05 June, 2012

05 June 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 339 % Postmaster, N.Y.
5 June, 1945      0810
Leipzig
My darling fiancée –

How many times must I tell you not to listen to the news analysts – so-called? I received you letter of 21 May – the first letter in several days, dear – and there you were – all ready expecting you wouldn’t be hearing from me, expecting I’d be home in a couple of weeks; I’ll bet you wondered if you ought to keep writing. I’m only kidding of course, darling, but those damned radio men make me wild. And it’s not only you. Several of us yesterday got letters of the same date – and each letter had the same content. One fellow’s sister had a package done up ready to send – and she was going to hold it off – because of what she heard on the radio.

Oh – I know how you feel – sweetheart – and don’t think for a moment that I wasn’t just as enthused as you when I heard the words “First Army going home”. But as I’ve already written, dear, it was only Headquarters that went and that’s all an Army ever is. Divisions and Corps are changed about with ease – as for example – our Corps – which is now Ninth Army. All they have to do is write it down on a piece of paper and you’re in or out of anything.

Anyway, sweetheart, I loved your enthusiasm and I hope you were able to perceive as much in my letters these past two or three weeks. I’ll take exception to one point, though in your letter – the one in which you say you’ve sometimes in the past felt that you’re the one that’s making love and I’m acquiescing. I think I’ve already taken up the subject, sweetheart, even before you mentioned it. The fact is I have been on the reticent side – but I made myself be so. War is so damned uncertain. But I’m reticent no longer and you must know my every thought and wish; You must know how much I love you and want you; that I want to marry you as soon as I get home, and that I want to make you as happy as I possibly can. I haven’t as yet received any letters in answer to the ones I’ve sent you most recently – and I’m very anxious to hear your reaction. I know there are a lot of details involved, but damn it to hell – I’ve worried about details all my life. I’m ready to live on instinct for awhile. Like everyone else – I’ll get at least a month off. I’ll have to sweat out a reassignment then. If I get it – we’ll go anywhere in the States – and you’ll go with me. Suppose I don’t get a U.S. job. Well – I’ll either be reassigned to a hospital – or who knows, stay with the same outfit. In any case – it doesn’t mean getting right on a boat. All outfits will put in two or 3 months’ more training. Now figure it out for yourself, dear. I’m not home yet and probably won’t be for a couple of months – anyway. Then add another month’s Leave – and a couple of months’ training. By that time – Japan’s homeland will be so flattened – that the Emperor will call it quits – or if not – it will be ready for invasion. In any case – the war with Japan will be very much advanced. Suppose I do get in on the tail end of it – the policy there will be the same as here – those who fought in 2 theaters – get home first. Now – shall we postpone our marriage until then – or shall we get married and start living? And don’t forget – the minute we marry – our income increases from $200 odd to something like $320 – in other words – if you don’t want to, you won’t have to work; your income continues and you’re married, to boot.

Well – well – forgive me, darling – it was the old salesman in me – running away. But most of it makes sense. Think it over and let me know how you feel.

All else here is the same – no new rumors. We had our inspection yesterday, but it didn’t amount to much. Heard from Lawrence yesterday and he’s bound to get out of Bragg – even if he has to join the paratroopers. I can’t seem to bring him to his senses, but I’ll keep trying.

And so for now, sweetheart, I’ll have to leave you. You can see, dear, that one way or another – I’m in a happy state of mind – because I know I’ll be coming home to you with pleasant thoughts in mind.

Love to the folks, darling – and
All my truest, deepest love is yours
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about England, France and the Levant States

Modern Levant
The Levant is the eastern shoreland of the Mediterranean, the north-south branch of the Fertile Crescent, one of the most ancient cultivated regions of the world. It is a stretch of land about 150 km wide, wedged in between the sea and the Syrio-Arabian desert, stretching from the mouth of the River Orontes and the Amanus and Taurus mountain ranges in the north, to the Isthmus of Suez in the south.

