06 March, 2012

06 March 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
6 March, 1945      1300

Dearest Sweetheart –

Well I feel much better today – normal in fact and I’m sure glad about that – because this is no time in which to be sick. I got a swell night’s sleep – in a bed if you please, dear – and I feel real chipper today. I’m just about settled again – and once more I have a nice room all to myself and with windows intact! It seems funny to be able to find such a spot – but we’ve been lucky. Windows are a peculiar thing, darling. You just don’t think much about them until you don’t see them for a long time – then you become acutely aware of them. It’s that way with most things I guess. Anyway – as you should gather – we’ve been pretty much on our toes as of late.

My present room was undoubtedly occupied by a female. There’s a white bureau in it and on a little ledge are several bottles – mostly empty – but the array includes some d’Orsay’s Eau de Lavende, a bottle or perfume with a Russian label, a bottle of Brilliantine aux fleurs – and a couple of cold cream jars. There’s a small end-table next to my bed that holds my radio on one side, and I have a pretty flower pot with pussy willows on the other end. These past few places were only recently inhabited by civilians of course and are therefore quite homelike. We move into a house – use the furniture we want and out goes everything else – thru the nearest exit. A lot of good stuff gets ruined thereby – but the war’s still on. You’ll have to watch me closely for awhile, sweetheart. If there’s an armchair, divan or table I don’t happen to fancy – I’ll be strongly tempted to heave it out of the nearest window – and that won’t look so nice in Salem – you know.

I haven’t had time to re-read some of your most recent letters, dear, but I did a little while ago. I came across the one that mentioned Florence’s episode at the Ritz. It made me furious – just reading it and I can well imagine how she must have felt. But it’s an old story in Boston. I can remember when I was at College and Med school too how I had to be the one to call the Copley for reservations of a Saturday nite. If Guralnick or Waitzkin or Levine called – they either got nowhere or got stuck in a corner. I usually had better luck, but it’s a damn shame – no matter how you look at it.

Say – I also came across your news about Leonard Salter and his being at a POE. And a medic! That’s really something. I’d say offhand, though, that of all places in the Army, he’ll probably fit best there. I wonder if he has really gone over. You know, darling, despite the hardship of having been away from you so long – I still don’t envy the boys who are sweating it out in the States now. Their prospects are tough as I see it. Whether they come to the E.T.O. or go to the Pacific they’ll run into so many troops that have so much more time then they, that it’s a sure bet they’ll be years in coming home. Even I have to worry about those boys who fought in Africa and Italy and have a year or so more time than I have. But they can’t take away the 16 months I already have with 9 months combat service. The latter, by the way – i.e. the amount of combat – is the more important of the two figures – and that’s increasing steadily. And except for a few old divisions over here – the African campaign group – this outfit has as much time or more than anybody else. No one seems to know what will happen after this phase is over – but it seems pretty definite that we’ll all get a crack at the U.S. and it also seems to me that our turn for that will come long before we’d get a chance to be rotated – if the war should continue.

Now how did I get onto that vein? In case you don’t know, darling, I’ll tell you. It’s because the one thought that obsesses me as much as the realization that I love you darling, – is the thought of getting home as soon as possible to show you that love, to make up to you all the lonely nights you’ve had to put up with on account of me. I guess I’ll never be able to repay you, sweetheart, for your thoughtfulness, constancy and devotion – but you can bet your last dime that I’ll be trying always. We’re going to be happy together, dear – very happy – because with our love for each other goes a deep appreciation of each other – and that is what counts most of all.

