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.

1315

Hello, darling – I got side-tracked and it was time for lunch before I knew it. I’ve just returned to the Dispensary and there are several men being taken care of, but I think I can keep going with this for awhile. Incidentally our dentist is working along steadily and doing an excellent job. We’ve heard thru channels that our other dentist has been definitely re-classified for limited service. He’s in Paris awaiting a new assignment. I don’t know whether or not he’ll go back to the States or stay in the E-T-O – and I don’t care for that matter. The Medical detachment is a heluva lot better off without him and he won’t be missed. I’ve wanted some dental attention for some time now but I’ve held off. Now I think I’ll get started. Teeth – by the way – take an awful beating over here for some reason or other – and mine are no exception.

Boy oh boy oh boy!! One of our boys just came in from mail call and there’s mail! I see I’ve got 3 letters – one from Law – 5th January and 2 from you – both post-marked 8 January. Where all the rest are – I have no idea, darling, but am I ever looking forward to opening those letters right now.

I’m going to stop now and start reading; I’m so anxious to hear from you, dear – you have no idea. Love to the folks for now, darling, and

All my deepest and sincerest Love,
Greg

P.S. A long time ago – Cyn penned a short note in one of your letters and I never got around to thanking her for it. Will you do that for me, dear?
Love
G.

* TIDBIT *

about Audie Murphy and
The Battle of Holtzwihr


Audie Leon Murphy (20 June 1924 – 28 May 1971) was a highly decorated and famous soldier. Through LIFE magazine's 16 July 1945 issue's "Most Decorated Soldier" cover photo, he became one the most famous soldiers of World War II.

During twenty-seven months in action in the European Theatre, Audie Murphy was wounded three times,was credited with killing over 240 enemy soldiers, quickly rose from an enlisted Private to receive a battlefield commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, all before he was 21 years old. For his actions he received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's highest award for valor, along with 32 additional U.S. and foreign awards (medals, ribbons, citations, badges...) including five awards from France and one from Belgium.

In later years, Audie suffered from what was then known as "Battle Fatigue" and is now known as "Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)". He suffered from insomnia and depression. Always an advocate for the needs of veterans, Audie broke the taboo about discussing war-related psychological problems. In a effort to draw attention to the problems of returning Korean and Vietnam War veterans, Murphy spoke-out candidly about his personal struggle with PTS. He publicly called for the United States government to give more consideration and study to the emotional impact war has on veterans and to extend health care benefits to address PTS and other mental health damage of returning war vets.

Murphy's successful movie career included To Hell and Back (1955), based on his book of the same title (1949). He starred in over 44 films, and in 1950 was voted the Most Popular Western Actor in America by the Motion Picture Exhibitors. He later had some success as a country music composer. Audie Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971 at the age of 46 and was interred, with full military honors, in Arlington National Cemetery.

The following was taken from H. Scott Dalton's blog entry for Monday, 31 January 2011 entitled "The Battle of Holtzwihr, 26 January 1945" and describes what Murphy did to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Murphy's Company B, 15th Infantry Regiment, assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, was part of the Colmar Offensive, an operation intended to push the last German troops out of France in late January 1945. On the 24th and 25th of January it had been cut to pieces in an attack through heavy woods on the fortified village of Holtzwihr. All the company's officers except Murphy (by this time a first lieutenant) were killed, and 102 of its 120 men killed or wounded.

By the morning of the 26th, Company B faced Holtzwihr from the edge of the forest. Murphy and his 18 remaining men, reinforced by two M10 tank destroyers, sat astride a road that ran into the forest behind them - a road the Germans needed to control if they were to mount a counterattack into the woods with their armor. Murphy's mission was to hold his position until he could be relieved by fresh troops, but by two o'clock no relief had come. The Germans decided it was time to start their counterattack.

The men of Company B watched as six tanks and 250 or so infantrymen began forming in front of the village for an attack. Murphy immediately called for artillery support, but artillery could only even the odds so much - the company was going to have a hard fight on its hands very quickly.

As soon as the enemy tanks came within range, the two tank destroyers opened fire with their 90mm main guns - to no effect. The shells bounced off the Panzers' thick armor. See, a WWII tank destroyer looked much like a tank, but mounted a heavier gun and much thinner armor. The German tanks paid little attention to either, and shortly one tank destroyer was burning and the other, after doing some damage to the infantry with its machine guns, slid into a ditch and became useless. Company B faced the counterattack alone.

Murphy knew his handful of men could never hold the road on their own, so he ordered them to fall back into the woods while he stayed behind directing artillery fire over a field phone. The shells fell thick among the advancing Germans, but still they came on. Shortly his carbine was out of ammunition.

He was preparing to fall back and rejoin his men in the woods when he noticed the .50 caliber machine gun on the burning tank destroyer was still undamaged. Realizing the machine gun was his best chance to slow the Germans down and keep his men alive, he jumped onto the vehicle and started firing.

Very few weapons on the battlefield convey moral authority to an infantryman like a .50 caliber M2. It can fire its half-inch-diameter bullet more than a mile with devastating force; nothing that walks on a battlefield, and not many that roll, will take a .50 cal bullet and keep going. A single shot will go through two men and into a third. Infantrymen stop moving and put their heads down when they hear the thud-thud-thud of a .50 and see their friends going down around them. And tanks don't like to roll into forest without infantry covering them - without them, enemy infantry can easily use the cover of the trees to get close.

A .50 caliber M-2, also known as the "Ma Deuce"

So even though he couldn't kill the tanks with the .50 cal, Murphy could stop their infantry cover - and that stopped the tanks. The smoke billowing around him from the burning tank destroyer obscured him from view, and the artillery bursting around them masked the sounds of his firing so the German infantry could not tell where it was coming from. For more than an hour he stayed there, gunning down any Germans that tried to move toward him. Finally the clouds cleared enough to allow American aircraft to start strafing the German positions, and they began to fall back. Murphy, by this time bleeding from a leg wound, returned to his company and organized a counterattack that drove the Germans from the field and regained the company its earlier position. American forces took Holtzwihr the following day.

As mentioned, Audie Murphy received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Holtzwihr. And historians and soldiers alike read the story of his bravery, scratch their heads and wonder, "How does a human being do that?"

It's just the sort of over-the-top ridiculous hero story we scoff at when we see it in movies and books. The kind of story we say could never happen. Except Audie Murphy really did it.

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