31 January, 2012

31 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
31 January, 1945      0945

My dearest darling –

It’s raining today and just as warm as can be. It’s sure raising hell with the snow and I see no tears being shed. A native told me yesterday that it wasn’t at all unusual to have a week’s rain in early February, followed by 3 or 4 days of strong wind. Everything dries up then according to him – and that’s the end of the snow. Sounds good, dear, if true.

But the news from Russia sounds even better, and following our Operations map each day is really fun. It seems as if almost anything can happen from here in, and it’s about time – if you ask me, darling.

Last night I stayed around the Dispensary and played cribbage with the Dentist. Usually we hang around the C.P. of an evening. I got to bed about 2200 – which is earlier than usual.

30 January, 2012

30 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
30 January, 1945       1120

Dearest sweetheart –

Yes – you guessed it – sick call is just about over and it’s a little bit quieter now, but only a little bit quieter. It’s snowing today, as usual, but from what I hear on the radio – our weather isn’t as cold as what you’re getting in Boston. And Boston can get damned cold – as I remember it. We haven’t had it too bad here – all in all – and the past week has been particularly easy. For example, last night about 23 or 25 of the officers were able to get together at Battalion and we actually set up 5 tables of Bridge and played for a couple of hours. What a strange war! That’s the one thing I’ll always remember about it. You’re never miserable or content for any length of time. And if you can manage to stick out the tough episodes – without cracking up – there’s enough opportunity for relaxation. The odd part of it is where and how you relax. You do it usually in the same spot where a short while before – perhaps the night before – you were very tense. And it’s because of that fact that you relax all the harder. I suppose you can call it escape, but it does help.

29 January, 2012

29 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
29 January, 1945       1105

Dearest darling Wilma –

Well – I lied to you yesterday when I wrote that even if I were a Captain for two years – there was no cause for a celebration. That was forenoon. At chow – noon – one of the boys produced a bottle of Burgundy red – very dry. It was a blue Sunday p.m. and the boys said I ought to celebrate – so we drank. Well – the wine was so dry – we became thirsty and went over to our room and from nowhere appeared a couple of champagne bottles – so we killed that. By that time, darling, we felt like music – so we harmonized for an hour or so – until we became hoarse; but we still felt like music – so I had my clarinet dug out from the bottom of our trailer. It had been there ever since Normandy and was plenty frozen, the keys were stuck etc; when I had completely winded myself we had the chaplain’s organ sent up and one of the boys banged away at that. By this time we were drinking Curacao – a liqueur which must be rather scarce in the States these days. After chow we decided to play some Poker – but it didn’t materialize into much of a game. We were at the Dispensary and no one knew one card from the other; I’m afraid the game degenerated into a drinking brawl. I had said I wouldn’t drink until my Birthday – but that was a pretty difficult thing to do. I said that on the 21st – and it seems as if I’ve celebrated on every day since. But I’ve saved one bottle of cognac for the 31st.

28 January, 2012

28 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
28 January, 1945       0940

My dearest sweetest darling –

It’s Sunday morning again and you’ll have to forgive me for continually reminding you of it – but it always was a special sort of day; I’m kind of glad that after two-and-one-half years of the Army – Sunday still seems a little bit different. That’s a good sign, dear – and oh! oh! – here comes sick-call, see you later sweetheart.
1100

Hello again, dear – Well – that’s how long sick-call lasted this morning; not bad – but there’ll probably be some more in this afternoon.

27 January, 2012

27 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
27 January, 1945       1125
My dearest darling –

Well, well, well – two nice letters from you, both written 6 January – one in the a.m. and one at 2200. It was so swell hearing from you, sweetheart, and reading that you loved me just as hard as ever and as much as I do you. You had received my letter of 29 December on that day – and that sounds like pretty good time. But you imply that there were a good many missing and I can imagine, dear, how difficult it must have been for all of you during the past month. Perhaps now you are getting more regular service. I hope so.

It seems as if the radio, newspapers and movie news really “laid it on thick” during the breakthrough. There was a lot of nasty stuff going on. We saw some of it – and it’s too bad they made things so vivid for you at home. I suppose it was to snap some people out of their lethargy. I’m sorry it frightened you, dear, although I don’t think you’re a coward for reacting that way. I still feel that all of you at home are having it as difficult as we are – at least mentally. You get used to shells and tanks after awhile – and it’s not so bad when you know about it; all you at home can do is imagine – and I know your minds run away with you. Anyway – as long as we know we have someone at home who thinks of us and loves us – it’s not too bad at all – and darling I know I love you and that makes all the difference in the world as to how I put up with this war.

