31 March, 2012

31 March 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
31 March, 1945      0820
Germany

My dearest sweetheart –

At last – a little peace and rest – perhaps for the whole day, too! I believe it’s the 31st today – although it seems as if I lost a day somewhere. Anyway – I’ll remind you, as I do myself, dear, that we’re engaged a year today. I’ve had – up until the past several days – time to reflect on our engagement – and the result is satisfactory, warming and stimulating. I’m convinced we did the correct thing – and that despite hardships – it will all have been worthwhile. So Happy Anniversary, sweetheart – and just don’t forget to chalk this one up too. Boy – they’re sure mounting!

I don’t remember what I wrote you in my last letter, sweetheart, although in reality – it was only a couple of days ago, I know. It has been one sweet rat-race since we crossed the Rhine (I believe it’s permissible to tell you that now – if you haven’t already suspected) and we’ve been helping to chase the rats. And it has been good fun. Our impressions here are so different from those in France and Belgium – and even in the first part of Germany that was fought over so bitterly, there – we met surly, stony glares. Here – when we tear thru a town – the looks are those of bewilderment, disbelief. These people just can’t understand it. If Hitler counted very much on these people to fight us – then the people let him down. There’s no fight in them at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I went along on a reconnaissance for a new C.P. We just look over a house or two – the bigger and more luxurious – the better. There’s no argument, debating nor anything. After we look over a place – the people say “By what time do we have to be out of here?” They’re a whipped people.

One of the most gladdening sights I’ve seen – is the hundreds of liberated French, Polish, Russian, Moroccan etc. soldiers streaming westward toward the Rhine. They’re wearing their old tattered uniforms, they’re beat up and tired after 4 years of slaving – and they’ve got a long way to go on foot – but they cheer us and are all smiles as we pass by. The French and Belgians are particularly happy. Each step brings them nearer to home. We talked to a few the other day. One old man was from Normandy, a young man was from Fontainbleau and another from Paris. They were then about 50 miles this side of the Rhine and had a long way to go. But tears came to their eyes when we asked them how they felt about walking home, getting home – after all these years.

Liberated French stop for rest on way to Rhine and home
March 1945

Well – sweetheart – I’m going to go along now and do some work – I think. There is supposed to be a couple of thousand wounded Germans – soldiers – in the hospital in this town. I may help out – I’ll see. Anyway – I haven’t the patience to sit around. Everyone is keyed up, tense, and raring to go – and I’m no exception. For it all brings me one step nearer to getting home, holding you in my arms and letting you feel – all that I’ve been trying to express to you in words – these long months gone by. Darling – it won’t be long now!

Love to the folks – and

All my sincerest love
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about The Rose Pocket
The Ruhr Pocket became known as The Rose Pocket

From Mission Accomplished - The Story of the Campaigns of the VII Corps (published in Leipzig, Germany by J.J. Weber in 1945), as found on the "VII Corps in WWII" web site: 
Because of the importance of the attack in which Major General Maurice Rose was leading his division when he lost his life and to honor his personal courage in battle, VII Corps and First Army adopted the name of the "Rose Pocket" for the operation which isolated the Ruhr.

From Marburg the racing armor drove north. In a single day's record advance of 90 kilometers, several thousand more prisoners were taken, and our spearheads reached the area just south of Paderborn. This maneuver was of far-reaching importance to the allied cause, for by this action the enemy defending the Ruhr valley were practically cut off. VII corps forces now encircled them on the west, south and east along a 200 mile front.

Part of one day's collection of prisoners

To protect our long left flank against possible counterattacks in strength was a big task. The 78th Division extended its zone farther eastward along the Sieg and the 4th Cavalry Group and 8th Infantry Division moved in to relieve elements of the 1st Division still farther east, while the 86th Infantry Division took over the defense of the Rhine's west bank, a task from which VII Corps was soon relieved.

As the 3d Armored columns closed on Paderborn, they encountered increasing resistance from enemy strongpoints, roadblocks, and stubborn opposition in defended villages. While First Army was breaking out of its bridgehead, troops of the Ninth U.S. Army had crossed the Rhine north of the Ruhr and were now driving east toward Paderborn, paced by the tanks of the 2d Armored Division. A link-up of the two American armies in this area would be a crushing blow to Germany, for it would isolate one of the Reich's largest industrial areas and the thousands of troops defending it. And so thousands of SS troops, the elite of the Wehrmacht, were thrown into the battle as the enemy attempted to stabilize his defenses and to hold Paderborn's important road center, to keep his Ruhr escape route open.

While the 3d Armored Division was driving north to close the pocket, the 104th was following closely in the eastern part of the Corps zone, and the 1st was moving more slowly against stiffer resistance farther west. Intelligence was received of a proposed enemy attack to break out of the rapidly closing Ruhr trap by a tank-and-infantry drive east in the vicinity of Winterburg. The attack to the north was therefore suspended for one of the regiments of the 104th Division, and it deployed to the northwest to counter the threat. With characteristic Timberwolf speed, our troops seized the enemy's line of departure before he could attack, and for the next four days beat back all enemy attempts to penetrate the VII Corps ring in that area.

An armored task force from the Spearhead Division made a firm junction with elements of the 2d Armored and 83d Infantry Divisions (XIX Corps) at Lippstadt on April 1st. The Ruhr trap was closed, a trap which isolated about 5,000 square miles of enemy territory, including some of the most highly developed industrial area in Europe. Completely encircled by American troops, over 350,000 enemy, units of German Army Group D, were cut off from supplies and reinforcements. This was one of the greatest operations of its kind in all history, and a heavy blow to the already hard-pressed German army and nation.

