23 February, 2012

23 February 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
23 February, 1945      0940

My dearest sweetheart –

Frankly – I’m tired this morning and I don’t know how far I’ll get with this letter. War fatigue? Combat exhaustion? No – none of these, darling – just another celebration. Our new – or loaned – dentist is amazed at all this. He says that they used to have a little fun at his place, drink a few, sit around and talk – and call it a drinking bout. He’s never seen anything like what we put on when we have a celebration – and he can’t understand how we have so many. Well – I’ll admit dear – starting with the first of the year we have had a few – despite some trying days – or maybe as a result of. At any rate – it has helped release the tension at the current time – and that is most important.

As a matter of fact, sweetheart, we did have an excuse for a party last night in the form of Pete’s Captaincy coming thru. You’ve asked me a few times about it and I’ve said nothing because I felt that any day it would come – but administrative details are sometimes slow here. Well – the Colonel had Pete come in from his Battery for supper and he pinned his new bars on him. We had several drinks before and just as many after. The fact that we celebrate more vehemently at a party than most other outfits – is true, I think, dear. It’s all out – and I still do my share – so don’t worry – when I get back, sweetheart, I think I’ll be able to take up where I left off.

This morning – six of the fellows – including Pete – were not present at breakfast. That’s always proof of a ‘successful’ party. I made it, though, and as usual I have no hangover, but damn it – I sure feel tired! Now – that’s a helluva a war we’re fighting, isn’t it? Oh – well – today is another day and the chances are it will be a war-day rather than one for parties. That’s why I have no chagrin whatsoever because of having been able to tie one on again.

In one of your last letters, dear, you mention Billy’s receiving the Helmet. I’m glad it arrived and pleased that he got a kick out of it – but hell – we’re practically cousins – aren’t we? And you seemed ‘alarmed’ about that brush I left out of the traveling kit I sent back. Am I losing my hair that fast? I don’t know, dear. You know – haircuts in the Army vary so. It’s rare to have the same fellow cut your hair on 2 successive times and they really take it apart. I didn’t have a hell of a lot when I left – and there have been times when I felt that what I had would turn gray fast or disappear suddenly. But what I have is still the same color and I don’t suppose it’s much thinner – but I’m not sure. So –

And as long as you love me, darling anyway – I’m happy. And that’s quite a statement because could I love you if yours were like mine? Yes – sweetheart – any way at all – I love you – even though that was a silly comparison. The fact is I love you, love you and love you !!

That’s all for now, darling. Love to the folks – and

ALL my love is yours –


about A War on Two Fronts:
1. Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima and
2. Crossing the Roer River in Germany

1. Iwo Jima

Rosenthal's "Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima"
"Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima" is a historic photograph taken on 23 February 1945, by Joe Rosenthal. Of the six men depicted in the picture, three were killed during the battle; the three survivors became celebrities upon their identification in the photo.

Tactically, the top of Suribachi was one of the most important locations on the island. From that vantage point, the Japanese defenders were able to accurately spot artillery onto the Americans - particularly the landing beaches. The Japanese fought most of the battle from underground bunkers and pillboxes. It was common for Marines to knock out one pillbox using grenades or a flamethrower, only to have it begin shooting again a few minutes later after more Japanese infantry slipped into the pillbox using a tunnel. The American effort concentrated on isolating and capturing Suribachi first, a goal that was achieved on 23 February 1945, four days after the battle began. Despite capturing Suribachi, the battle continued to rage for many days, and the island would not be declared "secure" until 31 days later, on the 26th of March.
Mount Suribachi Today

Many people are unaware that the flag raising Rosenthal photographed was the second that day. This led to resentment from those Marines who took part in the nearly-forgotten first flag raising. Charles W. Lindberg, who participated in the first flag raising (and who was, until his death in June 2007, the last living person depicted in either flag raising) complained that he "was called a liar and everything else. It was terrible."