26 January, 2012

26 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
26 January, 1945        1115

Dearest sweetheart –

Sick call is just about over and here I am again dear to tell you I love you, miss you, want you just as much as ever. It sure would be nice to be able to tell you that instead of having to write it. Nothing is so unemotional at times, darling, – unemotional in not being able to perceive the recipient’s reaction. Sometimes that’s good I imagine, but I’m willing to take a chance anytime.

Our one big gripe at the present time is the complete absence of mail – with no explanation forthcoming. There doesn’t seem to be a damned reason for it. First they told us it was the Christmas packages, then the Robombs hitting the mail train (that was some time ago and some fellows didn’t get packages or mail around Christmastime; no way of telling whether I lost any or not.) Then it was the breakthrough, etc. etc. Here it is almost the end of the month, dear, and not a single letter from you in January and lots missing in December. So we have no way of knowing whether ours are getting through or not. I hope you’re not having to sweat it out the way we have.

25 January, 2012

25 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
25 January, 1945        1100

My dearest sweetheart –

I didn’t write you yesterday. I couldn’t – and the day before yesterday seems like ages ago. By pure coincidence, darling, I’m writing this now in the same house and at the same table as I did exactly one month ago. But the general condition of things is so much different, fortunately. Our job of the last several weeks has been accomplished and we’re having a sort of relaxation period at the moment. This is the spot where the people were so nice to us around the Holiday time; there are several intact houses in town, we have electricity too. All we lack is running water, and Hell – that’s no inconvenience these days.

There’s no getting away from it, sweetheart, the last month was a tough one, and the more you soldier the more you learn that you can take it. I hope we’ve had the worst. I don’t know how my letters sounded, dear, but honestly I had to write under the most trying conditions – so excuse them.

24 January, 2012

24 January 1945

No letter today. Just this:

The following photographs were taken by Greg and labeled only "Belgium - 1945." With dates unspecified, they are shown here. They may have been taken when Greg went to visit the Field Hospital or when he was moving to his new quarters on this day in 1945.

[Be sure to CLICK on each photo to enlarge it.]

A Couple of Convoys Meet at a Crossroad.
Note Red Cross Pointing to Our Aid Station.
Belgium - January 1945

Going away is a Limey convoy.
Coming in is our own.
Belgium - January 1945

23 January, 2012

23 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
23 January, 1945       1300

My dearest sweetheart –

There’s still been no mail from you although I did get one from Mrs. Kerr in Salem – yesterday. One of these days it ought to start coming through in droves. Yesterday was a quiet day in the a.m., a fairly busy one in the p.m. (I went back to our rear area) and a very noisy one in the evening; but the reference to noisiness, darling, for a change had nothing at all to do with guns. One of our officers has a Birthday today, my Birthday is next week, another fellow’s is later this week, in a few days I will have been a captain for two years – and all in all, dear – we were looking for excuses to run through what was left of our liquor rations. And we did! It totaled 9 bottles of Champagne, two bottles of cognac and 2 bottles of Benedictine. Before we were through – we were mixing all 3 types of drinks into one glass – and you know, dear – it wasn’t bad at all. We didn’t become exactly paralyzed, but one fellow narrowly escaped shock. I was all right but fell asleep with my radio on – and there went my battery. Fortunately I’m using G-I batteries and I’ve got 2 or 3 spares. And one way or another – I managed to save 1 bottle of cognac for my Birthday in fact.

22 January, 2012

22 January 1945

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
22 January, 1945        1045

Dearest sweetheart –

Starting another week today and the more that pass by, the better I like it. Somewhere about this time of the year, darling, a guys starts looking around for a Valentine. Circumstances prevent my sending you the normal Red heart and arrow – but there’s nothing to stop me from asking you if you are and will be my Valentine, dear. Are you!!

The days are slipping by, darling, and I’ll be glad to see January behind us. That will leave the month of February and then we’ll probably be able to get going again. It’s the shortness of the days and the lengthy evenings that we hate so much.

21 January, 2012

21 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
21 January, 1945       1000
Dearest darling Wilma –

Another Sunday morning away from you – and we sure have missed a good many of them. But we’ll give more value to those we have together and thereby make up the lost. It’s not a very good Sunday anyway, dear, so we’re not missing too much. The weather here just persists in being rotten and it has snowed some part of every one of the last five or six days. About the only striking news is that from the Russian front although by no means does that mean that the boys over here have stopped dying. We follow the Russian reports about as closely as you do I guess – and it makes no difference who gets to Berlin first as long as someone gets there and ends this goddamned war sometime.

