13 February, 2012

13 February 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
13 February, 1945     1100
Germany

My dearest darling Wilma –

I was literally overwhelmed yesterday when I received 18 letters in the mail, the biggest haul in a long while and it was truly wonderful. Furthermore – quite a few were recent letters – particularly from you. I also – in addition to 5 letters from you – heard from several friends of mine in the service, the Salem Hospital, Steve L., Bea Caplan, Mary W., Lil Zetlan, Dr. Curtis from Salem and a couple of others I can’t think of – off hand. It’s the best reading material in the world and nothing makes me feel better or raises my morale more successfully, dear.

Your letter written to me on my Birthday, sweetheart, was wonderful and it was awfully decent of the girls to take the trouble to jot me separate notes. I know you’ll thank each of them for me, dear. You know by now that I did, in fact, have a Birthday and that your surprise worked as successfully as if I were home. I was completely dumb-founded by it and it was certainly original.


You mention an interesting point about my age, darling, namely that you didn’t believe I was 31 when you met me until you saw my draft card. That’s probably because I act so silly at times. I know only that I don’t feel or act differently now than I did six or eight years ago and I think I’ll behave the same for some time to come, probably. That reminds me to mention something you’ve brought up in a couple of your recent letters which sounds a bit mysterious to me; mysterious isn’t the exact word. You wrote in one letter that you would get something for Eleanor and then let me know how much I owe you for her gift and the Levine’s. Then you said I wrote some strange things at times and you couldn’t exactly understand me. In another letter you wonder whether I am affectionate enough a person to match your affection – and you doubt it; and still another place you write that you think I have the power to talk myself in or out of almost any situation – in an almost impersonal fashion.

Now – dear – is there one thing troubling you or three – or are all the same thoughts inter-connected? I’d much rather you wrote what’s on your mind, sweetheart. We know each other much too well now to have an argument over an exchange of ideas – or in an attempt to know each other better. I honestly don’t know if I’ve changed since I went away – it’s easier for others to say it. I don’t think I have. I have undoubtedly the same peculiarities, good and bad that I always had. But in reference to you I’m positive I love you, sweetheart. I’ve never lost the thrill in knowing I’m engaged to you and in the thought I’m going to marry you. My affection or ability to be affectionate I’ve never wondered about. If it’s not as open as some people’s, dear – I’m sure I compensate with depth and sincerity – which is of prime importance and more lasting, I think; and that is not to imply that I’m entirely devoid of the more obvious kind; just wait and see. I don’t know what you have in mind about my power of speech, darling. I think I think clearly most of the time – but I’m often wrong. If I think something, I try to express it as clearly as I know how – for what I believe in I believe in fully.

If I’m strange, dear – I honestly don’t know how – unless I have some peculiarities you’re just finding out. But I do wish you’d tell me about them rather than have me wonder. We’re attempting to keep stride with time and the war by knowing each other as much as possible while I’m away – thereby shortening our period of waiting when I get back. I suppose I write things at times that don’t sound right to you or reveal some characteristic of mine you weren’t aware of. If so, sweetheart – tell me about it – will you? I want you to know me completely as I’m trying to know you, too.

I’ll have to stop now, darling. It’s nearly chow time – and Pete just came in, by the way, and sends his love. I told him some time ago about my Birthday cake and he got almost as big a kick out of it as I did. Love to the folks, regards to the office crew – and
All my love is yours for always
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about The Bombing of Dresden
and Frauenkirche


It was on 13 February 1945 that Allied planes began the bombing of the German city of Dresden in World War II. At the beginning of the war, both Hitler and Churchill vowed that they would not attack civilian targets. But the German’s broke their promise and used incendiary bombs on London, and Great Britain quickly followed suit. By 1943, the British had begun firebombing cities like Hamburg, creating firestorms that reached 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, with hurricane-force winds, which boiled all the water in the city and sucked all the oxygen out of the atmosphere, killing tens of thousands of people. The Allied military commanders argued that saturation bombing of German cities was the only way to force the Nazis to surrender.


