27 February, 2012

27 February 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
27 February, 1945      0900

My dearest Sweetheart –

After the lapse of one day, I’ll take up where I left off – and tell you that I love you more than ever, dear, want you more than ever, and miss you more than ever; and I’m going to keep on feeling that way until I come home. Then I want only to love and want you. I hope I’m not compelled to miss you, darling.

Well – as I already implied, I didn’t write you yesterday, dear – but it was for the obvious reasons. I did get mail, however, and boy – am I ever hearing from you, sweetheart! It’s wonderful – V-mails, air-mails – and it’s a race right now – which arrives earlier. Believe it or not – but I received an air mail of the 15th (written) and V-mails of the 15th and 17th of February. Shades of England!

Right now I’m in my bedroom – sitting at a nice table in front of the window. This room is part of a 5 room apartment – in a small apartment house in the suburbs of a fair sized city. Houses of any sort with roofs on them are pretty hard to find – so we consider ourselves lucky for having this one. But we hope we don’t stay long. I’d like to get moving the way we did when we came across France. We’d be getting home that much sooner, dear. The news here and all around us is good – as you’re probably aware of.

Before I forget it – I want to take up the matter of Mother B’s condition. I remember you told me some time ago that she had been to the doctor’s and was being followed by him. I don’t remember whether you told me his name or not. That’s important, of course, from the point of view of diagnosis. Assuming the diagnosis is correct – and it sounds reasonable – the choice between fibroidectomy or hysterectomy and x-ray usually lies in the person handling the case. The big trouble with x-ray is that it not only destroys the fibroids in the uterus – but it destroys the ovaries, too. That isn’t too much a consideration in your mother’s case, though, because she’s at the menopause stage anyway. The other trouble with x-ray is that you don’t know exactly how well the job has been done. In most cases that we saw at Salem – x-ray was reserved for those people who were in no physical condition to undergo operation. In other words – dear – personally I feel that operation in a physically fit person is preferable. You can see what you’re doing, whether the diagnosis is correct, you can leave the ovaries intact – and in the hands of a good man – it is not too difficult an operation at all. If the doctor your mother is visiting now does not operate himself, he probably has a couple of surgeons he refers work to. One who comes to mind who is as good as they come in Gynecology around Boston is Louis Phaneuf. He’s top notch in his field. If nothing more – it might be worth having a consultation a man like him because he’s handled thousands such cases I’m sure.

I’m sorry, darling, for Mother B and for your worry – but it’s really not bad – and whichever treatment she undergoes – she’s going to be a whole lot better off. Where you can do the most good is to encourage, allay her fears, bear with her. I’ll be very much interested in more news about her condition and I do wish I were home to give a little more support.

I’m so glad you got the roses and the candy, dear. I was afraid it couldn’t be arranged. It will be so nice when I can do things for you myself – little or big. I hope I never forget, busy or otherwise.

And now I’m busy, sweetheart and I’ll have to knock off. There’s lots of things to get done today and the quicker I start – the better off I’ll be. So – for now, so long, dear – and my love to the folks and don’t worry about Mother B – she’ll be O.K. I’m sure.

All my deepest love –

P.S. 1 encl. Stars and Stripes –

Back side of comic has news...


about The Last Heavy Raid on Mainz

With its four towers and two cupolas, the structure of the St. Martin’s Cathedral of Mainz soars impressively above the city skyline. It is the oldest Romanesque church on the Rhine and the symbol of the city. Mainz was founded as an encampment for a Roman legion, then became the capital of the Roman province Germania Superior and finally was the first and most distinguished bishopric of the Holy Roman Empire. Mainz became the first printing center of Europe under its citizen Johann Gutenberg, 1397-1468. By the end of the 18th century, more than all others, electors and archbishops had left their mark on the developing city which then underwent many other changes in the 19th and 20th centuries that impacted on the inventory of organs. Many buildings and the organs that stood within them fell victim to acts of war, first in 1793 when set fire by the French and again during the Second World War. As a result of the heaviest aerial bombing attack on Mainz which occured on 27 February 1945, 61 % of the building structures – in the inner city even up to 80 % – were destroyed. Today there are over 80 organs in the greater Mainz area, of these 70 were constructed after the Second World War.