None the least of our present annoyances, darling, is the complete collapse of the mail system. I do hope it’s working better in your direction. We just aren’t getting any at all. We never did get all of November’s mail, we got perhaps a third to one-half of December’s mail and of course – no January mail – which puts everything way behind. The only thing we’re getting at all is old journals and newspapers. Yesterday I received two editions of the Boston Herald – 13 and 14 September – which, of course, made excellent reading. Bitch, bitch, bitch – that’s about all I seem to be doing in my letters of late, dear, but I know you’ll excuse me. It could be worse, I know, and besides I’m healthy and well – and that’s no small consideration these days. But damn it – I sure would like to hear from you, dear!

Boston Herald Front Page, 4 September 1944

20 January, 2012

20 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
20 January, 1945        1115

Wilma, darling –

It has finally stopped snowing and I’m not sorry either. We’ve had a couple of tough days. I haven’t been so bored or fed up for some time now but I’ve gotten so that when I feel that way, I don’t mind as much as I used to. I know it’s temporary; I guess a little sunshine will fix me up fine. From what I read – you’re having a kind of tough winter yourselves and I’ll bet you’re finding that long ride home every night quite an ordeal. It’s easy to understand why you wrote recently that you wished you could share an apartment in Boston with one of the girls. That would really be convenient – but when we’re finally married and living in Salem, darling, neither of us will have to commute and that will suit me fine.

I’ve been pretty busy the past few days with colds etc and at present I’m keeping the Colonel, one of our new majors and half a dozen other officers off duty for one reason or another. This p.m. I’m going back to rear to take care of a few details. I have my MAC officers back there – but I have to check up on some patients. Yesterday our battalion was allotted 5 men and 1 officer to go to Paris on a 72 hr. pass and that doesn’t include traveling time – which means they’ll probably be gone for about 6 days. What a break! We may get more allotments in the future – but I don’t see how I’ll ever get the chance to go – because I have no one to replace me at present.

19 January, 2012

19 January 1945

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
19 January, 1945        1130

Dearest sweetheart –

Talk about your New England blizzards! We’re having one helluva storm right now, dear, and it’s the first one I’ve seen in several winters. I had to go out this morning and just got back. I’m going to try to stay around this p.m. but it will depend on a couple of factors.

I got two letters yesterday – the best combination, too: one from you and one from my folks. Yours was dated 19 November and theirs 24th November – so you see, sweetheart, what mail service we’ve been getting. But they were plenty welcome and I’ll take as many as come along. I haven’t had a recent one from either you or the folks in some time. I hope everything is going along well, darling, and that you’re less discouraged and worried than you were when you wrote me during the week of the breakthrough.

18 January, 2012

18 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y
18 January, 1945       0850
Dearest darling Wilma -

This is an almost unprecedented hour for writing you from the continent – at least in the Winter. It just so happens, dear, that I’m trying to heat some water for shaving and I’m not having much success. I’ve already had breakfast and it’s getting light enough out to see. Shaving, by the way, sweetheart, is quite an ordeal. I used to think that once you got into a combat zone, you could just forget all about your appearance and tidiness. That’s so for the infantry and for our own enlisted men in many cases. Some of our officers have slipped a bit, too; I just can’t get away with it and I feel uncomfortable if I try. I feel much better when I have to take care of a soldier and I’m somewhat tidy and clean-shaven. I haven’t missed a day in weeks and that takes in a plenty rough stretch of time. It’s really going to be something to turn on the faucet and get hot water; in this damned section of the country – if you’re lucky enough to get into a house – there’s no faucet anyway or any other kind of water. I just can’t understand how these people lived. In that respect, and in several others, too – the Germans are way ahead of the French, the Belgians, the Dutch and the English, too.

I sound too didactic, better change the subject, dear. Let’s see – I wrote you forenoon yesterday, I believe. In the p.m. I went back to our rear area to see a couple of patients. I can’t go into details, sweetheart, but we’re sort of split now and I’ve got a house back in our last area where I keep some sick and not too seriously injured soldiers. By so doing, I’m able to return them to duty much more quickly than if I evacuated them thru channels. It’s very handy in selected cases and our present set-up just happens to allow it. That took a good part of the afternoon and then I was back here in time for chow. The evening was long and boring and I just couldn’t find a way to relax. I’ve got a dozen letters to answer but I’ve been letting them pile up; I just don’t feel like writing and when I write you and my folks – I’m satisfied. I’ll get around to the others some day when I snap out of this mood.

17 January, 2012

17 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
17 January, 1945       1000

Dearest sweetheart –

I should be starting a V-mail because I could probably finish it – but I’ll give this a try, anyway, dear. Believe me when I say that conditions at the present just aren’t very conducive to writing – and when you wonder how my letters managed to stay relatively clean and unsmooched, well – darling – I wonder too. Usually I use another sheet of paper to lean on. The real trouble now, though, is the cold. Some days it’s kind of hard to thaw out.

