23 March, 2012

23 March 1945

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

My dearest sweetheart –

I’m listening to the radio as I’m writing this and it’s playing “It had to be you” – and I’m so glad it was you, dear, because I know you’re going to make me glad always.

Yesterday I had a chance to write you a V-mail only – and a short one at that. We’ve settled again and each time I’m more impressed with the ease and speed with which we adjust ourselves. As usual – the 438th looks for and – if at all available – finds a fairly comfortable spot. If I ever write you, dear, that we’re not in a very good set-up, you can be sure there isn’t a good place within miles of the area we’re in.

This is an old Schloss – or castle. It’s not particularly beautiful from the outside – although there is a dried up moat around it, but it has been completely modernized so that it has central heating, tile bathrooms etc. The occupants were – and we made them move – an honest-to-goodness Count and Countess.

This is one wing of the castle.
23 March 1945 - Germany

And everything in this place smacks of royalty. They had to leave on one hour’s notice and left everything as is. The wardrobes are terrific and you’d never know there was a shortage of anything at all. The family is or was in the wine business and what a wine cellar they had! The finest Rhine wine, red and white. I guess there must have been about 800 bottles. I don’t know how many are left now. I don’t mean to imply it has all been drunk already, but it certainly has been laid away. The officers had their share.

First C.P. across Rhine - Note Corner Knocked Off - Shell
Königswinter - March 1945

I’m sitting at a large desk, with book-ends, trays, chronometer etc. decorating. My office was the drawing room – measuring about 40 by 25 feet. Bookcases, filled, line the walls and above the bookcases are hunting trophies and mounting of all sorts. It’s comfortable and livable here. So you see, Sweetheart, war or no war – we manage to live as comfortably as possible. Last night we played Bridge and listened to some fine recordings. It was a nice evening, and relatively quiet – and for a change, I was able to sleep rather soundly. Do you toss and turn, dear. I believe you told me once, but I can’t remember. I turn frequently – and when I don’t sleep soundly, I’m all over the bed – so watch out, darling. I’m likely to be all –– oh, what am I saying?

Well – we didn’t get any mail yesterday and supposedly we don’t get any today. By the way – you mentioned in one of your latest letter that you thought I was doing a heck of a lot of drinking. I guess it did sound like a lot – it was when we were in Stolberg. Maybe it was. Every now and then it seems as if you’ll go a little whacky if you don’t forget things for an hour or two and then you look for an excuse to drink – someone’s promotion, a coming birthday – anything. But that’s not steady drinking – dear – and I – at least – don’t drink in between times – as some of the fellows do. The fact is I don’t like the taste of the stuff at all – and don’t worry. I’ll never be a souse.

Well, sweetheart, the time has slipped by – with a few interruptions – and the boys are starting to drift in. I love, you, darling, from the Count’s castle, too, from everywhere in fact – and I really won’t love you the way I can and will – until I get home.

Love to the folks, regards to the girls, and

All my everlasting love –

Here is the beginning of this letter as written on the castle letterhead


about the Kesselstatts and Longenburg

Count Johannes (Hans) Kesselstatt was born on 16 April 1902 in Grundslee, Steiermark, Austria. His first wife, Princess Ferdinanda Hahn was born on 1 July 1902 in Arensfels. The Count and Countess (Graf und Gräfin) Hans and Ferdinanda had 4 children. The eldest, Count Ferdinand Kesselstatt was born on 16 December 1930 in Bonn and died in Eltville on 20 October 1984 at the age of 54, leaving his wife and three children. The second child of the Count and Countess, Alice-Eugenia, was born on 2 May 1932.

Calling Card of the Castle Count and Countess

The last two children of Hans and Ferdinanda, Count Eugen, born on 23 February 1935 in Bad Godesberg and Count Franz-Edmund, born on 6 April 1936 in Bad Godesberg both died on 22 April 1944 in Longenburg at Königswinter. Princess Ferdinanda died two days later on 24 April 1944 in Longenburg at Königswinter. It happened that during a terrible air raid in the early evening of the 22nd which killed 56 people in Königswinter, three heavy bombs landed in the immediate area of Longenburg. Two hit the southeast side. The third bomb struck at an angle just in front of the north tower. The huge blast shook the east side of the building from the foundation, and it collapsed in on itself. Countess Johanna and her two young sons died in the wreckage. Greg noted on his picture in this letter the part of the castle that was hit. Is is unlikely that he knew anything about the deaths that went with the destruction. Here are some pictures from when it was intact.

Hans subsequently remarried a woman named Alexandra von Schmettow (born 28 Jun 1914 in Potsdam, Brandenburg, Prussia) on 28 June 1945 in Longenburg. The Count died on 9 January 1963 in Berenbach, Eifel, Germany. Alexandra lived until 1975, leaving no children of her own.

In 1952, automotive and commercial highway steel and aluminum wheels manufacturer Lemmerz-Werke acquired the entire property of Königswinter. Four years later they had finished their first building in the immediate vicinity of the castle. In 1959 the farm buildings and stables were demolished for another factory. In April 1962, the old knight's hall fell victim to the pickaxe and before the end of November the last remains of the manor house were razed to the ground.

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