Mainz today

The following description of the attack was taken from the February 1945 Campaign Diary of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command.
458 aircraft - 311 Halifaxes, 131 Lancasters, 16 Mosquitos - of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups to Mainz. 1 Halifax and 1 Mosquito lost. The target area Mainz was covered by cloud and the bombing was aimed at skymarkers dropped on Oboe. No results were seen by the bomber crews but the bombing caused severe destruction in the central and eastern districts of Mainz; this was the city's worst raid of the war. 1,545 tons of bombs were dropped. 5,670 buildings were destroyed, including most of the historic buildings in the Altstadt, but the industrial district was also badly hit. This was the last heavy raid on Mainz.

The Day They Bombed Mainz, 27 February 1945
A Photobook (and source of most of the photos below)

Click on any photo below to enlarge them all.

After 20 minutes of dropping bombs and thousands of incendiaries by the British Air Force on 27 February 1945, the city of Mainz was turned into an inferno of flames and smoke. When it was over, 80 percent of the city were destroyed. Mainz was no longer. The attack took more than 1,200 lives. Below is an interview published by SWR.de with a survivor, the then 16-year-old Anton Maria Keim who narrowly escaped death.

Anton Maria Keim

SWR.de: Dr. Keim, you still often think of the 27th of February 1945?
Dr. Anton Maria Keim: Still to this day I have painful memories. I awake at night sometimes and do not know why I'm still alive. I still cringe today, when I hear a siren or when something reminds me of flak. I will forever remember the crackling and burning of the city.

What did you do when the air raid warning surprised you?
Dr. Anton Maria Keim: I was in hiding in order not to be drafted into the front line or to be deported (Editor's note: Keim's grandmother was Jewish). In the afternoon I was riding a bicycle in the center of Mainz to look at two bookstores, where there were old and banned books. When the air raid alarm went off at just after 4 o'clock, I wanted to get to the east towers of the cathedral for safety. I rode off in a hurry, but fell at the Schiller Square in the bombing.

There I spent the attack in the hallway of the Alsatian bank. From the basement below me came screaming. Gas and water pipes had burst and people were drowning and suffocating. I was lucky I could get away from the burning of Mainz on my bike 20 minutes after the attack, with slight smoke inhalation. I did so with great difficulty - although I do not know exactly how.

Where did you go?
Dr. Anton Maria Keim:I was living at home in Pike. From the height of Hechtsheimer I saw the burning city, like a single torch, which is pointed at the top. I cried like a child. Although I was clear, this was the end of Mainz. The city was destroyed and remained that way for years. The cathedral remained standing - a miracle! It was the symbol of resistance. In the Capuchin monastery, 41 Sisters were killed. Perhaps these martyrs made sure I survived.

SWR.de: Were the victims acquaintances of yours?
Dr. Anton Maria Keim: Yes, quite a lot of them were classmates who suffocated or did not get to the cellar in time. There were just minutes between the alarm and the first carpet bomb. The Schiller place was still full of people with prams and children who wanted to take refuge in the cellar. The place was then a wooden block. The burnt corpses could be seen for months. From the roofs dripped molten tin. I still have that smell in my nose today. It is said that there were 1,200 deaths, but who knows for sure. There were corpses dug up years later.

How did you process the experience?
Dr. Anton Maria Keim: We were happy to have survived and feared more fighting between the Army and the fanatical SS. In recent days, the SS had shot three family men, who had hoisted the white flag. My uncle was among the victims. As the first tank moved into Hechtsheim, we were happy. We welcomed the Americans as liberators from bombs and terror. It was a great deliverance. The Americans were completely surprised by this greeting.

How have these experiences shaped your life?
Dr. Anton Maria Keim: Very strongly. I am a social democrat and pacifist, always active in the peace movement. I was an opponent of rearmament. And I cannot think that through alliances we must have any obligations to war again.

Is it possible to compare the air raids on German cities with the attacks of the armed forces on English cities like Coventry?
Dr. Anton Maria Keim: The total air war was been begun by the Germans. The Nazis said that they would wipe out British cities like Coventry. I'm not fond of this is - that one was revenge of the other. But one thing has been causally related to the other. That does not excuse the Warrior of the Air, "Bomber Harris"'s attempt to demoralize the German population. (Editor's note: Arthur Harris was then a senior commander of the British bombers, who ordered the bombing of Dresden). But you need to know how the conditions at that time were, including the mass murder of Jews.

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