But I’d say the present military situation looks pretty good and that sweetheart is the most important thing of all.

As I wrote you in a V-mail yesterday, dear, my last 2 letters were from Verna and Lawrence – both dated 1 January. I enjoyed Verna’s letter very much. It was – as usual – a 3-page V-mail and very newsy. She told me about the early part of New Year’s Eve – at your house, and of having a few drinks and of listening to the clock. It all made me damned homesick – but in a pleasant sort of way, if you know what I mean. I could just picture myself being there too and having some fun like we did such a long time ago. Unfortunately the illusion didn’t last long enough, darling, and I ended up feeling kind of blue. I was reading Time Magazine the other day and it said the Nation was knocked for a loop by news of the “breakthrough”. Everyone here has been getting letters from home of various types of celebrations around the New Year – and most of them just wonder. I think, personally, it’s a damned good thing the people at home can’t accurately visualize what goes on; they’ve got enough to worry about now; but my interpretation of what a lot of soldiers feel – is that they’re still in a fog in the States. It’s Europe that’s fighting this war, with England included, of course. We’ve seen the civilian population and we know. They are living this thing out and in stark reality.

16 January, 2012

16 January 1945

V-MAIL


438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
16 January, 1945       1600

Hello darling!

Didn’t think I could write today because of the most plausible reason – but just got temporarily settled and I’m sneaking a few minutes off.

Got some mail last night, sweetheart, at the last minute – but none from you! Heard from Verna and my brother by V-mail – both dated 1 January and the latest mail so far to date. Verna wrote about New Year’s Eve – although she didn’t go into detail about the Party or who ran it. Also told me about the Levines – the reception to come (and now past) etc. Enjoyed hearing from her.

Lawrence wrote about Carlisle – of course - and he didn’t seem to mind it very much.

15 January, 2012

15 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
15 January, 1945        1130

Good morning, sweetheart –

Just time enough to get a little start but I hope to be back right after lunch and finish up. It’s been a pretty busy morning, dear, but I like that on Monday because it sort of gets the week started. The weather is clear again today and that’s always good news around here. I get so depressed on a bad day because I know that one way or another – it’s delaying the war and that, darling, is always a source of great irritation to me.

One of the boys – just came in and is waiting for me to go to chow, dear, so I’ll be off and be with you in a short time –

1430

Hello, again – sweetheart –

14 January, 2012

14 January 1945


438th AAA AW BN

APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
14 January, 1945
Sunday         1315


Wilma, darling –

It’s one swell day here today and I’d love to be taking you out for a ride this p.m. The roads are still a bit slippery, but we could go slowly and take our time about it. The air corps has been out and active today and that’s something for this time of year. We all like to see it. I suppose the news from home sounds better and that optimism is again the key note. I hope they don’t overdo it though.

Well last evening at 1730 I went to a movie – the Colonel and a few other officers went along. Our aid station is set up near a field artillery observation C.P. and they were putting it on and invited us. It’s still the most incongruous thing imaginable to sit in a shell of a building, in a war zone and see a technicolor picture, pretty girls, dancing etc . But so far in this war, at any rate, the movies have done a job in relaxing us, I think. The movie by the way was “Greenwich Village” with Ameche and Carmen Miranda. Ordinarily I don’t like a picture like that – but after the recent bleakness, cold and snow – the color and the costumes really seemed warming. Then too, ahem – this Vivian Blaine wasn’t very hard to look at – Did you see it, dear? 


"I Like to Be Loved by You" by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon,
performed by Carmen Miranda in Greenwich Village, 1944


Vivian Blaine

After the movie we went up to the Colonel’s room and played some Bridge. I held some lousy cards – but a couple of nights ago I held beautiful hands, so I guess it all equals up.

This a.m. I didn’t have a very busy sick-call and I was glad because I had something big lined up. Guess what – a bath. Now anyone, darling, can take a bath – but without a bathtub – that’s something else again. It’s done with 2 basins, water and no mirrors – and it always ends up in a mess, but what the heck – it’s better than none at all – and showers just aren’t available around here. Anyway it took me until noon – and I was actually tired, dear, when I got through; No – not from scrubbing! It’s just that you have to bend down, stand up, stoop; you get the floor wet, you slip, you catch yourself falling and you upset one of the basins. Then you’re really all messed up and willing to quit. I got thru it fairly well and would consider myself about 70-75% clean.