30 March, 2012

30 March 1945

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
30 March, 1945      1640
Germany

Dearest darling Wilma –

This will break all records for brevity, I think, but honestly, dear, I’m pooped! I can’t remember being so tired in a long while – but we’ve been on the road for I don’t know how long. And – we were up all night. No one minds particularly because it certainly is a thrill to travel this way. It’s amazing – what we see. I’ll try to be more specific tomorrow sweetheart – if we stay put – but for now I know you’ll excuse me if I say ‘so long’. But not before I remind you that I love you dearly, dear – and you alone! Gonna try to get some sleep now. Will write tomorrow. Love to the folks.

All my deepest love –
Greg

Route of the Question Mark

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]

(A) Bad Marienberg to (B) Gisselberg, Germany (44 miles)
30 March - 2 April 1945

30 March... Gisselberg. The beginning of the end, for we hauled 20,000 prisoners for VII Corps, and worked at this until it seemed that we had carried the entire German Army in our trucks. Pfc [Franklin A.] PORTER caught two of them, single-handedly, in a shack in the woods.

* TIDBIT *

about The Death of Major General Maurice Rose


Maurice Rose was born on 26 November 1899 in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of a rabbi and grandson of a rabbi and went on to become the highest ranking Jew in the United States Army. During his military career he earned the following honors:
The Third Armored Division official history of World War II, published after Rose had been killed in action, states, "He was over six feet tall, erect, dark haired, and had finely chiseled features. He was firm and prompt of decision, brooking no interference by man, events or conditions in order to destroy the enemy." According to Robert K. Pacios, veteran of the 3rd Armored Division, Rose was a stand-offish person with those around him. No one in the 3rd Armored Division really got to know much about his personal life. Married twice, he kept his life so secret that his two sons, by different wives, did not know the other existed until many years after some digging by one of the authors of his biography, Major General Maurice Rose: World War II's Greatest Forgotten Commander by Stephen L. Ossad and Don R. Marsh. He demanded absolute loyalty from his men. He would not accept any excuse from any of his subordinate commanders -- accomplish your mission or move on!

Major General Rose received his first military experience as a private in a cavalry troops of the Colorado National Guard in 1916. In France in WW I Rose served with the American Expeditionary Force and won the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. Named Chief of Staff of the Second Armored Division in January, 1942, he went overseas in December of that year and served in the First Armored Division in the battle for Tunisia in 1943, where he earned a Silver Star. Back with the 2nd Armored Division, he was promoted to Brigadier General just before the invasion of Sicily, where his unit was the first to enter the island's capital, Palermo. In Normandy in June, 1944, General Rose's unit beat back a major German force near Carentan. As captured documents later revealed, this action may have saved the whole Normandy beachhead.

In August, 1944, General Rose was given command of the 3rd Armored Division, receiving his second general's star several weeks later. What then followed was his daring and legendary leadership of the "Spearhead" Division, as its troops aggressively advanced and engaged German forces in northern France, Belgium, Germany, in the Battle of the Bulge, and finally in the heart of Germany itself.

The following account of the death of Major General Maurice Rose was written by Paul Leopold of the Website Staff of the Third Armored Division's History of WWII.
[Note: "This account is based on information available to me in 1966 at 3AD headquarters in Frankfurt, plus details I later found in books and on the Internet. The biography of General Rose by Don Marsh and Steve Ossad, first published in 2003, greatly amplifies what I've written below. -- Paul Leopold]

On 30 March 1945, the 3rd Armored Division lost its Commanding Officer, Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, one of the highest ranking American servicemen killed in World War II. Military historians argue whether a general's proper place is normally at the front or the rear of his troops. If action reflects opinion, there can be no doubt what General Rose thought. He led from the front so consistently that his troops used to call him "the Division point."

Biologists have a chemical explanation for why some men (more rarely women) thrive on putting their life at risk. Rose's soldiers would, I'm sure, have explained it as sheer guts. But they knew where that kind of guts could get you. They would wonder how many cat's lives Rose had left after each brush with death.

They also knew Rose was a shrewd and careful strategist. Said to have a photographic memory, his grasp of situations was instantaneous, his responses as shrewd as they were bold. Though a strict disciplinarian, Rose rarely provoked resentment in his men, for they knew he was as hard on himself as he was on them.

Once, approaching a bridge which might have been mined by the enemy, Rose insisted on being the first to drive across it. This was pure theater, but it had an effect on morale -- an effect which he had no doubt rapidly (and accurately) calculated. The risk must have appeared just small enough to justify going for the payoff in morale. But risk there was -- and nobody said Rose had to take it.

If soldiers love a leader the more for not worrying too much about his own safety, they also respect one the more for not standing on his dignity. Rose never pulled rank. Once during the drive on Paderborn, he and his aide, Maj. Robert Bellinger, caught sight of some Germans in uniform running from the road. He told his driver, T-5 Glen Shaunce, to stop the jeep, and all three men jumped out and chased the fugitives into a nearby cemetery. Division Artillery commander, Col. Frederic J. Brown, and his driver, Pfc. A.C. Brazeal, pulled up and joined the pursuit.

Wielding tommy guns and pistols, the five -- enlisted men, field officers, and a general -- captured twelve of the Germans. When Cpl. James Omand, the messenger, arrived on his motorcycle he saw a sight he would never forget: the Division Commander herding a bunch of prisoners at pistol-point!

It was this sort of "gallant carelessness" and the habit of establishing his command post within small-arms range of the enemy, that allegedly earned Rose the nickname among the Germans of "the American Rommel". And after he died, Chicago Sun correspondent Thomas R. Henry, compared him to Stonewall Jackson, declaring in his eulogy that "in Maurice Rose's death [the U.S. Army in Europe] has suffered its greatest single loss."

