19 April, 2012

19 April 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
19 April, 1945      1125

My dearest fiancée –

I’ll hardly have time to finish this before lunch, but it’s the first chance I’ve had this morning to write. Rumors, trips, sick call, foreigners all help pass the time away. A rumor which continues to persist here is that the war in Europe will be over in a day or two. No reasons are given – but it comes from high sources. Meanwhile quotas come in for 3 day passes – and we have so many officers out on various details, dear, that we have no one to send. Whereupon the Colonel asked me last night if I wanted to go again. I hesitated for a long time and then said ‘No’. The truck and train rides aren’t worth it from this distance. Having resisted temptation – I felt pretty strong. Then this morning – a detail had to go to Brussels on official business. Bruce Silvis was assigned and another officer could go along. Darling – I’m it. Now I know, dear, you must wonder what it’s all about, what kind of war I’m in – or better yet – am I in the war. Sometimes I wonder, too. But there it is – another European capital to see – free. We go by jeep – all the way; no train – and that’s why I accepted. We leave early a.m. – tomorrow – the 20th. It involves crossing the map of Germany and I think we’ll go by way of the Ruhr – just to see it. Darling – I may not have gotten much medicine out of this war – but you’ll have the most traveled Army medico there is. Gosh, dear – you’re bound to get tired of hearing me talk about it. Sometimes I worry about that –

And last night I received mail from you, the latest written 9 April – and it was wonderful. I also got a package from home – including cigars, soap – and yes, sweetheart, more face cloths. I can now wash myself from six different directions – using a separate face cloth for each direction.

I was awfully glad to read about your expected trip to N.Y., darling. I hope it went off as planned and I think it was swell of Phil and Florence to ask you along. Wish I could have made it a foursome.


I’ve just got back from lunch dear – and I’ll try to finish this off in one sitting now. You know, dear, you surprise me sometimes when you tell me of this letter or that and describe the mood I was in when I wrote it. If you tell me enough of the letter so that I can remember it – I find you very often hit the nail on the head – although believe me, darling, I rarely attempt to write a down-in-the-mouth letter – as such. I bet I’ll never be able to hide a thing from you – which is just as well, because I’ll never want to – except to surprise you or something.

Yes – in this theater – there are only a few outfits that have had much more combat and overseas time than this one. It’s different in the Pacific though, I understand, – where – if they see someone with only 3 six-month stripes on his arm, they run over to him and ask him how things are in the States. I don’t dare speculate on where we, or I will go – when this folds over here. First – I’ll sit myself down and give a little prayer of thanks that I was able to see this one through; then – it’s what the cards have in store. I’ve seen the Army act in strange ways from time to time. I honestly believe we all ought to get a crack at home first, anyway, with my own chances of being rotated to a hospital somewhere – not too bad at all. And that point system, sweetheart, as always – does not apply to officers. If it did – I should get credit for the overseas, the combat time, and to-date – 3 battle stars – with at least one more due this battalion. Now you’ve really been given all the answers, dear – and yes, I know, you’re just where you were when you started. But that’s the way it is with everybody – at this particular point. We’ll wait it out a bit more – but whatever it is – I’m coming home to marry you, sweetheart and to have you entirely for my own – just as I’ve dreamed about for all these months. That must become reality, because I love you and want you like nothing else before.

And that’s all for now, darling. I’ve got to run over to the next town and take care of a matter. Be well, dear, sending love to the folks – and remember, I am and will be
Yours forever –

The following is the letter with orders for Greg to go to Brussels.


APO 307, United States Army

300.4                                                                                           19 April 1945

SUBJECT:      Letter Orders No. 15.

TO:                 Individuals concerned.

            1.   The fol pers will proceed by govt T o/a 20 Apr 45 from present orgn and sta to Exposition Building, Brussels, Belgium for the purpose of conducting official business and will ret to proper sta o/a 27 Apr 45:

                   CAPT GREG                                    Hq 438th AAA AW BN (M)
                   CAPT BRUCE V SILVIS      CAC  Hq 438th AAA AW Bn (M)
                   Tec 5 Gerald A Salter                       Hq Btry 438th AAA AW Bn (M)
                   Pfc Gerald J Hentges                     Hq Btry 438th AAA AW Bn (M)

               2.   No reimbursement will be made for qrs or rat.  Indiv may draw emerg rat from unit kitchen.

               3.    Under auth of Cir No. 113, Hq European T of Opns, US Army, dtd 22 Nov 44 and VOCG VII Corps 19 Apr 45.

                               BY ORDER OF COLONEL WATERS:

                                                                               MAX W. BROWER
                                                                          Major, 109th AAA Group


about The Surrender of Leipzig

Generalmajor der Polizei Wilhelm von Grolman

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:
Within Leipzig, as American troops closed in, a contest of will had developed between the head of the city's 3,400-man police force, Generalmajor der Polizei Wilhelm von Grolman, and the "combat commander" of the city, Col. Hans von Poncet. Poncet expected the Hitler Youth, Volkssturm, odds and ends of regular troops, and the police to wage a fight to the death. To General von Grolman, that plan was folly, assuring nothing but destruction of the city. Imploring Colonel von Poncet not to fight, Grolman asked particularly that he avoid demolishing the bridges over the Weisse Elster River in order to save water, gas, and electric lines running under the bridges to western sectors of the city. When Poncet insisted on fighting, Grolman determined to maintain control of the police himself and withhold them from the struggle.

Hoping to keep casualties to a minimum in view of the impending end of the war, both the 2nd and 69th Divisions made measured advances toward Leipzig. Only on the 18th did the two divisions break into the city. In the south and southeast, the 69th Division found resistance at times determined, particularly around the city hall and Napoleon Platz, the site of a monument (Battle of the Nations Memorial – Voelkerschlachtsdenkmal) commemorating Napoleon's defeat in 1813 in the Battle of Leipzig. Approaching from the west, men of the 2nd Division encountered their first real fight at the bridges over the Weisse Elster, which were defended by Volkssturm and a sprinkling of regulars who were behind overturned trolley cars filled with stones. Whether on order of Poncet, Grolman, or otherwise, the bridges stood.

Battle of the Nations Memorial
Germany's largest monument

As men of the 2nd Division settled down for the night on the east bank of the Weisse Elster, a police major approached with word that General von Grolman wanted to surrender the city. A rifle company commander accompanied him to police headquarters, but there discovered that Grolman, still begging Poncet in vain by telephone to surrender, controlled only the police.

Although General von Grolman returned with the U.S. officer to American lines to confer further with higher commanders, the negotiations had no effect on Colonel von Poncet and the Germans at Napoleon Platz. As resistance in the city hall collapsed early on the 19th (inside, the mayor, his deputy, and their families were suicides), Colonel von Poncet and about 150 men holed up in a sturdy stone base of the Battle of the Nations monument. Through much of 19 April 1945, tanks, tank destroyers, and artillery employing direct fire pounded Poncet's position. Because the Germans held seventeen American prisoners, the 69th Division commander, General Reinhardt, declined to use flame throwers.

General Emil Reinhardt

In midafternoon, a German-born American captain went under a white flag to the monument where for nine hours he argued to convince Poncet to surrender. At long last, past midnight, Poncet finally agreed.

By this time a special control force formed from artillery battalions of the V Corps already was arriving to administer Leipzig, and first contingents of the 2d and 69th Divisions were on their way to join the corps armor at the Mulde River. In keeping with General Eisenhower's decision not to go to Berlin, the pending assignment for these troops was to await contact with the Russians.

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