28 March, 2012

28 March 1945

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

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


about Exploiting the Breakthrough


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.

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