The circumstances of Gen. Rose's death are not -- and perhaps never will be -- perfectly clear. The accounts of the two men who were with him are substantially consistent, but perforce obscure, as the shooting occurred on a dark country road, suddenly, and while both witnesses were diving for cover. The identity of the third witness, the German who shot Rose, was never discovered.

This is how it happened.

With his aide Bellinger, and driver Shaunce, Rose was in a jeep accompanying Task Force Welborn along a dirt road heading for Paderborn. Ahead of them in another jeep was DivArty commander, Col. Brown; behind them in an armored car, the Division G-3, Lt. Col. Wesley Sweat. Their motorcycle messenger followed behind.

Suddenly Welborn's column was raked by intense small-arms and direct tank and anti-tank fire from both sides of the road. Cradling a tommy gun, Rose leapt into a roadside ditch. Shaunce and Bellinger dove for cover beside him. Just then one of the Task Force's tanks in front of them was destroyed by direct fire.

Unaware of their commander's predicament, Division officers in the rear tried to contact Rose by radio. When Division Chief of Staff, Col. John A. Smith Jr., learned that the column had been cut he knew the situation was grave; the more so when a radio message from Rose arrived ordering Col. Liander L. Doan's Task Force to move in and close the gap. It was Rose's last order. Minutes later he and his party became aware of German tanks closing in on them from the rear. Caught in a vise of enemy armor, their only hope was to make a dash across-country and attempt to join forward elements of the Task Force.

Under a hail of bright tracers, the command vehicles cut sharply to the right off the road and into an adjacent field. The messenger left his motorcycle and joined the G-3 personnel in the armored car. It was dusk now, and the Germans were sending up flares to silhouette the American vehicles.

Further ahead, Rose's party turned back onto the road, heading for what looked to them like the silhouettes of Pershing tanks. But when they'd driven past the first of these one of the men noticed that it had two exhaust pipes. Pershings had only one. They were among German Tigers.

Turning back was out of the question. Safety lay up ahead with the main body of T. F. Welborn. DivArty commander Brown gunned his jeep past three of the tanks, ripping off a fender as he squeezed past a fourth. By now the Germans realized they were in contact with the enemy. The fourth tank clanged to a halt and swung sideways, in an attempt to block the American vehicles. Brown barely got his jeep through. Rose's driver floored the gas in a desperate bid to follow him, but was caught in a wedge, his jeep pinned between the huge panzer and a tree.

As Brown looked back to see if Rose had managed to get through, he caught sight of another Tiger bearing down on him. Swerving sharply to the right, he gunned his vehicle over a ditch and cleared the road. Abandoning the jeep in the middle of a field, Brown ran for cover. "Everybody scrambled out and headed for the woods," he later recalled, "as by now the Germans had sent up flares and their tanks were firing."

Before Rose and his companions could scramble to safety, the top-hatch of the Tiger opened and a German soldier appeared flourishing a machine pistol. Perhaps he was one of the half-trained recruits the Wehrmacht were rushing into service in the last months of the war. He seemed excited, even panicky -- possibly trigger-happy. He shouted something unintelligible.

Rose reached toward his pistol belt. The tanker shouted again, seemingly gesturing at the general's side-arm. Can he have thought Rose was about to draw it? It seems incredible that Rose, his .45 still in its holster, would have tried to shoot it out with a man who already had him covered with an automatic weapon. Yet that must be how it looked to the other, for he suddenly fired a volley of bullets at Rose. At least one struck him in the head and killed him. Meanwhile Shaunce and Bellinger threw themselves under the tank and managed to crawl to safety in a nearby ditch.

Shaunce was lightly wounded and, after a series of narrow escapes, reached another Task Force; Bellinger spent four days behind enemy lines before being liberated. Several others got away clean; though Lt. Col. Sweat and his G-3 staff were captured and held for a month in Stalag XI-B in Fallingbostel before they were liberated by British forces.

The next day two 3rd Armored sergeants recovered General Rose's body.
General Rose was the eleventh American general officer killed in action in this war. Eight others have died in airplane crashes and fifteen from natural causes, while eight are missing and nineteen are prisoners of war. Cheated by his untimely death of the national fame he deserved, Major General Rose was buried in the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands. In this large and majestic cemetery, the remains of over 8,300 United States servicemen fallen in WWII rest in peace. To this day, the grounds are lovingly cared for by the people of Margraten.

The following is a brief video of Rose's first interment ceremony, before his re-internment in the Netherlands. Also included is a still photo of his parents, Rabbi Samuel Rose and Katherine Rose, at their home in Denver, Colorado, after learning of his death.

29 March, 2012

29 March 1945

V-MAIL


438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
29 March, 1945
Germany
Hello Sweetheart!

This one is on the fly and I’m writing on a rough board – so excuse the scrawl – or don’t I always? The weather is rather sour today – but our spirits are still excellent – as is the course of the war. It’s pretty difficult to keep up with it – even over here because of security blackouts etc; reminds me of the breakthrough into Belgium by the Germans last winter when we hardly knew what was going on – but how different!

Nothing much else to tell you, darling because we’re hopping around so much and besides – I’m on my way again. Always time to tell you I love you, dear, and miss you. But maybe soon – maybe soon. Love to the folks – Happy Passover and
All my deepest love
Greg

Route of the Question Mark

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]

(A) Schoenberg to (B) Bad Marienburg, Germany (30 miles)
26 March to 29 March 1945

March 29... Marienburg. We lived in what was once a clinic, and had to have four guard posts. A fine spot, nevertheless, and we would liked to have stayed longer, but we got a march order in the middle of the night and pulled out almost as soon as we arrived.