Before World War II, Dresden was called "the Florence of the Elbe" and was regarded as one the world's most beautiful cities for its architecture and museums. Although no German city remained isolated from Hitler's war machine, Dresden's contribution to the war effort was minimal compared with other German cities. In February 1945, refugees fleeing the Russian advance in the east took refuge there. As Hitler had thrown much of his surviving forces into a defense of Berlin in the north, city defenses were minimal, and the Russians would have had little trouble capturing Dresden. It seemed an unlikely target for a major Allied air attack.

On the night of February 13, hundreds of RAF bombers descended on Dresden in two waves, dropping their lethal cargo indiscriminately over the city. The city's air defenses were so weak that only six Lancaster bombers were shot down. By the morning, some 800 British bombers had dropped 1,478 tons of high-explosive bombs and 1,182 tons of incendiaries on Dresden, creating a great firestorm that destroyed 15 square miles (39 square kilometres) of the city center and killed numerous civilians. Later that day, as survivors made their way out of the smoldering city, over 300 U.S. bombers began bombing Dresden's railways, bridges, and transportation facilities, killing thousands more. It was one of the most controversial actions of the Second World War, rocking the historic core of that great European city and reducing irreplaceable masterpieces to ash and rubble. A total of 3,900 tons of high-explosives and incendiary devices were delivered in four air raids carried out by 1,300 bombers.


The Allies claimed that by bombing Dresden, they were disrupting important lines of communication that would have hindered the Soviet offensive. This may be true, but there is no disputing that the British incendiary attack on the night of February 13-14 was conducted also, if not primarily, for the purpose of terrorizing the German population and forcing an early surrender. It should be noted that Germany, unlike Japan later in the year, did not surrender until nearly the last possible moment - when its capital had fallen and its Fuhrer was dead.

Because there were an unknown number of refugees in Dresden at the time of the Allied attack, it is impossible to know exactly how many civilians perished. After the war, investigators from various countries, and with varying political motives, calculated the number of civilians killed to be as little as 8,000 to more than 200,000. Estimates today range from 35,000 to 135,000. Looking at photographs of Dresden after the attack, in which the few buildings still standing are completely gutted, it seems improbable that only 35,000 of the million or so people in Dresden that night were killed. Cellars and other shelters would have been meager protection against a firestorm that blew poisonous air heated to hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit across the city at hurricane-like speeds. A funeral pyre was built that burnt for five whole weeks.


But from the rubble, a triumph - the re-building of Dresden's Baroque icon, Frauenkirche, as decribed in these excerpts from a Repost article.
An 11th century church site is the foundation of Frauenkirche, or the Church of Our Lady. Despite its name, this is a Protestant place of worship built between 1726 and 1743. The dome is called the Steineme Glocke, or Stone Bell, rises 96 meters/315 feet above the altar. It is an engineering marvel and the anchor to the city’s skyline. Johann Sebastian Bach, from nearby Leipzig, performed a concert on its new organ.

On 13 February 1945, temperatures of 1,000 C/1,832 F surrounded Frauenkirche, collapsing the dome. Miraculously, the altar was spared.


Post-war East Germany chose not to repair Frauenkirche, believing the ruins symbolized Western atrocities. In 1989 a determined group of Dresden citizen’s formed the “The Society to Promote the Reconstruction of the Church of Our Lady.” This grassroots organization grew to thousands of German citizens with donations from all over the world, including Great Britain.

The most challenging part of the quest was creating a jigsaw puzzle out of the rubble. All of the rocks at the site were categorized. Divers searched the depths of the Elbe for more pieces of Frauenkirche. 8,500 of the original stones joined millions of others in the rebuilding. Typically German, the original architectural plans survived. From them and photos came three-dimensional models. No drawing existed for the elaborately carved entrance doors. Undeterred, the re-builders requested old wedding pictures from the residents of Dresden. From the photos the doors were replicated. Seven new bells were cast for the Steineme Glocke. Frauenkirche reopened on 30 October 2005, over 60 years after it collapsed.

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