17 April, 2012

17 April 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
17 April, 1945      0905

Dearest sweetheart –

Well this town is part of the outskirts of a city of about 50,000. Our C.P. aid station etc are in a grammar school whose walls are plastered with mottos, sayings – all with Adolph Hitler’s name on the bottom. This is in fact the real core of Nazi Germany and they make no bones about it here – as they did in the Rhineland – where they all said they didn’t want Hitler. However – we just move in – and they have little choice in the matter. Officer quarters are in a small house, this time – but it’s comfortable and has electricity and running water.

Helfta - Germany - Typical Billboard - April 1945

Helfta - Same billboard  - in process of having swastikas
effaced. Done by Germans on our orders. People are
reading Military Government notices - April 1945

And last night, although there was no mail – per se – there were packages and what do you think – there was a package for me – from you. You had told me about it, dear, but it had completely slipped my mind – and I was truly surprised. Now those 3 face cloths really developed in the course of traveling – for I found anchovies, cookies, salmon, tuna fish etc. I don’t know how you found out, sweetheart, but you hit it right on the head. That’s the sort of food we don’t get in the Army and which every now and then we miss. Thanks, darling, for the trouble.

We didn’t get settled until late evening and then we listened to the radio awhile and went to bed. When we have electricity, radios are no problem – for by now – there’s pretty nearly one radio for every man in Headquarters – little ones, large ones, cabinet style – all sorts – and don’t ask me where we got them.

Hello again, dear. I was called away, It seems there are about 300 Russian slave laborers in town and they’re running wild with pistols, shooting up and beating up some Germans, and “stealing” their bread. I was called to speak to the committee of Germans. I told them – we would take the pistols away from the Russians. Other than that we would do nothing. They brought the Russians here and it was their problem. Of course they can’t do a damn thing about it – but as far as I’m concerned – let the Russians get some means of revenge.

Helfta, Germany - Jeep full of Russians rounded up to
stop looting and plundering. We didn't do anything to them.
April 1945

The whole thing is very interesting – and in each town – we run into something else. There are few rules set down and no books written on the subject. More often – we’re making our own rules – and it will be interesting some day to look back at it all and see what we’ve accomplished, good or bad.

Helfta - Near Eisleben - Liberated Poles and Russians
still going out to work in the field
April 1945

I laughed in reference to your question about pretty China. Why, darling, that would be looting! (And don’t laugh!) Seriously – you could send a piece home – here or there, but anything more than that would not go. Secondly, I haven’t seen any really good china around. Most of it must be hidden away.

Your desires about traveling in the future – really interested me. Of course – it will probably be some time before I’ll be in a position to travel, anyway. Europe – after this war – will not be worth seeing, although there’s something about London and Paris that even New York can’t touch. It’s difficult to describe. I guess all you can say is that it’s European. Your list of choices isn’t bad – but Army men who have been there tell you to stay out of Panama and Nicaragua, because there’s nothing to see and the climate is terrible. I do like the sound of Nassau, Mexico, California and even Honolulu – although that’s getting pretty far away for a doctor. I guess we’ll have time enough to talk it over, dear – and it will be fun.

Say, sweetheart, you really surprised me when you wrote of $800 saved. That’s damned good for the comparatively short time – but it’s not fair to tell me it’s for a purpose and let it go at that. You didn’t even let it go at that – you taunted me! How about at least a teensy-weensy hint? And then you matter-of-factly say you hope I get home soon because there are so many things you want to discuss with me. Well – since you put it that way, dear, I’ll go right over to the Colonel and ask him if I can go home – O.K.? And I’m not hard to feed. How could I be after a few years of Army food? My mother was correct about milk, apples and onions – but how in the world did she know about the kisses? Gosh – mothers are smart! And Kosher house? No; cleanliness is Kosher enough for me, dear. Hell – this discussion has made me feel domestic – I feel like going right into the pantry and doing the dishes. In that case – this would be a good place to stop. I can hardly wait for the day when I can actually see you and tell you I love you, darling. And the day when we become married – well – that’s a Utopia beyond description. Life will be a wonderful thing when this war’s over. Perhaps soon, darling.

Have to go now, dear. Send my love to the folks – and how is Mother B doing?

All my sincerest love, sweetheart –

P.S. And this makes 30 – and that’s all for this group.


about Truman to the Troops
and Churchill in Commons

Links to the following speeches, delivered on 17 April 1945, were found at ibiblio, "The Public's Library and Digital Archive," a collaboration of the School of Information and Library Science, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Information Technology Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


17 April 1945
New York Times


After the tragic news of the death of our late Commander in Chief it was my duty to speak promptly to the Congress and the armed forces of the United States. Yesterday, I addressed the Congress. Now I speak to you. I am especially anxious to talk to you, for I know that all of you felt a tremendous shock, as we did at home, when our Commander in Chief fell.