And enough for now, darling. Be well, dear and take care of yourself (especially on those splits!) Love to the folks – and

All my sincerest love and devotion

Route of the Question Mark


(A)Kenten to (B) Konigsdorf, Germany (6.5 miles)
5 March to 6 March 1945

March 6... Konigsdorf. The Battery Commander prepared more road guides, a white question mark on a red background. The joke of the year: Pvt [Bernard M.] STEWART rushed into a room, breathless with excitement, exclaiming, "Hey, there's a harp next door!", and someone said "What the Hell do we want a harp for? No one in the Battery can blow it!" Here the jeep drivers gave an elaborate dinner for Capt [William S.] RENKIN and 1st Lt [Frederick C.] ABER.


about the Cathedral and the Bridge

On 6 March 1945, the 3d Armored Division drove quickly through the heart of Cologne, a wasteland from long years of aerial bombardment, and reached the Hohenzollern Bridge, only to find a 1200-foot gap blown in it. Clarence Smoyer, E Co, 32nd A.R., 3rd Armored Division, gunner of the newly introduced M26 Pershing tank, recollects that when he was about a 15 minute drive away from the Hohenzollern Bridge he heard some massive explosions coming from the area that he later knew to be the bridge and "that must have been its demolition." The Hohenzollern Bridge was one of the most important bridges in Germany during World War II; even under consistent daily air strikes the bridge was not damaged badly. On 6 March 1945, German military engineers blew up the bridge when Allied troops started to conquer Cologne, so that the Allies could not follow them over the Rhine. Close by amid the sea of ruins stood the stately Cologne cathedral, damaged but basically intact.

The Hohenzollern Bridge had been constructed between 1907 and 1911 after the old bridge, the Cathedral Bridge (Dombrücke), had to be demolished. The Cathedral Bridge had been unable to handle the increasing traffic in Cologne. After being demolished by the Germans during the war, reconstruction was quickly organized; by May 8, 1948, the Hohenzollern Bridge was accessible by pedestrians again. Over the next eleven years the bridge was improved until by 1959 it was usable without any impairment. During the 1980s the bridge was renovated with two new tracks. The Hohenzollern Bridge now regularly has over 1200 trains pass through daily. The bridge is regarded as an important part of Cologne as it connects Cologne's central station with the major European cities on the other side of the Rhine. The total length of the Hohenzollern Bridge is 1,342.5 feet (409.19 meters).

The Hohenzollern Bridge "Then" (above) and "Now" (below)

The Cologne Cathedral construction began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, until 1880 to complete, roughly 600 years. It is 144.5 meters long, 86.5 m wide and its towers are approximately 157 m tall. The cathedral is one of the world's largest churches and the largest church in Northern Europe. For four years, 1880–84, it was the tallest structure in the world, until the completion of the Washington Monument. It has the second-tallest church spires, only surpassed by the single of Ulm Minster, completed 10 years later in 1890. Because of its enormous twin spires, it also presents the largest facade of any church in the world. The choir of the cathedral, measured between the piers, also holds the distinction of having the largest height to width ratio of any medieval church.

In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites. In 2004 it was placed on the "World Heritage in Danger" list, as the only Western site in danger, due to plans to construct a high-rise building nearby, which would have visually impacted the site. The cathedral was removed from the List of In Danger Sites in 2006, following the authorities' decision to limit the heights of buildings constructed near and around the cathedral.

The cathedral suffered seventy hits by aerial bombs during World War II. It did not collapse, but stood tall in an otherwise flattened city. The great twin spires are said to have been used as an easily recognizable navigational landmark by Allied aircraft raiding deeper into Germany in the later years of the war, which may be a reason that the cathedral was not destroyed.

A U.S. Army Chaplain holds Mass in Cologne Cathedral
7 March 1945

The repairs to the building were completed in 1956. In the northwest tower's base, an emergency repair carried out in 1944 with bad-quality brick taken from a nearby war ruin remained visible until 2005 as a reminder of the War, but then it was decided to reconstruct this section according to its original appearance.

Inside the Cathedral "Then" (above) and "Now" (below)

Some repair and maintenance work is constantly being carried out in some section of the building, which is almost never completely free of scaffolding, since wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones.

Here are views of the Cathedral and Bridge together, taken "Then" and "Now"

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