* TIDBIT *

about Passover in Germany in 1945

From Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 29 Mar 1945 comes this article:
In all of Germany's oldest Jewish settlements - Frankfurt, Cologne, Trier - American Jewish soldiers this evening began the traditional observances of Passover.


The handful of Jewish of civilians who remain in this area will celebrate their first open Passover in more than a decade as guests of the American soldiers as a result of a decision by the military authorities who ruled that this would not constitute fraternization with the enemy since the Jews, having been legally outlawed by the Germans, were, therefore, not enemy nationals. In addition, civilian attendance at religious services of soldiers has been authorized in cases where no local leader of the religion exists.


SEDER HELD IN GODESBERG IN ROOM WHERE HITLER SAW CHAMBERLAIN. Of all the Seders being held along this front tonight at various places, the choicest location will be the Dreesen Hotel in Bad-Godesberg, where Chaplain Sidney Lefkowitz, of Richmond, Virginia, will preside over the feast and religious ceremonies in the conference room where Hitler conferred with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, in 1938, a few weeks before the Munich Pact was signed.


Dreesen Hotel, Bad Godesberg, Germany in 1938


Chamberlain and Hitler meeting at the Hotel Dressen
in September of 1938


What will be probably the largest Seder will be held in Erefeld in the only comparatively intact synagogue found so far in Germany. Here, Chaplain Captain Marvin Goldfine, of Philadelphia, will hold services for about 1,000 men. All new dishes - and therefore kosher for Passover - have been obtained from a German warehouse.


Synagogue in Krefeld, Germany before Kristallnacht in 1938


Remains of Synagogue in Krefeld, Germany - after Kristallnacht
Photos from the Center for Jewish History web site


In Cologne another American Jewish chaplain will conduct services for the city's Jewish civilians in the ruins of the once impressive synagogue on Monart Strasse.


Many of the Seder locations, which were planned several weeks in advance, had to be shifted suddenly due to the forward rush of the rears. Nevertheless, it is estimated that at least two-thirds of the Jewish soldiers will have an opportunity to participate, Men of the 9th Tactical Air Camps of the 9th Air Force will attend services in a former German barracks. Capt, Meyer Goldman is officiating at the services of the 29th TAC of the 9th Air Force, where Lieutenant General William Food Simpson of the Ninth Army and Brigadier-General Richard Magent of the Air Force will be guests of honor.


REFUGEES FROM REICH CELEBRATE PASSOVER IN GERMANY AS GUESTS OF U. S. CHAPLAINS. Captain Lefkowitz, who has been storing his Passover supplies in a room adjoining Ritler's former suite at the Dreesen Hotel, said that the matzohs were baked in England for the American Jewish Welfare Board, the wine was obtained from a vintner in France, but Germen hens are supplying the baked eggs required at the seders. German gardens are also providing the traditional bitter herbs, symbols of the oppression in Egypt, the escape from which Passover celebrates.


Wherever possible, men in the front lines across the Rhine are receiving time out to attend Seders, which is the customary procedure in the Army for all important religious observances. These boys will be taken to rear installations by truck and then returned to the lines.


The chaplains have worked terrifically hard to arrange these services and many of them are planning to conduct six or seven Seders and services within the next two days. Two of them, Capt. Wolf Plant and Capt. Herman Dicker will be celebrating passover in their own homeland, for they fled from here after the rise of Hitler.

Here is one person's account of that Passover, as written by Dennis McCarthy in the Los Angeles "Daily News" on 5 April 2007 and titled "BROTHERS OF FAITH CELEBRATED PASSOVER ON THE BATTLEFIELD".
The care package from home caught up with Sol Rothman while he was sitting in a foxhole on the front lines in Germany a few days before Passover in 1945. The German army was retreating and the war was winding down, but men were still fighting -- and still dying.

"What'd you get, Sol?" a couple of his buddies asked, eyeing the package and hoping it contained homemade cookies that their good buddy Sol would surely pass around. The 19-year-old ripped open the package and smiled. It wasn't cookies. It was a Passover "kit" from his parents back in Brooklyn. A couple of boxes of matzo, a small bottle of Manischewitz wine and 10 Haggadahs -- books containing the order of the Seder service and prayers.

"We had a new company captain named Silver, a red-haired Jewish gentleman," said Sol, now 81, running his fingers across a Bronze Star for bravery, one of the proudest possessions of his long career as a medical doctor. The citation says Sol earned it at the Battle of the Bulge for crawling through heavy enemy fire not once, but twice to drag wounded buddies to safety. Sol always figured if the bullets didn't get him that day, the pneumonia he was suffering from certainly would. Luckily, neither did. That was why a few months later, he was sitting in that foxhole opening a care package from home, and praying the war would finally end.

"The captain decided we should celebrate Passover, so the company cooks rounded up chickens and vegetables from the German farmhouses to prepare the meal, and I supplied the matzo and wine," Sol said. "The only problem was there were only nine Jews in the whole company, and we needed one more for a minyan (the minimum number of men for a prayer service). We were pulling our hair out trying to find that 10th Jew when a Catholic chaplain walked up and asked if he could be the 10th man. We looked at each other and said, 'Sure, why not?"

So there they were, nine Jews and one Catholic celebrating Passover -- the exodus of the Jews from Egypt -- on a battlefield in Germany.

"It went great except for the wine," Sol remembered. "We were each supposed to drink four cups, but we only had one small bottle of Manischewitz for 10 guys. Each cup was only a few drops. Other than that, it was perfect. Afterward, the chaplain gave each of us a hug. He had tears in his eyes. He reminded us his boss, Jesus, was Jewish, and the Last Supper was a Passover celebration."

Jews, Christians -- didn't make any difference, Sol said. They were all brothers of faith standing out there on that battlefield in Germany 62 years ago breaking matzo and sipping Manischewitz.