[To hear a recording of Truman speaking these words, click here.]

All of us have lost a great leader, a far-sighted statesman and a real friend of democracy. We have lost a hard-hitting chief and an old friend of the services. Our hearts are heavy. However, the cause which claimed Roosevelt, also claims us. He never faltered - nor will we!

I have done, as you do in the field, when the Commander in Chief falls. My duties and responsibilities are clear. I have assumed them. These duties will be carried on in keeping with our American tradition. As a veteran of the first World War, I have seen death on the battlefield. When I fought in France with the Thirty-fifth Division, I saw good officers and men fall, and be replaced. I know that this is also true of the officers and men of the other services, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine. I know the strain, the mud, the misery, the utter weariness of the soldier in the field. And I know too his courage, his stamina, his faith in his comrades, his country and himself.

We are depending upon each and every one of you. Yesterday I said to the Congress and I repeat it now:
Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices. Because of these sacrifices, the dawn of justice and freedom throughout the world slowly casts its gleam across the horizon.
At this decisive hour in history it is very difficult to express my feeling. Words will not convey what is in my heart. Yet, I recall the words of Lincoln, a man who had enough eloquence to speak for all America. To indicate my sentiments, and to describe my hope for the future, may I quote the immortal words of that great Commander in Chief:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up our nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan-to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.



17 April 1945
Parliamentary Debates

I beg to move:

That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to convey to His Majesty the deep sorrow with which this House has learned of the death of the President of the United States of America and to pray His Majesty that in communicating his own sentiments of grief to the United States Government, he will also be graciously pleased to express on the part of this House their sense of the loss which the British Commonwealth and Empire and the cause of the Allied Nations have sustained, and their profound sympathy with Mrs. Roosevelt and the late President's family and with the Government and people of the United States of America.

My friendship with the great man to whose work and fame we pay our tribute to-day began and ripened during this war. I had met him, but only for a few minutes, after the close of the last war and as soon as I went to the Admiralty in September, 1939, he telegraphed, inviting me to correspond with him direct on naval or other matters if at any time I felt inclined. Having obtained the permission of the Prime Minister, I did so. Knowing President Roosevelt's keen interest in sea warfare, I furnished him with a stream of information about our naval affairs and about the various actions, including especially the action of the Plate River, which lighted the first gloomy winter of the war.

When I became Prime Minister, and the war broke out in all its hideous fury, when our own life and survival hung in the balance, I was already in a position to telegraph to the President on terms of an association which had become most intimate and, to me, most agreeable. This continued through all the ups and downs of the world struggle until Thursday last, when I received my last messages from him. These messages showed no falling off in his accustomed clear vision and vigour upon perplexing and complicated matters. I may mention that this correspondence which, of course, was greatly increased after the United States entry into the war, comprises, to and fro between us, over 1,700 messages. Many of these were lengthy messages and the majority dealt with those more difficult points which come to be discussed upon the level of heads of Governments only after official solutions had not been reached at other stages. To this correspondence there must be added our nine meetings at Argentia, three in Washington, at Casablanca, at Teheran, two at Quebec and, last of all, at Yalta, comprising in all about 120 days of close personal contact, during a great part of which I stayed with him at the White House or at his home at Hyde Park or in his retreat in the Blue Mountains, which he called Shangri-La.

I conceived an admiration for him as a statesman, a man of affairs, and a war leader. I felt the utmost confidence in his upright, inspiring character and outlook and a personal regard - affection I must say - for him beyond my power to express today. His love of his own country, his respect for its constitution, his power of gauging the tides and currents of its mobile public opinion, were always evident, but, added to these, were the beatings of that generous heart which was always stirred to anger and to action by spectacles of aggression and oppression by the strong against the weak. It is, indeed, a loss, a bitter loss to humanity that those heart-beats are stilled for ever. President Roosevelt's physical affliction lay heavily upon him. It was a marvel that he bore up against it through all the many years of tumult-and storm. Not one man in ten millions, stricken and crippled as he was, would have attempted to plunge into a life of physical and mental exertion and of hard, ceaseless political controversy. Not one in ten millions would have tried, not one in a generation would have succeeded, not only in entering this sphere, not only in acting vehemently in it, but in becoming indisputable master of the scene. In this extraordinary effort of the spirit over the flesh, the will-power over physical infirmity, he was inspired and sustained by that noble woman his devoted wife, whose high ideals marched with his own, and to whom the deep and respectful sympathy of the House of Commons flows out today in all fullness. There is no doubt that the President foresaw the great dangers closing in upon the pre-war world with far more prescience than most well-informed people on either side of the Atlantic, and that he urged forward with all his power such precautionary military preparations as peace-time opinion in the United States could be brought to accept. There never was a moment's doubt, as the quarrel opened, upon which side his sympathies lay.

