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.

I like reading your ideas about love in one of the letters I received from you day before yesterday. You say that seeing me happy and content will make you so, too. Since I feel the same way, sweetheart – it ought to be ideal. You ask me a question that’s very difficult to answer, darling, the one about my previous ‘love’ for any other girl. Yes I am older than you and presumably more experienced therefore. The ‘other girl’ – I don’t recall at all so I can’t answer that. I feel certain I didn’t love her. I don’t know how to describe exactly how I felt about Alice. It’s a long time since she was fresh in my mind, too. To be perfectly frank, dear, I thought I loved her towards the end of the time I was seeing her and I was no youngster then. To be true – I was attracted to her physically more than anything else – and that plus the fact that it was so convenient to see her – made her seem indispensable at that time. But had I truly loved her – I believe I would have married her, religion or not – and the fact that after 4 years I was able to stop seeing her and see the light, makes me think that it couldn’t have been love. Love is something I certainly can’t describe. To me it’s like a result, the effect rather than the cause. How did I know I loved you? I don’t know the answer dear; I just felt I did. I liked you the very first time I went out with you – and not only because we had fun that night. You appeared to me immediately as the girl I’d always wanted and never met before. I felt I loved you not long afterwards for the way you reacted to me, the way you laughed, carried yourself; for your ideas on life, for your maturity despite your age. I like to dance with you, talk with you, sit beside you, kiss you. That’s loving someone. I’m sure, sweetheart. I’ve never felt differently since – despite our separation – and I know I won’t change.

I was a little surprised at your statement that Mother B thought I was not quite warm enough – especially when I address your folks as “Dear Folks”. To me, dear, that’s just about the warmest expression ever – and it’s what I’ve always used when writing my own folks. But I think in the long run, darling, that Mother B will know I do feel warm to your folks and it’s more than that.

It’s getting late, dear and I’ll have to run along and get some supper. Hope to hear from you tomorrow. For now, love to the folks – and so long.

All my eternal love


about the Counter-Offensive Continues

Here is a continuation of Sgt Theodore DRAPER's story of the 84th:
By the time we took Devantave, it was clear that the original plan which gave the infantry a supporting role was not working out. The terrain and the weather were against it and they won. The victory of the elements gave the Infantry the main job. The Ardennes neither lacks roads nor is rich in roads. A British source has estimated that 13 separate first-class roads cross the Ardennes from Germany to France. There are perhaps three secondary roads for every first-class one and numerous trails. But so many pass through long stretches of woods, so many teeter on the edge of cliffs and wind up and down and around the inescapable hills. In May, too, the possibilities of resistance in the Ardennes would be immense.

In January, in snow that keeps piling up from the ankle to the knee, from the knee to the waist, only a little effort is necessary to turn possibilities into realities. All vehicles have to stick to roads to get anywhere, only more often than not they cannot stick to roads because they are constantly sliding off. The next best thing is to proceed slowly and carefully but then your vehicles may miss the jump-off by hours and the infantry has gone off alone. Is it curious that a terrain that is considered too tough for a tank is never considered too tough for a Doughboy? As a result of the problems which arose in the first four days for the armor, after Devantave was taken, more clearly defined zones for the armor and the infantry began to emerge.

From Devantave, the 2nd Armored Division, with the 335th Infantry still attached, veered off more sharply to the southeast to get to Samree through Dochamps, while the 84th Infantry Division assumed responsability for the drive southward to La Roche and for the La Roche Road as far as Samree. One thing stood out again. When nothing else moved, the Doughboys moved and they moved long and often. And what was it like for them? It took a good two hours to get through the frozen crust of earth. It took two or three hours more to get down as far as three feet. Not only was digging a foxhole a job in which a whole day's energies could be consumed, but it was practically impossible to dig a really good foxhole at least five feet deep.

GIs digging hasty foxholes near Berisment.
For the soldier in the foreground it was too late.

The weather continued to get colder and colder until it went well below freezing and stayed there. This meant there was only one thing worse than not sleeping - and that was sleeping. The quickest way to freeze is to lie still. Men went to sleep in overcoats - when they had them - and woke up encased in icy boards. It was practically impossible to bring up supplies and rations in anything but half-tracks. Water congealed in canteens. Frostbite was as dangerous as all the Krauts and their guns put together. The Doughboys who went into Devantave fought 96 hours without a break and they were not through by a long shot. We took Consy the way we took most of the strong points - by going around it.

Two sharpshooters of G Company, 290 Infantry Regiment,
US 75th Infantry Division provide cover near Devantave

When we took Devantave on 6 January 1945, we outflanked Consy on the left. Then we sent two battalions into the woods west of Consy and the enemy was squezzed out in the middle. He did not choose to hold even this commanding position at Consy at all cost. By 7 January 1945, Consy was virtually cleaned out though the woods on the right flank were not completely safe for another two days.

Road to Devantave Today

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