28 March, 2012

28 March 1945


438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
28 March, 1945      1000
Germany

Dearest darling Wilma –

It has been so long since I’ve written on anything resembling conventional stationery, that I thought I’d try it when the opportunity presented itself. And it did. The winged lizard – or whatever you call it – is on the Count’s crest – and on everything else having anything at all to do with the household.

The day before we left – someone discovered a secret cellar which had been boarded up and cemented over. It was cleverly concealed. Well dear, you realize, of course, that we’re in enemy territory and we never can be sure whether or not explosives or something had been hidden away. It’s the “or something” that makes us particularly curious – and anyway the boys broke into the cellar and found 1200 bottles of old vintage Rhine wine and an enormous stock of canned and smoked foods; also beautiful china and silverware. All the latter was of course untouched – because we have strict standing orders not to take German food or household belongings, but the wine? Well the whole battalion – not just headquarters alone – has had it’s share, and when we left, each bag, trailer, vehicle etc. was bulging with it. And I haven’t seen anyone drunk with it. It’s a mild wine and delicious at mealtime – and that’s when the officers have been drinking it.

Well, sweetheart, chalk up yesterday as another day in which I couldn’t get a letter off to you or the folks. The situation at present is strongly reminiscent of the race thru France and I hope this one goes far. The enthusiasm over here is terrific as it must be at home – because every move brings us nearer to the Russians, and they to us – and the Germans between us. It’s shaping up as a sport contest too – because it seems as if Armies, corps and divisions are racing each other to see who can knife farther into Germany.

Our present quarters are just so-so – but hell, we’re still not out on the ground, and the faster we travel, the less damage we find and so it looks like better hunting on ahead. And on top of all that good news, I got a swell batch of mail, 4 letters from you, dear, the latest – written 15 March; and one dated V-mail of the 13th, too. I also heard from Dad A, Barbara Tucker, Lil Zetlan, a former patient in Salem, and a friend in Italy. Not bad at all. One of your letters – 2 March – told of being a bit fed up with your particular branch of work. I think I can understand what you feel, dear. I haven’t received your letter telling me of the interview – but regardless – just hang on a bit longer because after all – your job with R.C. won’t be permanent. I shall return home to love you marry you and snatch you from the horrible claws of boredom.

And now, darling, I’ve got a bit or work to do. I think my letters may be a bit spotty or irregular for awhile – and if you get a couple of V-mails – don’t be upset, dear, because it will be for a good cause. But I’ll try to write every day – anyway – if I can. My love to the folks, dear, best regards to the girls – and be well, sweetheart.

All my everlasting devotion
Greg.

* TIDBIT *

about Exploiting the Breakthrough

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]

From Mission Accomplished, The Story of the Campaigns of the VII Corps United States Army in the War Against Germany (1944-1945) comes this:
In the first day's drive, after crossing the Rhine on 25 March, armored columns of VII Corps advanced 20 kilometers. Resistance to the advance of the 104th Division on the south was moderate, but the 1st Division farther north fought off determined counterattacks as it moved east and also protected part of the Corps left flank. In another day the leading columns dashed 35 kilometers farther to seize all assigned objectives, and the Corps had contact with the enemy on a front along the west bank of the Rhine and the south bank of the Sieg for 97 miles.

Once more elements of the VII Corps had achieved a breakthrough, - now to exploit the situation. While our armored columns raced ahead, meeting only moderate resistance, our infantry cleared town after town, taking over a thousand prisoners a day. On 28 March 1945 the attack swung north-east and armored units sped another 35 kilometers to capture Marburg. The Corps advance had moved so fast, covering 90 kilometers in only three days, that this city of 25,000 population, famed as one of Germany's cultural centers, was virtually undamaged. Its 13th Century cathedral and its university founded in 1527 escaped completely the destruction that attended the capture of Aachen, Duren, Cologne, and Bonn.

St. Elizabeth's Church (Elisabethkirche) in Marburg, Germany today
Construction was started in 1235; the church was canonized in 1283.
The towers were completed in 1340.

Several German military hospitals were overrun in Marburg, and [6,000] soldier-patients became our prisoners. [According to Wikipedia, the whole city of Marburg had been turned into a hospital with schools and government buildings turned into wards to augment the existing hospitals from 1942 to 1945. By the spring of 1945, there were over 20,000 patients – mostly wounded German soldiers.] How little the Germans expected the arrival of our forces was shown when a railroad train loaded with civilians and convalescent soldiers being taken to Marburg for a rest and vacation was halted just outside the city by our tanks. But there was no rest or relaxation for our troops either, for now the Corps front extended approximately 200 kilometers, or 125 miles.

27 March, 2012

27 March 1945

No letter today. Just this:

Here are the photos Greg took around Bonn on the West side of the Rhine and Bad Godesburg on the East side of the Rhine, Germany on 26 March 1945.

The Cathedral at Bonn, Germany - March 1945

All that is left of the famous University at Bonn, Germany
March 1945

Typical GI Sign-Post on German Flak Gun - Bonn, Germany
March 1945

Fredrick William the Great - Bonn, Germany - March 1945
(Behind is shell of University)

Note painting on fence. See this all over Germany. They are pep talks.
This one says "Certainly we will win. There's no doubt about it!"
Bonn, Germany - March 1945

Camera didn't get beautiful facade on building.
Note Jayhawk Ferry sign - Our Corps Ferry

The Rhine - Below Bonn, Germany - March 1945
West Bank sign erected by Engineers and greets you as you head East.
And CBI = China-Burma-India Theater - which I hope I miss.

