01 March, 2012

01 March 1945

438th AAA AW BN

APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
1 March, 1945      0945
Dearest Sweetheart –

Happy First of March to you, dear! It’s a fresh, windy, cool day here today and I don’t see how we can have very much more winter from now on. And if we don’t – then we really got by pretty lucky – because we had only one bad month – January – but that was really a b—ch!

I’m in what we call our Aid Station right now and there’s confusion and noise – so excuse any incoherence, darling. Our room is so boarded up that I can’t see to write from there – and it’s not warm enough yet to write outside. Last night we sat around the C.P., talked, studied the map and generally killed the evening. The news continues good and from where we sit – it’s engrossing to see the various phases develop. Incidentally, dear, the medics have been issued maps ever since the early days and I’ve been able to file away most of them. If I can ever get them back – I’ll be able to show you where we’ve been. I guess I have enough to cover the walls of a medium-sized room.

Yesterday evening I got a letter from you written at the time of your last big snowstorm and boy! – you’ve really had some ‘fun’ this winter. I had to laugh at some of your descriptions, dear – snowdrifts, tired muscles, aching back etc. I also got a very old letter from you – your impressions of the “party” at Stan’s house. Your description of Betty was illuminating, to say the least, darling. As I once told you – I didn’t remember exactly how she looked – but I did remember that I was hardly attracted to her. Now you can see why. She is affected – and that of course I didn’t like from the start. I hate that in anyone. What troubled me most was your remark that after 3½ months of marriage it was rumored that Stan was already “fooling around” with others. That corroborates my initial belief that he didn’t marry her for love but for her obvious wealth. And therefore – unlike you, dear, I don’t feel sorry for him in the least. He knew what he was letting himself in for; he’s no child. I want all the things you want from life – too – as you already know. Gosh – married life should be so wonderful – it seems to me. To have someone so close to you, so much a part of you that you can confide your every thought and dream – must be about the most wonderful thing imaginable. Everyone goes thru life, I think, harboring things to himself – things which he doesn’t even tell his brother or sisters or parents – no matter how close they may be to him. Those are the things he saves for his wife – and those are the thoughts I’ve saved all these years for you, sweetheart. The intimacy of being married, living together, sharing the same bed and therefore sharing everything – is something I’ve always wanted - and darling, you’re the girl I’ve saved all that for. We’ll have our home and children; we’ll not be superficial; we’ll have good friends and live a decent, full life. We’ll be steady and real and substantial – I know.

Say – you mention Steve’s receiving an insignia of an infantry division and you immediately became worried because I might be with an outfit like that. Well – I’m not. A good many AA outfits are and it’s not a very good assignment. Fortunately – we’ve never been and I hope we don’t. Our assignment has been the same ever since we left the Eighth Air Force in England and went to Sherborne. For AA – it’s a good assignment.

And darling – you seemed peeved because I once wrote I wanted to see this thing thru. I believe you misinterpreted me. Like Roosevelt – I hate war, too – but I’m just making the best of a situation over which, at present, I have no control. Again I say you’re influenced wrongly by your ARC work – seeing fellows get home for this reason or that. Well darling, I hope I don’t have to come home for compassionate leave or because I’ve been wounded. But I do want to come home just as soon as possible. When I say ‘seeing this thing thru’ – I mean to imply only that I think most of us won’t get back until the war here is over. I personally want to be among the healthy ones – and you must know, sweetheart, that the earlier I get home – the better I like it.

Gotta stop now, dear, and arrange a few things. It’s pretty active here at the moment and something is happening most of the time. Meanwhile, darling, remember that I love you and only you – and that’s the way it will always be. Love to the folks and I hope Mother B is feeling better.

All my deepest love, dear

P.S. Now – if they had some way of sending us home for ‘passionate’ leave –

"Near Duren - March 1945 - Proof that the 438th Shoots 'em Down
This is part of a FW 190 shot down by Baker Battery
Pilot was captured after parachuting."

Route of the Question Mark

(A) Rolsdorf to (B) Merzenich, Germany (4.5 miles)
26 February to 1 March 1945

March 1... Merzenich. A one night stand, spent in ruined houses, lingering only long enough to sleep and be paid. We were shelled all night and one particular shell landed twenty feet from the building we were using as a mess hall.


about The Shell that Came Close to the Mess Hall

Two sites address the shelling around Merzenich, possibly explaining the comment in "The Route of the Question Mark" about being shelled. It seems either explanation is a possible source of the shells.

At this point in time, units of the 438th AAA AW Bn were assigned to protect the 3rd Armored Division's 188th Field Artillery Battalion. On a 3rd Armored Online Guest Book web site, Lou Rossi, from the 188th, remembered:

In a town called Merzenich, I was standing around with some 104th Infantry riflemen, and the 3rd's armored artillery was also in the town. A flight of our own Ninth Tac came over and bombed the hell out of us. I woke up in a cellar with some infantry and armor guys around me. When I came up to the street I observed a lot of damage and guys were pointing at the yellow and white US markings on some duds and using very foul language directed at the Ninth Tac bombers. Maybe someone in the 3rd's artillery remembers being hit by our own bombers in Merzenich. The tanks had already taken off for Morschenach, about forty miles ahead. I've always suspected that those two names were confused by a bomber navigator and they unloaded on us instead of hitting Morschenach, the target town they were supposed to hit in support of the tanks spearheading toward Cologne.
Meanwhile, Hodge's Diary mentions night attacks by the Boche. The snapshots that follow were taken from Normandy to Victory: The War Diary of General Courtney H. Hodges & the First U.S. Army, maintained by his aides Major William C. Sylvan and Captain Francis G. Smith Jr.; edited by John T. Greenwood, copyright 2008 by the Association of the United States Army.

This account from Hodge's Diary also states that the Boche had 34 downed aircraft. Greg seems to have taken a picture of the wing of one.

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