The name "Levant States" was given to the French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon, a League of Nations Mandate created after the First World War and the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. During the two years that followed the end of the war in 1918, the British held control of the Ottoman province of Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the southern part of the Ottoman province of Syria (Palestine and Jordan), while the French controlled the rest of Ottoman Syria (modern Syria, Lebanon, and Hatay province of Turkey).

During the first years of the 1920s, the British and French control of these territories became formalized by the League of Nations' mandate system, and France was assigned the mandate of Syria in September 29, 1923, which included modern Lebanon and Hatay (Alexandretta) in addition to modern Syria.

The French mandate of Syria lasted until 1943, when two independent countries emerged from the mandate period, Syria and Lebanon, in addition to Hatay which had joined Turkey in 1939 following a referendum. French troops fled Syria and Lebanon finally in 1946. Leading up to the event, there was discord between France and England. Below are excerpts from a speech given in Commons by Winston Churchill on 5 June 1945. Click here to read the entire speech.
Parliamentary Debates

When regrettable incidents like those in Syria occur between nations so firmly attached to one another as are the French and British, and whose fortunes are so closely interwoven, it is nearly always a case of "the least said the better." On the other hand, I am assured that harm would be done by leaving some of the statements in General de Gaulle's speech to the Press of 2nd June unanswered by His Majesty's Government; and I feel also that the House of Commons would expect to be authoritatively informed.

The sense of General de Gaulle's speech was to suggest that the whole trouble in the Levant was due to British interference. I think my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already made it clear that so far from stirring up agitation in the Levant States our whole influence has been used in precisely the other direction.

The most strenuous and, I think, successful efforts have been made by His Majesty's Minister in Beirut to produce a calmer atmosphere in which negotiations could be conducted for a settlement of outstanding questions between France and the Levant States. I myself impressed upon the President of Syria most strongly the need for a peaceful settlement when I saw him in Cairo in February. We were successful in persuading the Levant States to open negotiations, which they had previously been unwilling to do. They asked the French for their proposals. That was last February. While General Beynet was still in Paris awaiting his instructions it became known in the Levant in April that the French intended to send reinforcements. The Syrian and Lebanese Governments were greatly disturbed by the delay in receiving the French proposals and also by the prospect of reinforcements arriving. We had already represented to the French Government that the arrival of reinforcements, however small, was bound to be misunderstood as a means of pressure in these negotiations and to have serious repercussions, but our representations did not meet with success.

On 4th May, ... I sent a friendly personal message to General de Gaulle, who had expressed to our Ambassador his concern as to our ultimate intentions in the Levant States. I explained, ... that we had absolutely no ambitions there of any kind... We seek no territory or any kind of advantage there that is not given to all the other nations of the world. I also explained that we had recognized France's special position in the Levant... But, I explained, our commitments and duties extended throughout the Middle East where our main task was to ensure that Allied war communications were kept secure from interruption and disturbance. We could not, therefore, disregard events in the Levant States. His Majesty's Government had no designs against French interests in Syria and Lebanon and I was willing, I told General de Gaulle, to order a withdrawal of all British troops from Syria and the Lebanon the moment a treaty had been concluded and was in operation between the French Government and the Syrian and Lebanese Governments.

... I urged that the reinforcing of French troops at this moment when the Levant States had been waiting for treaty proposals would give the impression that the French were preparing a settlement to be concluded under duress and thus poison the atmosphere for the negotiations which were about to begin. General de Gaulle replied that General Beynet, the French Delegate-General, was returning with instructions to open negotiations but made no reference to the question of French reinforcements...

On 12th May, General Beynet returned to Beirut and started his discussions with the Syrian and Lebanese Governments. They informed him that they were prepared to negotiate, but not if reinforcements arrived. In spite of this... French Forces began to arrive on 17th May and on account of that and because Levant States considered that the French proposals went further than they were prepared to discuss, the Syrian and Lebanese Governments broke off negotiations.