The Rhine looking South from Bonn

West Bank of Rhine Smoke Pot - Beginning of Smoke Screen
Bad Godesberg - March 1945

Looking East across Rhine at Bad Godesberg
March 1945

Civilians queuing up for questioning. Note Gerries in uniform.
Bad Godesberg - March 1945

* TIDBIT *

about the Last V-2 Rocket Launched


From losser.vamp's Flicker photostream came the below photos with the following write-up:
Towards the end of March 1945 Allied forces were closing in on the two launch sites in Holland, crossing the Rhine on 21 March. The German rocket batteries had time for a few parting shots before moving out of Holland and putting Britain beyond the range of the two. On the afternoon of 27 March 1945 they launched two last rockets, one aimed at Antwerp (which killed 27 people) the other aimed at London. At 4:54pm the 1115th and final V-2 to land in England landed at Orpington in Kent (15 miles from the center of London) between Court Road and Kynaston Road, blasting a crater 40 feet across and 20 feet deep in the gardens that separated the two roads. People heard the explosion for miles around as buildings shook, windows and tiles were blown from houses and people dived for cover.

23 People from Court Road and Kynaston Road were seriously injured, including a married couple in their garden at No. 84 Kynaston Road, two old age pensioners at No. 86 Kynaston Road, the elderly occupants of No. 82 Kynaston Road, whose roof was lifted off in the blast and a police Inspector at No. 69 Court Road who was listening to a radio program about the war being over when the house fell on top of him! The owner of No. 63 Court Road heard the explosion while she was shopping in Petts Wood and returned to find her house gone. Two children playing in the garden of No. 96 Kynaston Road were saved as they were playing in the Anderson Shelter at the time.


Damage at Kynaston Road on 27 March 1945


34-year-old Mrs Ivy Millichamp of No. 88 Kynaston Road was in her kitchen when the rocket fell. She was pulled from the wreckage by her husband Eric but she had caught the full force of the blast and was already dead. Apparently she had just gone into the kitchen to boil a kettle; her husband, who had remained in the front room of the house, survived.

Ivy Millichamp

Ivy was part of a large family - her parents Mr and Mrs Benjamin Croughton had seven daughters and five sons in Tottenham before moving to Rayleigh in Essex. Ivy married engineer Eric Millichamp in 1938 and the couple moved into the bungalow in Kynaston Road as it was convenient for Eric's work. In January 1945 a V-1 flying bomb had landed in Court Road, killing 8 people, but that time Ivy and Eric escaped unharmed. Just over 2 months later they were less lucky and Ivy suffered the cruel fate of becoming the 60595th and last civilian to be killed in Britain. She was buried in All Saints Churchyard on April 3rd. The grave initially was not marked and the death certificate gave her address incorrectly as 86 Court Road. Thanks to the editor and authors of the book The Blitz: Then & Now Vol. 3 the certificate was corrected and a suitable headstone was erected. On Rememberance Sunday in 1989 a memorial service was held at the grave. Her headstone records the fact that she was the last person in Britain to be killed by enemy action.

Ivy's Grave


Although the days of the V2 attacks were over the V-1 attacks continued for 2 more days but with no further deaths. On March 29th anti-aircraft gunners in North Kent triumphantly claimed what was to be the last V-1 to land on British soil. It exploded in open countryside at Iwade near Sittingbourne.
88 Kynaston Road today

Here is an eyewitness account called "The Last V2 - Final Attack in Orpington, 1945" as written by Michael Delaney and posted on BBC's web site WW2 People's War
It was the morning of the 27th March 1945, Mum had gone to clean the library in Orpington High Street, it was one of the many jobs she did to feed her family of seven children which included a cousin who lived with us since her Mother died four years previously. We lived in Walnuts Road which ran parallel to the valley of Orpington High Street, and this particular morning we were getting ready for school while Dad was dressing the younger members of the family. Paddy was the eldest, he was ten, I was eight, then came my cousin Mary, seven, my two sisters Marion and Margaret five and four respectively,followed by two brothers, Desmond, two and Jack, one. I was passing the window at the rear of the living room when I felt a rush of wind, almost warm and then it was as though some giant had picked the house up and shook it like a matchbox, the windows trembled before cascading across the living room, showering Demond with tiny splinters, an almighty roar followed instantaneously and the house shook again before a silence descended followed by cries and shouts of fear and terror.My ears rang as though a thousand bells had entered my head and everything became slow motion.

Dad clasped the girls and tried to brush the particles of glass away from their hair, astonishingly none of us was hurt but the cold morning entered the house with nothing to bar its way. Dad calmed us, then in an even calmer voice he said to me and Paddy, "Go down to the library and look for Mum." We were only too glad to go, it meant that we might be able to see where the bomb had landed, so instead of making for the library at the top end of the High Street, we made for the centre where a scene of devastation met our eyes, every shop window in the centre of the high street lay in smithereens across the pavement and gutter, ragged garments hung from some open spaces where jagged frames hung crazily into the thoroughfare. A policeman wearing a black steel helmet was blowing a whistle and the A.R.P vehicles and ambulances were moving slowly up the street. Broken tiles were scattered in pieces having been blown from the roofs of the shops, two shop assistants were standing crying together outside what remained of their workplace. We picked our way up the high street towards the library and found it minus windows and door, of Mum there was no sign, we were nearer the scene of the explosion now, and only for the large Commodore cinema, the casualties would have been much higher, The explosion was caused by a V-2 and it had landed fifty yards or so behind the cinema which absorbed most of the blast. The V-2 was a rocket filled with high explosives and targeted to land in the areas in and around London, these were so sophisticated that you never heard them coming, the first you knew was the explosion, their predecessor, the V-1 had an unmistakeable sound, like a motor-bike without a silencer and you could hear the engine cut out and try to seek shelter. The V-2 was silent,deadly and dreaded. Assuming that Mum had been killed or wounded, we didn't bother to hurry home, but continued to survey the devastated high street.