Say I happened to come across a V-mail you sent me on 7 December. It had got caught between one of your other letters and I had forgotten about it. I’ve just re-read it and noted with a start your news of Les White. Gosh – he had such good plans and bingo – he ends up in the infantry and gets himself wounded. I sure hope it was nothing serious and that he’s up and around again. It must have been tough on Betty but she used the correct rationalization when she said he was out of the battle for awhile, anyway. Do you happen to know what division he’s with?

Well – I’ve just been interrupted, sweetheart. I’ve got to chase over to the Aid Station and see a fellow with bum feet – probably frost-bitten. I’ll close now ‘cause I don’t know when I’ll be back, dear. I hope all is well with you, darling, and that you’re managing to keep a stiff upper lip. That’s all-important these days and I know you’re capable of doing it. My love to the folks, dear – and remember – You’ll always have


My everlasting love
Greg


* TIDBIT *

about "Frozen Hell"


This story is about an experience of twenty year old Private Daniel R. "Bob" Shine, 289th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division as written by his son, Dan Shine. He titled it "Frozen Hell". It took place about 15 miles southeast of Greg's Aid Station.
Near Salmchateau, Belgium.
1500 hours 14 January 1945

A young soldier cautiously approached Item Company's line of snowy foxholes as the afternoon sky began to darken. To the men nearby he looked like a rookie; he was clearly timid about entering this place of death and destruction. His uniform was still almost spotless. No doubt he'd been eating hot "C" rations and sleeping under cover right up until now.

They observed him casually. A battle veteran could usually tell whether a new man would crack under fire, just by looking at him, and you didn't want a guy to crack up while he was sharing your foxhole. This particular guy had a baby face, and probably hadn't even started to shave yet. He couldn't be more than eighteen. The occasional German mortar shell that fell nearby made him jump.

From his foxhole, Sergeant Gilbert spoke to the new private and pointed to an open spot in the line of foxholes. The replacement turned and made his way to the appointed spot. He leaned his M-1 up against a tree, and took out his entrenching tool. In moments, he was chipping at the frozen surface of the Belgian soil.

Over the next twenty minutes, the sounds of chopping and digging filled the air. Twice as he dug, the replacement slipped and almost fell into his unfinished foxhole. The men watched silently as he glanced around and tried to regain his dignity. Finally, his hole complete, the replacement grabbed his rifle, climbed in, and took his position on the line. No doubt he was trying to figure out what would happen next.

He probably never heard the fluttering sound of the approaching mortar shell, but the men around him did, and they ducked deeper into their foxholes. An abrupt explosion shook the ground and threw bits of something through the air; there were the sudden smells of burned cordite and singed flesh.

The soldiers looked in horror at the foxhole of the new replacement. Smoke billowed out of it, and pieces of bloody flesh were everywhere. Tattered bits of his uniform and a length of intestine hung from broken tree branches above the burned foxhole, and next to the tree lay a boot with part of a leg still in it.

That was it, thought Private Daniel R. "Bob" Shine as he sat in his foxhole watching the day turn into night. One minute you're alive and all in one piece; the next minute you're gone and nobody has even had the time to find out who you were. And God knows where your dog tags were blown to... Although he and the other men had seen this kind of thing happen before, nobody ever really got used to it. Night fell, and it began to snow, masking the frozen pieces of what had once been a man.

In the early morning hours Item Company assembled for their attack of Salmchateau. Today they would be facing elements of the 326th Volksgrenadiers and remnants of the 62nd Volksgrenadiers.

Shine was the bodyguard to Lieutenant Rocco Durante. He and the lieutenant led their platoon through the snowy predawn darkness and the day's first light. As it became fully light, they left the forest and followed a dirt road into the village. This was usually the moment when things began to happen, and as the second man in the advancing column, Shine was frightened. As was often said, "Any man who wasn't frightened at these moments would have to be insane".

They had almost reached a bridge leading into town, when there was a sharp "crack" to their right front, and the lieutenant went down. Shine, following him about three paces back, rolled Durante over and saw a bullet hole cutting the lieutenant's belt loop just to the right of the belt buckle. As he took the lieutenant's pants down, he saw the point of the bullet just breaking the skin near the lieutenant's groin. Evidently the bullet had ricocheted off of a bone.

To remain stationary in a spot such as this was to invite disaster. Shine and the others moved forward, and left the lieutenant for the medical corpsmen who would be following.

To the foot soldier of WWII, nothing was more reassuring than the feel of an M-1 rifle in his hands. It promised power and accuracy at the squeeze of a trigger. It also promised to be a heavy burden on a long march. The M-1 rifle weighed almost ten pounds--about twice the weight of an M-1 carbine. In the infantry, enlisted men carried the rifles and officers carried the carbines.

