10 March, 2012

10 March 1945

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

Dearest darling Wilma –

Well I wrote you a short V-mail last night because I was tired and it was late. But here it is another day, dear, and I’m off to a good start. I got 2 V-mails yesterday and an air mail. The former – 20, 21 Feb, the latter – 24 Feb – so you can see – the V-mail is again a bit slower. I’ve already heard from you by air mail – as of 28 February.

Your one V-mail mentioned a Freedman family in Salem. I did know a Mrs. Freedman and a daughter there. But I believe the daughter married a fellow I once knew at Harvard – Arnie Dane. I don’t know the other daughter – or at least I can’t remember. And it wasn’t professionally – either – that I knew them. They happened to be one of the few Jewish families I knew in my early days in Salem. But I never got to known them very well.

I was glad to read my letter to the girls had arrived and that they enjoyed it. It was nice of them to write – in the first place.

Gee I was so glad to read in your letter of 24 February about the 2 packages arriving. I don’t know just how many I’ve sent out – but I’m certain there are several more on the way. I suppose I should jot them down as I send them out and then check them – but that would be too methodical. A lot of the stuff I send you undoubtedly can be classified as junk, darling, and I realize that. But I see something – it hits me as being something to remember after the war, and I ship it off. You’ll probably have a closet full before the war’s over – but put it aside and we’ll throw out what you want to afterwards, O.K.?

So you think I’ll use the toilet set on out honeymoon, do you? Could be, dear. It really is a nice one – and what surprised me was that the woman who sent it – was a visitor to Salem; I treated her twice and never saw her again because she returned to Chicago where she lives. She also sent some candy. I wrote and thanked her and she has since written me asking me what I would like she and her husband to send me. I don’t understand it.

I’m so glad you think that the “German portfolio” I sent you is not just another book. I thought not myself; actually I’m sure it’s rare and that there are few of them around. You made no comment about it’s source or ownership. I carried it along with me ever since late August when we were in France. It comes from the same place our clock came from. You may or may not have noticed that the signature in the front of the book is that of the owner of the place we visited. If I ever hear of his whereabouts after the war – I’ll see that he gets the thing back. The real story is that the day we passed by – the Maquis were running wild; the Germans had a headquarters in the place and had just been run out. The Maquis – who were really a pretty wild bunch – ransacked the place of many of its treasures. What I took would have been ruined. There were a thousand other things – but it was just impossible to take them. I think I did well with the 2 items I got.

I’m sorry you can’t read the German, dear. I’ve sent a couple of other things home to you – a couple of simply framed poems that are nice. One about “Mother” and another one about a man’s home. Oh yes. I sent a very interesting bell home to you with an inscription on it. It’s from the days of the Kaiser – made of silver and rather different. And I’ve sent some volumes – beautifully photographed – on the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. I’ve never seen anything like it and they’re worth having.

Two Sides of Silver Bell from Kaiser Days

Well – you got 4 letters from me the day you got 2 packages and you said they were full of spirit and were funny. That’s good, darling, I’m glad my letters are able to strike you that way. My sense of humor? If I haven’t lost it – I’m glad too. Sometimes I feel pretty sour – but damn it – that doesn’t help one bit and I’d just as soon see the funny side of things if I can.

I knew you wouldn’t like the news about Sgt. Freeman. I hated to write it but I felt I had to. Yes – I liked him; he was dependable, steady and a good soldier. He must have written that himself – but he was more seriously wounded than he implied. He’ll be coming home – as he said. His sister wrote me – or did I tell you already? She wanted details – and I just couldn’t give them to her. That is one of the things the Army is extremely strict about. It was a difficult letter for me to answer.

Hell – I’m getting worried about your not receiving those 20 odd photos I sent you. I hope they weren’t taken out by a censor – although by now – you probably have them – I hope.

It was sweet of you to worry about my reaction to my Aunt Mollie’s death. I was taken aback when I first heard she was ill and what her illness was. Lawrence was the first to mention it. When I realized Ca [cancer] was the Dx [diagnosis] – I knew of course that the sooner the better. In recent years I saw her rarely although many members of the family played up to her constantly because of her wealth. We never did that in my family. I don’t suppose she visited us or we her 10 times in the past 5 years. She was a good scout, though, and a very striking woman, I always thought.

Yes – if the opportunity came for a trip home – for 1 day – not 30 – I’d grab it! Regardless of the heartache of having to come back – it would be worth it to me. Incidentally – I believe I told you about a friend of mine, M.C. who was 2 yrs overseas and finally sent home not long ago – reassigned, not rotated. I heard from him yesterday. He first got a leave, and since then he’s been kicked around to N.Car., Florida, Georgia and he’s now at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. He’s a bit fed up and glad to be in the States, of course. His home is in Conn. I wouldn’t mind – so much – because so long as I was in the States and there to stay – we could be married and travel about together. My – that would be fun! Getting married, Yum! Yum! Well – we will, sweetheart – no fear about that. Just keep loving me as I love you and all will be fine. Have to close now, dear. Be with you again tomorrow. My love to the folks – and

All my deepest love,

P.S. Naturally this outfit is in everything –

If You Still Have a Mother

Alternate translations are welcomed...