The fall of France, and what seemed to most people outside this Island, the impending destruction of Great Britain, were to him an agony, although he never lost faith in us. They were an agony to him not only on account of Europe, but because of the serious perils to which the United States herself would have been exposed had we been overwhelmed or the survivors cast down under the German yoke. The bearing of the British nation at that time of stress, when we were all alone, filled him and vast numbers of his countrymen with the warmest sentiments towards our people. He and they felt the blitz of the stern winter of 1940~1, when Hitler set himself to rub out the cities of our country, as much as any of us did, and perhaps more indeed, for imagination is often more torturing than reality. There is no doubt that the bearing of the British and, above all, of the Londoners kindled fires in American bosoms far harder to quench than the conflagrations from which we were suffering. There was also at that time, in spite of General Wavell's victories - all the more, indeed, because of the reinforcements which were sent from this country to him - the apprehension widespread in the United States that we should be invaded by Germany after the fullest preparation in the spring of 1941. It was in February that the President sent to England the late Mr. Wendell Willkie, who, although a political rival and an opposing candidate, felt as he did on many important points. Mr. Willkie brought a letter from Mr. Roosevelt, which the President had written in his own hand, and this letter contained the famous lines of Longfellow:
. . . Sail on, O ship of State!
Sail on O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!"
At about that same time he devised the extraordinary measure of assistance called Lend-Lease, which will stand forth as the most unselfish and unsordid financial act of any country in all history. The effect of this was greatly to increase British fighting power and for all the purposes of the war effort to make us, as it were, a much more numerous community. In that autumn I met the President for the first time during the war at Argentia in Newfoundland and together we drew up the Declaration which has since been called the Atlantic Charter and which will, I trust, long remain a guide for both our peoples and for other peoples of the world.

All this time, in deep and dark and deadly secrecy, the Japanese were preparing their act of treachery and greed. When next we met in Washington Japan, Germany and Italy had declared war upon the United States and both our countries were in arms, shoulder to shoulder. Since then we have advanced over the land and over the sea through many difficulties and disappointments, but always with a broadening measure of success. I need not dwell upon the series of great operations which have taken place in the Western Hemisphere, to say nothing of that other immense war proceeding at the other side of the world. Nor need I speak of the plans which we made with our great Ally, Russia, at Teheran, for these have now been carried out for all the world to see.

But at Yalta I noticed that the President was ailing. His captivating smile, his gay and charming manner, had not deserted him but his face had a transparency, an air of purification, and often there was a faraway look in his eyes. When I took my leave of him in Alexandria harbour I must confess that I had an indefinable sense of fear that his health and his strength were on the ebb. But nothing altered his inflexible sense of duty. To the end he faced his innumerable tasks unflinching. One of the tasks of the President is to sign maybe a hundred or two hundred State papers with his own hand every day, commissions and so forth. All this he continued to carry out with the utmost strictness. When death came suddenly upon him "he had finished his mail." That portion of his day's work was done. As the saying goes, he died in harness and we may well say in battle harness, like his soldiers, sailors and airmen, who side by side with ours, are carrying on their task to the end all over the world. What an enviable death was his. He had brought his country through the worst of its perils and the heaviest of its toils. Victory had cast its sure and steady beam upon him. He had broadened and stabilized in the days of peace the foundations of American life and union.

In war he had raised the strength, might and glory of the great Republic to a height never attained by any nation in history. With her left hand she was leading the advance of the conquering Allied Armies into the heart of Germany and with her right, on the other side of the globe, she was irresistibly and swiftly breaking up the power of Japan. And all the time ships, munitions, supplies, and food of every kind were aiding on a gigantic scale her Allies, great and small, in the course of the long struggle.

But all this was no more than worldly power and grandeur, had it not been that the causes of human freedom and of social justice to which so much of his life had been given, added a luster to all this power and pomp and warlike might, a luster which will long be discernible among men. He has left behind him a band of resolute and able men handling the numerous interrelated parts of the vast American war machine. He has left a successor who comes forward with firm step and sure conviction to carry on the task to its appointed end. For us it remains only to say that in Franklin Roosevelt there died the greatest American friend we have ever known and the greatest champion of freedom who has ever brought help and comfort from the new world to the old.

Question put, and agreed to, nemine contradicente.

That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to convey to His Majesty the deep sorrow with which this House has learned of the death of the President of the United States of America and to pray His Majesty that in communicating his own sentiments of grief to the United States Government, he will also be graciously pleased to express on the part of this House their sense of the loss which the British Commonwealth and Empire and the cause of the Allied Nations have sustained, and their profound sympathy with Mrs. Roosevelt and the late President's family and with the Government and people of the United States of America.
To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.

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