Eventually we strolled home looking for shrapnel on the way, we found Mum at home, she had been cleaning the part of the library below ground level and was there when the rocket landed. We were delighted, not about Mum but about the fact that we didn't have to go to school that day. It seemed ironical that only nine months' earlier, we had been evacuated to Wales to escape the V-1s only to be hit by a V-2. This was in fact, the last V-2 to land on England. One person was killed whom I believe is buried in Orpington graveyard, around thirty or so were injured, and just two months later, the war was over. Even today if you stand near the was memorial in Orpington and look up to the sloping roofs above the street, you will be able to see the 'new' tiles that replaced the old ones blasted away in that last V-2 attack.

26 March, 2012

26 March 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
26 March, 1945      0830
Germany

Wilma darling –

It’s a rainy, drizzly morning, the first rain in some time, it seems. It looks as if it will last all day, but this time of the year – rains shouldn’t last long. Yesterday, late p.m. things finally quieted down for me and I set out to look around a bit. In getting to our present position – we had by-passed a famous university city – so I drove back yesterday to look around. The city is about 50% destroyed; the university 100%. There were a few walls standing with signs reading: French Seminar, Greek Seminar etc. The Cathedral of the City was pretty well wrecked. It must have been one swell spot to have been a student in that city because even half dead – it had an air of richness and romanticism that you expect from an old European city. I took a few snaps and then I returned here.

I found some mail from you, too, 2 airmails of 12 and 14 March. I was so glad to read you had received a recent one of mine because I know how elated I feel after receiving a late letter of yours. I also got a letter from Dr. Finnegan and a post-card from Dad A. when he was passing thru New York. Dr. Finnegan gave me a bit of news about Salem and particularly about a few of the men in the service. Dr. Gardner has lost 40 lbs, is still in the Pacific – and no diagnosis has been made; Bob Shaughnessy – in the Pacific – has arthritis of the spine and hip; Dick Thompson is back from the Pacific and is now at a West coast hospital. He has a fungus infection of his hands. I guess the Pacific is a pretty tough spot, Japs or no Japs. I’m glad that so far, at least, I’ve been able to stay out of that theater.

I also got a V-mail from you, dear – no date – in which you told me about the possibility of spending one night of Passover with my folks. I hope you got the chance to, because I know they’d love to have you. They’ll be mighty lonely people this year – for we always managed to get all together.

Your letter of the 12th mentioned a party and lots of people. I don’t have your previous letter – so I couldn’t follow it too well, but it sounded like a swell time. In the same letter you mentioned sending me a package – including face cloths. Thanks – in advance, darling; I’ll be on the look-out for it. In reference to the package you received with the two novels – I’m puzzled too, dear. Once a package is sent – I’m damned if I can remember what was put into it. I had thought that that one contained only the 2 books. There’s only one address book I ever sent you. But I sent out quite a bit of junk about that time – and I’m mixed up. I can’t even remember the spruce sprig or why I included it. Boy – am I slipping! As for the novels – I don’t think I’ll ever get around to reading them. They’re just a remembrance of the baby I delivered and a note of thanks from the mother.

And just to keep the facts straight, dear – you’ll be the most loved girl in town – when I get back. We’ll probably both become punchy – as they say in the Army – but I know that I’ll sure love you awfully hard and long.

Before I stop, dear – in reference to your hair – I don’t know; think I’ll send you down to the hairdressers; I haven’t had much training with a lot of hair – you know. And now, sweetheart, I’ll have to close. Hope to hear from you again today. Love to the folks – and

All my deepest love
Greg

Route of the Question Mark

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]

(A) Königswinter to (B) Schoenberg, Germany (12 miles)
15 March - 22 March 1945

March 26... Schoenberg. A sad let-down from Longenburg. Houses built of clay and mud, like the ones in Normandy, and just as dirty, if such a thing is possible. Very depressing. A ramshackle town.

25 March, 2012

25 March 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
25 March, 1945      0840
Germany

Dearest sweetheart Wilma –

It’s still a little noisy in here this morning but the boys will be going to Church soon and things should quiet down. This is Palm Sunday and it seems hard to believe that Easter is here next Sunday. I believe there’s to be some kind of Passover Service at the Corps the latter part of this week – but as usual I don’t know yet whether or not I’ll be able to make it. Meanwhile the weather stays beautiful, the days get longer and warmer, and if it weren’t for an occasional this or that – it would be easy to forget there was a war on. I’ve never seen so much of anything drunk as I have of this wine here. Most of the 800 bottles are gone, but the boys found a shed with tremendous kegs – all filled with fine red wine. They fill up 5 gallon cans and pass them around. We’ve sent a lot of stuff out to the batteries.

1015

I got busy again and here I am back. That’s when you can’t forget about war, darling. Damn it – everything seems so peaceful and serene and suddenly – bang! – and there’s work to do.

24 March, 2012

24 March 1945


438th AAA AW BN

APO230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
24 March, 1945      1000
Germany


My dearest darling –

Well – the news continues to be excellent and I can imagine that everyone at home is in good spirits. We are, too, and I honestly don’t see how this can continue much longer than about 10 weeks or so – but that’s my private opinion. I think we’ve finally got them where we want them – dazed, confused, and what is most important – spread thinly.

