31 March, 2012

31 March 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
31 March, 1945      0820
Germany

My dearest sweetheart –

At last – a little peace and rest – perhaps for the whole day, too! I believe it’s the 31st today – although it seems as if I lost a day somewhere. Anyway – I’ll remind you, as I do myself, dear, that we’re engaged a year today. I’ve had – up until the past several days – time to reflect on our engagement – and the result is satisfactory, warming and stimulating. I’m convinced we did the correct thing – and that despite hardships – it will all have been worthwhile. So Happy Anniversary, sweetheart – and just don’t forget to chalk this one up too. Boy – they’re sure mounting!

I don’t remember what I wrote you in my last letter, sweetheart, although in reality – it was only a couple of days ago, I know. It has been one sweet rat-race since we crossed the Rhine (I believe it’s permissible to tell you that now – if you haven’t already suspected) and we’ve been helping to chase the rats. And it has been good fun. Our impressions here are so different from those in France and Belgium – and even in the first part of Germany that was fought over so bitterly, there – we met surly, stony glares. Here – when we tear thru a town – the looks are those of bewilderment, disbelief. These people just can’t understand it. If Hitler counted very much on these people to fight us – then the people let him down. There’s no fight in them at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I went along on a reconnaissance for a new C.P. We just look over a house or two – the bigger and more luxurious – the better. There’s no argument, debating nor anything. After we look over a place – the people say “By what time do we have to be out of here?” They’re a whipped people.

One of the most gladdening sights I’ve seen – is the hundreds of liberated French, Polish, Russian, Moroccan etc. soldiers streaming westward toward the Rhine. They’re wearing their old tattered uniforms, they’re beat up and tired after 4 years of slaving – and they’ve got a long way to go on foot – but they cheer us and are all smiles as we pass by. The French and Belgians are particularly happy. Each step brings them nearer to home. We talked to a few the other day. One old man was from Normandy, a young man was from Fontainbleau and another from Paris. They were then about 50 miles this side of the Rhine and had a long way to go. But tears came to their eyes when we asked them how they felt about walking home, getting home – after all these years.

Liberated French stop for rest on way to Rhine and home
March 1945

Well – sweetheart – I’m going to go along now and do some work – I think. There is supposed to be a couple of thousand wounded Germans – soldiers – in the hospital in this town. I may help out – I’ll see. Anyway – I haven’t the patience to sit around. Everyone is keyed up, tense, and raring to go – and I’m no exception. For it all brings me one step nearer to getting home, holding you in my arms and letting you feel – all that I’ve been trying to express to you in words – these long months gone by. Darling – it won’t be long now!

Love to the folks – and

All my sincerest love
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about The Rose Pocket
The Ruhr Pocket became known as The Rose Pocket

From Mission Accomplished - The Story of the Campaigns of the VII Corps (published in Leipzig, Germany by J.J. Weber in 1945), as found on the "VII Corps in WWII" web site: 
Because of the importance of the attack in which Major General Maurice Rose was leading his division when he lost his life and to honor his personal courage in battle, VII Corps and First Army adopted the name of the "Rose Pocket" for the operation which isolated the Ruhr.

From Marburg the racing armor drove north. In a single day's record advance of 90 kilometers, several thousand more prisoners were taken, and our spearheads reached the area just south of Paderborn. This maneuver was of far-reaching importance to the allied cause, for by this action the enemy defending the Ruhr valley were practically cut off. VII corps forces now encircled them on the west, south and east along a 200 mile front.

Part of one day's collection of prisoners

To protect our long left flank against possible counterattacks in strength was a big task. The 78th Division extended its zone farther eastward along the Sieg and the 4th Cavalry Group and 8th Infantry Division moved in to relieve elements of the 1st Division still farther east, while the 86th Infantry Division took over the defense of the Rhine's west bank, a task from which VII Corps was soon relieved.

As the 3d Armored columns closed on Paderborn, they encountered increasing resistance from enemy strongpoints, roadblocks, and stubborn opposition in defended villages. While First Army was breaking out of its bridgehead, troops of the Ninth U.S. Army had crossed the Rhine north of the Ruhr and were now driving east toward Paderborn, paced by the tanks of the 2d Armored Division. A link-up of the two American armies in this area would be a crushing blow to Germany, for it would isolate one of the Reich's largest industrial areas and the thousands of troops defending it. And so thousands of SS troops, the elite of the Wehrmacht, were thrown into the battle as the enemy attempted to stabilize his defenses and to hold Paderborn's important road center, to keep his Ruhr escape route open.

While the 3d Armored Division was driving north to close the pocket, the 104th was following closely in the eastern part of the Corps zone, and the 1st was moving more slowly against stiffer resistance farther west. Intelligence was received of a proposed enemy attack to break out of the rapidly closing Ruhr trap by a tank-and-infantry drive east in the vicinity of Winterburg. The attack to the north was therefore suspended for one of the regiments of the 104th Division, and it deployed to the northwest to counter the threat. With characteristic Timberwolf speed, our troops seized the enemy's line of departure before he could attack, and for the next four days beat back all enemy attempts to penetrate the VII Corps ring in that area.

An armored task force from the Spearhead Division made a firm junction with elements of the 2d Armored and 83d Infantry Divisions (XIX Corps) at Lippstadt on April 1st. The Ruhr trap was closed, a trap which isolated about 5,000 square miles of enemy territory, including some of the most highly developed industrial area in Europe. Completely encircled by American troops, over 350,000 enemy, units of German Army Group D, were cut off from supplies and reinforcements. This was one of the greatest operations of its kind in all history, and a heavy blow to the already hard-pressed German army and nation.

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