Behind Shine, Private Krizan eyed the M-1 carbine dropped by the lieutenant. Like most riflemen, his arms ached from carrying the heavy rifle; here was something more attractive. He picked up the carbine and resumed his advance. That was the last mistake he ever made.

There was another sharp "crack" from the high ground on their right, and Krizan went down and rolled over on his back. Shine looked back at Krizan; he lay there with a neat little bullet hole right between his glazed eyes. Beneath his head, a crimson stain began to spread in the white snow. The sniper, seeing a carbine in Krizan's grip had mistaken him for an officer, and killed him.

About this time Shine figured his number was coming up. He ran and caught up with the squad as they prepared to clear the first house on their side of the street. Private "Snuffy" Toth went into the front door, fragmentation grenade in hand with pin pulled, threw the grenade and turned to get out. As he turned, he slipped on the ceramic tile floor and fell. Before he could get up the grenade exploded. Snuffy staggered out the door and went down again. He was badly shaken up, and the squad left him behind for the medics as they advanced through the town from house to house, clearing them as they went. Most of the Germans had fled. There was no further sniper fire, but still some incoming artillery and a few pockets of resistance from the houses.

Late in the evening, they found three or four Germans holed up in a cellar at the far edge of town. One of them made a menacing move and the three Americans facing them fired at once. The result was devastating.

Item Company spearheaded the attack on Salmchateau and won the town, thus meeting their objective. Their ranks had been thinned that day by deaths, wounds and frostbite cases. Snuffy Toth was finished as a front line soldier; the explosion of his grenade had left him shell-shocked. He was eventually evacuated. Lieutenant Durante was also evacuated, and they didn't see him again.

Shine's squad spent the night billeted in the stucco and stone houses of Salmchateau, while outside, the dead of both armies froze into grotesque positions. And as the dead and the living slept, once again it began to snow...
Whitewashed Sherman in pursuit of Panzers
Salm-Château, Belgium - January 1945

Salm-Château, Belgium Today

13 January, 2012

13 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
13 January, 1945       1415

Dearest sweetheart –

Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes – I was just starting, dear. Well here it is Saturday afternoon and I haven’t had a chance to plan for tonight. I guess I’ll just let things ride and see what happens. I’ve been down to Charlie Battery today. I left here at 1120 and returned a short while ago. I saw Pete and had lunch with him and he sends his best regards, dear. I was busy the early part of the morning and I’ve got a few things to look after later on. Last night was quiet – but we finally got a decent lot of mail and every one was in good spirits – including myself. I got your letters of 2, 5 and 6 of December, several bulletins from the Salem Hospital, a nice letter of Christmas greetings from Walter Phippen, a couple of Christmas cards and some medical literature. In these days, sweetheart, that’s quite a haul.

Letters received nowadays are so old – but boy – are they ever welcome! Your letter of 2 Dec. was written at Marian’s house and it really sounds like a cozy spot. Too bad I couldn’t have been along with you, darling. I’d have kept you warm, I think. It’s really country up there though; I know the region fairly well – particularly Portland. I used to travel up there summers – working for my father and I had several accounts in Portland; on the whole – it’s a rather drab city as I remember it, although it livened up considerably with the influx of summer visitors from nearby beaches.

12 January, 2012

12 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
12 January, 1945       1145

My dearest sweetheart

It’s late in the morning to be writing but I’ll get a few words in before leaving for lunch. Yesterday I didn’t get a chance to write you, dear. (What! Again!) I was away from battalion all day from 0830 until 1830. I covered about 130 miles and I didn’t really thaw out until about 1000 this morning – no fooling. I had to visit several hospitals to get some data on some of our soldiers and it was quite a day. There was no one else to do it for me either. By the way, I forgot to tell you – our dental officer is in the hospital – with asthma. I don’t know the latest rulings on that. They used to eliminate those cases from the service; then they re-classified them. I won’t be sorry if he doesn’t get back to us, frankly, although it leaves me short. Too bad Lawrence isn’t over here. Wouldn’t that be something if he could be in the same outfit as I!

This has been a tough month for us – there’s no use kidding about it. The weather is just like New England’s – maybe not as cold as the recent cold wave I’ve read about – but cold enough – and with plenty of snow and ice. Each new C.P. location we have is a bit worse than the preceding one – because the area here has really taken a beating in recent weeks. But all in all – we’re better off than the infantry and I wouldn’t classify any of the above, darling, as complaining.

11 January, 2012

11 January 1945

No letter today. Just this:

The following photographs were taken by Greg and labeled only "January 1945" "Ardennes" or "Belgium." With dates unspecified, they are shown here.