I didn’t get a chance to write you as early this morning as I have been doing. One of the reasons was that I was collecting a little more junk to have wrapped and sent to you, dear. There’s a couple of books showing pictures of German victories in Poland and France – through 1940. There’s another book – a collection of cartoons by a famous German cartoonist. I wish you knew German, darling, because some of them are very good. But others are funny – translated or not – and I’ll translate some of the others for you, sweetheart, some night in bed. O.K.? Incidentally – I once mentioned the fact that I sent a lot of useless stuff home to you, dear. I hope I’m not cluttering up your house too much with it. I’m sure that a lot of stuff I look at now will cause me to wonder why I ever sent it when I see it at a later date. However, dear, in my own defense I can say that everyone here is the same.

Yesterday was another beautiful day here and the boys – I mean the enlisted men in particular – are having a swell time. They’re drinking all the wine they want. They eat their meals on a little patio – it’s warm enough, too. I didn’t do much yesterday – except to visit Group headquarters and take care of a little business there. We played Bridge again in the evening. Pete was over for awhile, and sent his love.

I received a V-mail from you and Lawrence yesterday – both dated 8 March. I believe that is the latest of yours I have – although airmail of the 6th arrived here a few days ago. Lawrence had little to say except that his attitude was unchanged. Your V-mail mentioned the fact that Col. Pereira had called and that must have been a surprise. It was damn nice of him to call and I’m surprised he remembered. In answer to your question why he didn’t know we were engaged – I’m not certain I know the answer dear. It seems to me I had told everyone. The only explanation is that we were out of contact for a long while when I was in England; that was because Pereira was being transferred all over the place. It wasn’t until after Normandy that we got to writing again. I met a mutual friend who had his address. He’s a good egg, though, and we had a lot of fun together. I’m sure we’ll get to see him after the war.

Oh – I meant to mention one article in particular that I’m sending in the package of today. I won’t name it because I don’t know exactly what it is. But tell me if you notice anything particular about it. I think you’ll know which object I mean.

Darling – I’d like to write more, but it’s late and I’ve got to get going. It’s not too late to tell you I love you, though – and strongly – and you, alone, Sweetheart. For now – love to the folks – and

All my truest love
Greg.

* TIDBIT *

about Operation Varsity

Paratroopers Landing in Operation Varsity

Operation Varsity was a successful joint American–British airborne operation that took place toward the end of World War II. It was the largest airborne operation in history to be conducted on a single day and in one location. It was the last mass parachute and glider assault of the Second World War, designed to pierce the final physical barrier to a ground advance into Nazi Germany. It was planned to immediately follow the assault across the Rhine.

At 1000 hours on 24 March 1945 nine battalions of the 6th British Airborne Division (9,387 personnel) together with six battalions from the 17th US Airborne Division (7,220 personnel) landed by parachute and glider east of the River Rhine near Wesel, Germany. The airlift consisted of 541 transport aircraft containing airborne troops, and a further 1,050 troop-carriers towing 1,350 gliders. The immense armada stretched more than 200 miles (322 km) in the sky and took 2 hours and 37 minutes to pass any given point. It was protected by some 2,153 Allied fighters from the U.S. Ninth Air Force and the Royal Air Force. These were followed closely by 240 four-engine Liberator bombers of the U.S. Eighth Air Force dropping 582 tons of supplies including 109 tons of ammunition, 695 vehicles, and 113 artillery pieces. Fifteen of the Liberators were lost.

Paratroopers of Operation Varsity
before boarding their C-47 transport

C-47s releasing paratroopers of Operation Varsity

At the conclusion of the operation, all of the objectives that the airborne troops had been tasked with had been captured and held, usually within only a few hours of the operation's beginning. The bridges over the Issel had been successfully captured, although one later had to be destroyed to prevent its capture by counter-attacking German forces. The Diersfordter Forest had been cleared of enemy troops, and the roads through which the Germans might have routed reinforcements against the advance had been cut by airborne troops. Finally, Hamminkeln, the village that dominated the area and through which any advance would be made, had been secured by air-lifted units. About 3,500 German soldiers were captured.

Glidermen of Operation Varsity

The defenders of the Reich made the paratroopers pay with their lives. Operation Varsity turned out to be the bloodiest day for Allied Airborne troops in the whole of the Second World War. The two divisions incurred more than 2,000 casualties. The cause of this high casualty rate can likely be traced to the fact that the operation was launched in full daylight, rather than a night-assault. The casualty rates were worsened by the slow rates of release and descent of the gliders themselves, and the fact that each aircraft towed two gliders, slowing them even further; as the time to release a glider unit was 3–4 times longer than a parachute unit, the gliders were vulnerable to flak. Also, there was little element of surprise. The Germans knew the when the attack was to occur, but did not know exactly where. Once the smoke screens were lit, the area of attack from across the Rhine became apparent.

Medic treating wounded gliderman beside his glider

Wounded paratroopers of Operation Varsity
being brought to an Aid Station

Yet for all the success of Operation Varsity, the question remained whether under the prevailing circumstances an airborne attack had been necessary or was even justified. It unquestionably aided British ground troops. However, in view of the weak condition of German units east of the Rhine and the particular vulnerability of airborne troops in and immediately following the descent, some overbearing need for the special capability of airborne divisions would be required to justify their use. Although the objectives assigned the divisions were legitimate, they were objectives that ground troops alone under existing circumstances should have been able to take without undue difficulty and probably with considerably fewer casualties. Participation by paratroopers and glidermen gave appreciably no more depth to the bridgehead at Wesel than that achieved by infantrymen of the 30th Division. Nor did the airborne attack speed bridge construction, for not until 0915 the next day, 25 March, did engineers start work on bridges at Wesel. A treadway bridge had been opened to traffic behind the 30th Division seventeen hours before that.

A documentary about Operation Varsity is shown in two parts in the first two videos below. That is followed Patrick Edmonds telling of his piloting a glider into Germany, filled with troops and materiel, in Operation Varsity.