The internal situation became very tense. In the towns of Damascus, Beirut and Tripoli the bazaars and shops were closed on 19th May and there were demonstrations in Damascus involving some firing from the grounds of the French hospital. About a dozen people were injured but none were killed. On the next day, 20th May, a serious riot took place at Aleppo. Three French soldiers were killed and some injured. French armored cars entered the town and cleared the streets after a good deal of firing. It was estimated that at least ten civilians were killed and thirty injured. In all the main towns in Syria the bazaars remained closed for some days, and in Aleppo both the Syrian gendarmerie and French troops patrolled the town. In the Lebanon the towns of Beirut and Tripoli re-opened their shops on 23rd May following an appeal by the Lebanese Government to the population to carry on their business and to leave it to the Government to defend Lebanese independence.

Throughout these events we contently counseled patience on both sides, and we were endeavoring to arrange diplomatic discussions at which the whole situation produced by the breakdown of negotiations could be discussed and if possible settled. The Syrian Government appealed earnestly to us to supply further arms for the gendarmerie to enable them to keep order in spite of the popular excitement. They could, they said, retain control of the situation provided the population were not unduly excited by too ostentatious French military precautions and provided that the gendarmerie, who were becoming tired, were reinforced. Nevertheless the French authorities persisted in their objection to our supplying any further arms to the Syrian gendarmerie for their reinforcements, presumably because they were afraid they might be used against themselves. By 24th May the French had had to evacuate their troops from the citadel in Aleppo, but disorder was feared in the process and the French General threatened to shell the town if any shot were fired.

On 25th May His Majesty's Minister was instructed by the Foreign Office to represent to the Syrian Government... that it was essential that they should maintain control of the situation... Strong representations were also made in Paris and in the French Embassy in London drawing attention to the extremely tense local situation and urging that the French Government should suspend the dispatch of the contemplated further reinforcements. It was pointed out that French armored car and lorry patrols continued in the streets of Aleppo and Damascus, that aircraft were flying low over the mosques during the hour of prayer, and machine guns were prominently placed on the roofs of buildings. This naturally excited the population. We represented very strongly the unfortunate consequences which further disturbances might have in the Middle East as a whole, which incidentally would affect the communications of the war with Japan.

Serious fighting broke out in Hama on 27th May... This was disappointing as only the day before the British political officer had been able to arrange a meeting between the various parties and a diminution of tension. On 28th May the Syrian Minister for Foreign Affairs informed His Majesty's Minister that events had overtaken him and he could no longer be responsible for internal security. At Homs and Hama there was shelling by the French and the situation got quite out of hand. Disorders spread to Damascus where French shelling began on the evening of 29th May - into this open and crowded city - and continued off and on until the morning of 31st May. The official casualty figures for Damascus are: Killed, gendarmes 80, civilians 400; seriously wounded 500; injured 1,000. The Foreign Secretary has already explained to the House how these very unfortunate events... made it inevitable for us to intervene to restore a situation which had got out of hand and might spread almost without limit...

I hope it will be clear from the information which has been given to the House that it is not true, as has been suggested, that we have endeavored to stir up agitation, but that the very opposite is the truth... We do not intend to steal the property of anybody in this war. General de Gaulle also suggested that after the recent breakdown of negotiations disturbances were caused by bands armed with British weapons attacking isolated French posts. As the House has been informed by the Foreign Secretary, the Syrian gendarmerie and police were last year supplied, by agreement with the French, with some modern rifles and equipment.

I wish to make it clear here and now that until we had to intervene no arms were issued by us to the Syrians or Lebanese except by agreement with the French... For the sake of maintaining order... we have now issued some arms. It is unfortunately true that some 200 men of the Sixteenth Arab Battalion of the Palestine Regiment were involved in minor disturbances in Beirut on VE Day, which is a long time ago compared with these events, and the day after. There were a number of other disturbances in Beirut at that time and it would be absurd to suggest that these instances had the smallest connection with the subsequent serious disturbances in Syria. An immediate inquiry was held and the unit concerned was withdrawn from the Levant States at once. There is no evidence at all to support the allegation that the men carried a Swastika flag.
French troops fled Syria and Lebanon finally in 1946. The unrest continues...

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