If you still have a mother, so thank God and be content; not all on earth have this great fortune. If you still have a mother, you need to care about her with love, so that she can lay her tired head to rest in peace.

She has lived from the first day for you with fearful concerns. She brought you to bed at night, and woke you up in the morning. And when you were sick, she took care of the one she gave life with deep pains. And when all gave you up, your mother didn’t declare you lost.

She taught you the holy prayer, she first taught you talking; she put your hands together and taught you to pray to the Father (God). She guided your childhood, she guarded your youth years. Thank (only) your mother if you still follow the path of virtue.

And if you don’t have a mother any more, and you can’t make her happy any more, you still can decorate her early grave with flowers. A mother’s grave, a holy grave, for you an ever holy place! Oh, go to this place, if a wave of life pushes you over.

Author: Friedrich Wilhelm Kaulisch


about Building More Bridges
and Attempts to Destroy Them

From "U.S. Army in WWII European Theater of Operations: The Last Offensive" by Charles B. MacDonald for the Department of the Army's Office of the Chief of Military History, published in 1973 in Washington, D.C. comes this excerpt:
At the bridge site, concentrated efforts were made from the start toward supplementing the Ludendorff railroad bridge. One of the first units to arrive for the purpose was Naval Unit No. 1, a U.S. Navy force with twenty-four LCVP's (landing craft, vehicle and personnel) that had been attached to the First Army for some months in anticipation of the Rhine crossings. Also quick to arrive was an engineer unit of the III Corps, the 86th Engineer Heavy Pontoon Battalion, with orders to operate three ferries, one well north of the Ludendorff Bridge, one close to the bridge at Remagen, and the third well south of the bridge. As assembled by the engineers, the rafts were made of five pontoons covered with wooden flooring. Used as free ferries propelled by 22-hp. outboard motors, the craft began to operate as early as the morning of 9 March. The ferries and LCVP's were augmented on 14 March by ducks (2½-ton amphibious trucks) of the 819th Amphibious Truck Company.

Survey teams of the 1111th and 1159th Engineer Combat Groups, scheduled to build tactical bridges across the Rhine, reached Remagen during the morning of 8 March. Because of road priorities granted at first to infantry units and engineers who were to operate ferries, the bridging units themselves began to move to the river only during the night of 9 March. Construction of the first bridge, a treadway from Remagen to Erpel, began early on 10 March 1945.

Although jammed roads leading to Remagen continued to hamper bridge construction, the most serious delays derived from German artillery fire and air attacks. During 8 and 9 March, the Germans maintained an average rate of one shell every two minutes in the vicinity of the bridge sites, but by 10 March, their fire had fallen off to four or five rounds per hour. Artillery fire during the course of construction of the Remagen treadway bridge destroyed four cranes, two Brockway trucks, two air compressors, three dump trucks, and thirty-two floats.

Exhortation to the Luftwaffe to strike and strike again was one of the few immediate steps Field Marshal Kesselring could take toward eliminating the Ludendorff Bridge after he assumed command in the west on 10 March. He conferred that day with senior Luftwaffe commanders, urging them to knock out the bridge and any auxiliary bridges the Americans might construct.

From 8 through 16 March, the Luftwaffe tried. The German planes struck at the railroad bridge, at the ferries, and at the tactical bridges, but with no success. Whenever the weather allowed, American planes flying cover over the bridgehead interfered; even when the German pilots got through the fighter screen, they ran into a dense curtain of antiaircraft fire. When they tried a stratagem of sending slow bombers in the lead to draw the antiaircraft fire, then following with speedy jet fighters, the Americans countered by withholding part of their fire until the jets appeared. American antiaircraft units estimated that during the nine days they destroyed 109 planes and probably eliminated 36 others out of a total of 367 that attacked.

The Germans tried to destroy the railroad bridge by three additional means. First, soon after losing the bridge, they brought up a tank-mounted 540-mm. piece called the Karl Howitzer. The weapon itself weighed 132 tons and fired a projectile of 4,400 pounds, but after only a few rounds that did no damage except to random houses, the weapon had to be evacuated for repairs. Second, from 12 through 17 March a rocket unit with weapons located in the Netherlands fired eleven supersonic V-2's in the direction of the bridge, the first and only tactical use of either of the so-called German V-weapons during World War II. One rocket hit a house 300 yards east of the bridge, killing three American soldiers and wounding fifteen. That was the only damage. Three landed in the river not far from the bridge, five others west of the bridge, and one near Cologne; one was never located.

The night of 16 March, the Germans tried a third method - seven underwater swimmers in special rubber suits and carrying packages of plastic explosive compound - but from the first the Americans had anticipated such a gambit. During the first few days of the bridgehead, before nets could be strung across the river, they dropped demolition charges to discourage enemy swimmers and stationed riflemen at intervals along the railroad bridge to fire at suspicious objects. Later, with nets in place, they stationed tanks equipped with searchlights along the river.[In fact, part of the 438th AAA Aw (Mobile) Battalion helped move those searchlights to the Remagen Bridgehead and helped set them up.]

When the German swimmers first tried to reach the bridge, American artillery fire discouraged them from entering the water. On the next night, the 17th, they moved not against the railroad bridge but against tactical pontoon bridges, only to be spotted by the American searchlights. Blinded by the lights, the seven Germans, one by one, surrendered.

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