[Be sure to CLICK on each photo to enlarge it.]


Greg and his Driver in the Ardennes
Belgium - January 1945

Aid Station in Abandoned House (Notice "WILMA TOO" on Jeep)
Belgium - January 1945

10 January, 2012

10 January 1945

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
10 January, 1945        1110

Wilma, darling –

I guess I’m writing more V-mails than either you or I like – but at the present time, it just can’t be helped, dear. I’d rather write one of these and make sure it gets out than to take a chance on a regular letter which I don’t think I could finish. I’m writing this – as I did yesterday – in anything but a comfortable or leisurely set-up, sweetheart.

The snowing has finally stopped – but I’ll be damned if it’s cleared up yet. Just gray skies, cold wind and low clouds. This has been a mean month so far. Last evening I went over to visit Baker Battery and got tied up – and didn’t return until 0045 this morning. So I’m a little bit tired this a.m. – but there’s lots to do.

09 January, 2012

09 January 1945

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
9 January, 1945        1100

Hello Sweetheart –

I know you worry when you don’t hear so I’m trying my darndest to get some kind of letter out to you each day, dear – but sometimes it’s difficult – not always because of the time element, but more often now because of the conditions, environment, weather – need I go on?

It snowed like all get out yesterday. As a matter of fact, counting today – it’s the third day of snow and it’s more than I’ve seen for 2 winters. Last winter in England – there was practically no snow at all, and the winter before that we were South on maneuvers. It looks as if we’ll get our fill of it this winter though. But we’re doing all right and heading back steadily, if slowly, in the right direction – so don’t be discouraged, darling, and don’t worry, because I’m taking good care of myself.

08 January, 2012

08 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
8 January, 1945        1300

My own darling –

I got your letter of 26 December late yesterday afternoon and I read it over and over again. You were blue, you were sad, you were romantic, sentimental. You were sweet, poignant; you were a woman. I always felt you loved me, sweetheart, before I left and more so after I came overseas. But never before have you expressed yourself so clearly, so warmly, so affectionately. You put me at a loss for words to adequately describe to you my feelings on reading that letter. I thought I had powers of expression, darling, but I don’t see how I could possibly do as well as you.

Sweetheart – you ask me to put aside any hesitation I might have about writing you a sentimental letter. Do you catch any sentiment in my letters at all or do I hide it too well? Every hour, every day – I’m filled with sentiment, and thought and love for you. It becomes so aggravating I lose my civility. I want to write you, to tell you all the things that run through my mind – and I stop; I become matter of fact, tell you some of my activities and let it go at that. I tell myself then what a good soldier I am.

07 January, 2012

07 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
7 January, 1945        1300

Wilma, darling –

Well – last night was Saturday and so this must be Sunday afternoon but somehow it doesn’t seem quite like it. I don’t know exactly why. It has been persistently cloudy, foggy and raw outside and that hasn’t helped us one bit, as you can easily imagine. Everything seems stagnant – just as if it were the middle of the winter, and my gosh! – it really is, isn’t it? There are now flurries again today – and I suppose we just can’t expect any decent weather until the Spring.

Last night was extremely dull and all of us just sat around and talked. I played three or four games of cribbage with one of the boys – and that was about all. The night, as well, was quiet. This morning the sick-call was quiet, too, but I expect some patients in – a little later this afternoon.

Say, before I forget it, will you do me a favor darling? Eleanor’s Birthday is February 14th and I can’t get her anything from here, of course. If you could send her some chocolates in my name and also get her some gift of some sort, I’d appreciate it a whole lot. I had a blank check made out, signed – and then I tore it up because it’s just not a good idea to send checks like that in a letter. I’d rather wait until you tell me what you spent and then mail you a check for the correct amount. Get her anything you think she wants and have it signed ‘Happy Birthday, Harold’; ditto for the chocolates. I’ll thank you now, dear, for the trouble.

06 January, 2012

06 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
6 January, 1945       1330

Dearest darling Wilma –

I’ve had a kind of busy day today and this has been my first opportunity to sit down and try to concentrate for a few minutes anyway. No mail yesterday or today because the A.P.O. is moving, I guess.

Last night was quiet. Bruce and I challenged the Colonel and Hi Morley to a 3 rubber game of Bridge and we had our ears pinned back losing 2 out of 3 of the rubbers. But it was fun and time-consuming. We’re not playing so much now because our present set-up has us spread out quite a bit and we don’t care to walk around between spots very much at night. Coming back last night we were challenged at least ten times. It’s very essential to know the password these days.