Raising the First Flag

2. Roer River Crossing

When the Schwammenauel Dam was taken, the retreating Germans had destroyed the power-room machinery and the discharge valvesmaking it impossible to halt the flow of water. The Roer crossing would have to wait. Rising in depth by as much as 5 feet, the worst effect of the subsequent flood was to increase the current sharply, at some points to more than 10 miles per hour. Along most of its banks, the Roer poured over its banks and inundated the valley floor. Just north of Linnich where the river is normally 25 to 30 yards wide, it spread into a lake more than a mile wide. More common were areas of 300 to 400 yards across and the crossing was to undergo successive postponements.

Acting on advice of the engineers, Ninth Army's Gen Simpson reset D-day for 23 February 1945, one day before it was calculated that the reservoirs would be drained. By moving one day early, Gen Simpson hoped to achieve some measure of surprise. As the target date for the crossing approached, the accumulated stocks of supplies rose to huge proportions. In one 5-day period, for example, over 40,000 long tons was received, the biggest delivery to any army in the theater in a comparable period. Most of it arrived by rail in more than 6,000 freight cars.

Six infantry divisions were to lead the attack, 84th and 102th from the XIII Corps, 29th and 30th from the XIX Corps, and 104th and 8th of the VII Corps. The XIII and XIX Corps were to represent the main effort with the VII guarding the right flank. This plan not only gave the VII Corps, protecting the Ninth Army's drive, the deepest area of penetration, but also its own right flank was exposed for at least two full days. Methods of crossing the swollen Roer varied to some extend from division to division. The plans for some were for only a relatively small force to cross in assault boats with the balance to use foot-bridges to be constructed as soon as bridgeheads could be secured; a task that proved easier to plan than execute. The 8th Division planned to make use of motor boats, but had extreme problems in starting the motors. Some units planned to rely heavily on cable ferries and amphibious vehicles, while others, including the 104th, relied more heavily on transporting the attacking companies by assault boats. And while some elected to use smoke and others didn't, all plans had problems and the mighty Roer took it's toll.

Ninth Army GI killed by German mortar crossing the Roer on a Footbridge
23 February 1945 - Photo from LIFE magazine.

While crossing techniques varied, all divisions relied on a tremendous 45 minute barrage of artillery supplemented by all available weapons. The 130 battalions of field artillery and tank destroyers assigned in support of the Ninth Army & VII Corps, totaling more than 2,000 guns, was one of the heaviest artillery concentrations of the war, providing one artillery piece for each 10 yards of front. The weight of the artillery projectiles that the XIX Corps alone could throw at the enemy in six days of combat on a two division front was a massive 8,138 tons. Adding to the fire power of artillery plus anti-aircraft guns, tanks, tank destroyers, chemical mortars, and all other infantry weapons, each corps had an armored division attached. Also formidable air support was provided (in direct support of the Ninth Army was the XXIX Tactical Air Command, employing five groups of fighter-bombers, 375 planes, and one tactical reconnaissance group) and in spite of the difficult of the rampaging Roer, by nightfall, nearly 25,000 American infantrymen were across.
Footbridge at Rurdorf, Germany

On the second day, the water level had dropped enough to permit the construction of 19 bridges, 7 of them vehicular, allowing tanks to join the attack (in case bridge construction was delayed, 500 C-47 transport aircraft, fully loaded with supplies, sat ready for air-drops). Plagued by an open right flank, the 8th Division had the roughest D-day of all and on 25 February, its commander, Maj Gen Wm G Weaver suffered the fourth in a series of heart attacks and was evacuated and relieved by Brigadier General Bryant E. Moore, assistant division commander of the 104th. Enemy opposition was stubborn, but on 27 February VII Corps completed its role in, covering 13 miles from the Roer at Duren to the Erft River and Canal to seal the Ninth Army's south flank. It's drive was to continue, but now the VIII Corps belonged to another operation that General Bradley planned to carry his 12th Army Group to the Rhine.

Treadway across the Roer River

Truck on Pontoon Bridge Crossing the Roer River

Operation Grenade was a tremendous success, but not with out great cost. The Ninth Army (with a strength of 303,243) reported 92 KIA, 61 MIA, 913 WIA for a total of 1,066 casualties and VII Corps (with 75,00 men) suffered 66 KIA, 35 MIA, 280 WIA for a total of 381.

US 29th Division Crosses Roer River, Germany, 1945, Jülich

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting, very interesting.