historians readily admit that only Patton's Third Army could have accomplished a maneuver like that and make it look easy. Patton always demanded more from his soldiers than other commanders did and they never let him down. One of the reasons the Third Army performed so well is because they expected the German attack. While Eisenhower and his friends were playing cards in London and the First Army turned part of their area into a R & R (Rest and Recuperation) area, Patton's intelligence officers were hard at work.

The events leading up to the Battle of the Bulge have, like the Falaise Gap and Operation Market-Garden, become controversial issues. Many people believe that Eisenhower's staff at SHAEF made poor decisions when they ignored Third Army reports about a possible German offensive in the Ardennes. Colonel Oscar Koch, head of Third Army's G-2 Intelligence department, had sent intelligence reports warning SHAEF that the Germans were probably planning a major attack against the First Army's R&R area. His report was ignored. They refused to believe the Germans could collect the mass of weapons, men, and material to launch a large attack. It was a classic case of under-estimating the enemy. At Colonel Koch's suggestion, General Patton gave the order for his staff to design two separate plans in the event of a German attack. General Patton believed Colonel Koch and considered him to be the best G-2 in the European Theater of Operations.

Colonel Oscar Koch
"The best G-2"

When Patton attended the meeting with the other Allied commanders he told them he could attack in two days with at least two divisions. Everyone thought he was crazy, but he told them that he had already set plans in motion before he left his headquarters. All he had to was place a phone call. When it was finally decided that he should attack as soon as possible, he phoned his headquarters and said, "Nickel." The attack was on. The General never returned to his headquarters. Instead, he and his driver, Sergeant Mims, began traveling along the roads where he knew he would meet his soldiers heading north. He gave orders on the spot and told everyone he met to head north and kill Germans. Sergeant Mims once said to Patton, "General, the army is wasting a lot of money on your staff officers. You and I can run the whole war from your jeep."

While watching his men heading toward the Germans surrounding Bastogne, he said, "No other army in the world could do this. No other soldiers could do what these men are doing. By God, I'm proud of them." By this time, urgently needed snow camouflage for both troops and vehicles was being quickly supplied. Because of the problem of tanks slipping on the icy terrain, supply troops had installed special cleats on the treads of the tanks, much like the cleats on athlete's shoes.

At 1650 on the 26 December 1944 Company C, 37th Tank Battalion, a 4th Armored Division Task Force of Patton's Third Army, commanded by Major General H.J. Gaffey, made contact with the soldiers at Bastogne. Here is how it happened according to "The Cobra King Project" page of the "Armor for the Eagles web site:
On the road from Assenois to Bastogne, Belgium, Lt. Boggess, commander of an M4A3E2 Jumbo Sherman named Cobra King was leading a relief column to the surrounded soldiers in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

The crew of Cobra King near Bastogne, Belgium
after breaking through enemy lines on 26 December 1944

Cobra King was way ahead of the rest of the column and had just destroyed a German bunker along the road when Boggess spotted several uniformed figures in the woods near the bunker. They wore the uniforms of U.S. soldiers, but knowing how Germans were disguising themselves as Americans, he maintained a wary eye. "Come out here, come on out. This is Fourth Armored," he shouted to the figures. After no response, he called out again and one man approached the tank. "I'm Lieutenant Webster of the 326th Engineers, 101st Airborne Division. Glad to see you."

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