05 January, 2012

05 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
5 January, 1945         1330

My dearest sweetheart –

We finally got a trickle of mail thru yesterday p.m. and I got seven letters, six from you and one from my Dad. They were all in the period between 16 and 23 November and contained a great deal I was anxious to hear about. The letter from my Dad – although cheery as usual, didn’t exactly fool me. He and my mother seemed lonely from the way he wrote and in addition – he sounded tired. I do wish he didn’t work so damned hard. I’ve just completed a letter to him advising him to take it easier, sell less and relax more; but my father has never been like that and I don’t suppose a letter from me will change him.

I’ll try to answer your letters in sequence, darling. I have before me your letter of the 20th of November. At that time there was a good deal of excitement about the “big push”. Boy does that ever seem like ancient history now! Yes – we were in it – but I’m sorry we disappointed you, darling – but it was tough warring.

04 January, 2012

04 January 1945

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
4 January, 1945       1600

Dearest Wilma –

I had a swell dream last night – namely that I was home again; not only I, but my whole outfit. Not bad, eh? Do you believe in dreams, darling?

Just got back from Charlie Battery where I spent part of the day. Was supposed to be there the last three days but just couldn’t make it. The days are pretty short and there’s lots to get done. When I finish writing this I’ve got to dash over to Group Hq. and visit a sick Colonel there.

By the way, dear – I sent two packages out today. One is a gift I received from the Salem Hosp. The other is a large album of photographs of a journey once made by one of the Rothschilds. I don’t know if the latter will get through.

It snowed all day today – and although the hills here and the woods are beautiful – the effect on the war effort is more important. Nothing to do about it.

03 January, 2012

03 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
3 January, 1945       1040

Dearest sweetheart –

I couldn’t write either you or the folks yesterday so don’t keep on the look out for a letter postmarked 2 January, dear.

1115

I didn’t get very far that time – so I’ll try again. We were pretty busy yesterday and not only that interfered. I’m now writing this in a small room which is sleeping and living quarters for four of us and which ordinarily would be just enough for a small bedroom. We got settled here last night, amidst slippery roads, snow, sleet, ice and frost. What a war! What a war! But we’re managing one way or another and it could be worse. The turkey which we were supposed to have New Year’s – I think we’ll finally have tonite. The kitchen crew just hasn’t had time enough to get them roasted – so they’ve been lugging them along.

02 January, 2012

02 January 1944

No letter today. Just this:

Route of the Question Mark

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]
(A) Failon to (B) Aisne, Belgium (16 miles)
23 December 1944 to 2 January 1945

January 2... Aisne. The cold uncomfortable houses, the mess-hall by the stream, and the CP a mile away from everything. The miserable inhabitants of this town, and the half-man, half-woman stalking around with a brick under his or her arm. The epidemic of colds, and Capt [Stanley A.] SARGENT using all his maps to keep us informed of the progress of the battle.

01 January, 2012

01 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
1 January, 1945       1030

Dearest darling Wilma –

First of all – a Happy New Year, dear and many many more! Considering the fact that it’s 1030 now and I’ve been up for three hours you might think I had a good night’s sleep. You’re wrong, I didn’t. It went something like this: at about 1500 everyone was inviting everyone else to have a drink – so that by chow time – we were all feeling pretty high. Earlier than that – I had been invited to dinner at noon at the home of a patient. I didn’t want to come but the husband and wife insisted. Well we got to talking about New Year’s Eve and how we celebrate it in the States; over here everyone visits everyone else and they told me that there’d be several of the village’s people in to visit the Colonel. I told them – in my best French – that we were going to have somewhat of a private brawl. To become tight over here – if I haven’t already told you, dear – is “faire le Zig-Zag” or “devenir Zig-Zag”. Anyway, they said peole would come in anyway. And they did!

After supper – I went back to the Dispensary and opened a bottle of J. Jameson Irish Whiskey I’d been saving for my own boys – and we stayed around until the bottle was finished. I then went over to Hq. where the officers were working on a “punch” – and that’s putting it mildly. It turned out to be a cross between my own “Purple Jesus” – and a hitherto unknown to me concoction called a “Dead Duck”. The result was explosive and at 2200 we were flying, singing, dancing around. And into this mélee suddenly came eight or ten women, a few with their daughters – young (about 20 or 21) and a couple of fathers. I don’t know what they could have thought of the Americans, but we quickly realized the only way out was to offer them a drink. They had never had anything like this before and soon a few of the women were a bit tipsy. They stayed until midnight and we all sang Auld Lang Syne – and I was back home with you, sweetheart, way, way back. Won’t it be something, dear, when we actually celebrate a Holiday together?