31 July, 2012

31 July 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 513 % Postmaster, N.Y.
31 July, 1945      0915
My dearest darling Wilma –

I probably won’t get very far with this letter at the present sitting, dear – but far enough to tell you I love you deeply – and more and more each day, if that is possible. I’m missing you these evenings something terribly – it makes no difference what sort of diversion I end up with. I find that my mind keeps wandering back to you, darling, and it’s so aggravating just to end it right there. I want so much to be with you and love you – it hurts. And for no particular reason last night, I became extremely annoyed with myself because I couldn’t remember how you sounded when you laughed. The Lord knows I can’t remember a good many other things – but for some reason or other – that bothered me more than anything else. But I’m not so really low down in spirits and morale as I may sound, sweetheart. The fact is – I do have you, whether near or far, dear – and you’re going to be so wonderful to come home to when I do.

This morning we’re having a formal parade at which time we’ll be decorated – about 35 of us, I guess – altogether. It’s a lot of hooey, dear, and I don’t like it – but it’s five points and therefore tolerable. At the moment, the sky is very gray and it looks as if it may start pouring any second – but the parade goes on, regardless. I’ll let you know later how things went.

Last night about seven of us went to the movies – I. Lupino in “Pillar to Post”. It was a bit on the silly side, but gay nevertheless and appreciated by anyone in the Army. We went at 1900 and left at 2100. We returned and played a couple of rubbers of Bridge. I went to bed at 2315. And now, sweetheart – it’s 0950 and I’ve got to go out and join the formation which takes off at 1000. See you later, dear –

1 August, 1945

Good morning, darling –

I’m sorry – but the rest of the day yesterday just went whizzing by and I didn’t get a chance to sit down and write again. The parade etc. ran off well enough. It was held in Stanislaus Square and there was quite a crowd of civilians. An Army band will attract anyone – even me. The whole thing took about an hour, I guess.

I’m enclosing the citation, dear, which sounds fancy but which in effect means only that I didn’t get into any trouble and that I was around from day to day. Incidentally – you’ll notice it was issued by the XXIst Corps. The reason is that although it was submitted to the 7th Corps, the latter moved out of Leipzig and the 21st took over the unfinished administrative business etc. You can see, too, dear – by the enclosed copy of the General Orders – that the 21st Corps was in 7th Army and so were we for a while – which means that starting with the Third Army early in Normandy – we ended up in the First, Ninth and 7th. There weren’t any more. But the 438th has always managed to get a crack at anything and everything. And I’ll still take the First Army and 7th Corps. Oh by the way, darling – 7th Corps finally published a history of the Corps – rather well done and I’ve got a copy. It was done in Leipzig but our copies just reached us. I’m sending it out to you.

Mission Accomplished Cover
Mission Accomplished Title Page

You’ll find it interesting. Hell – with all the maps, books, digest etc. that I’m sending you – I won’t be able to tell you a thing about the war, sweetheart. I’ll start to say something about Aachen – or the Hürtgen Forest or some such thing and you’ll say, “I know – you had the support of the 4th Infantry and the 3rd Armored and after an artillery barrage of two hours, the 4th Cavalry took off etc. etc.” Oh well – I’ll give you some word pictures. And I can always change the subject and tell you I love you – and take time out to show you. That’ll confuse you – and everything will be fine.

I’ve got to run along now and see a couple of sick prisoners – American, darling – so excuse me. Remember – darling – 31 July or 1 August – my love for you does not change – it’s constant, true and sincere.

Love to the folks, dear – and
My love is yours for always


about the Massacre in Ústí

Ústí nad Labem

Ústí nad Labem (Aussig an der Elbe in German) is a city of the Czech Republic, in the Ústí nad Labem Region. The city is the 7th-most populous in the country. Ústí is situated in a mountainous district at the merge of the Bílina and the Elbe (Labe) Rivers, and, besides being an active river port, is an important railway junction. Ústí was a center of early German National Socialism and was made up of a large German-speaking population. Because Hitler and his army had conquered Czechoslovakia, many Czechs wanted to take revenge after the defeat of Germany in WWII. While some returning Nazis were targeted, the vast majority were innnocent Germans. Most of the comments below come from an article by Zuzana Šmídová on the web site of Radio Prague, while some come from other sources.

On Tuesday, 31 July 1945, a munitions dump exploded in Usti nad Labem, a largely ethnic German town in northern Bohemia. The death toll was 26 or 27 people (7 of them Czechs), and dozens were injured. Months of propaganda had spread the fear that underground bands of German terrorists operated unchecked throughout the country, sabotaging its reconstruction. Rumor quickly spread that German partisans were responsible. In response, crowds of Czechs turned on the Germans remaining in the town.

A massacre of ethnic Germans, who had to wear white armbands after the war and so were easy to identify, began in four places in the city. They were beaten and bayonetted, shot or drowned in a fire pond. On the Ústí (Elbe) bridge, a German, Georg Schörghuber, shouted something provocative and was thrown into the river by the crowd, and shot by soldiers when he was trying to swim out. Soon other people, including a woman with a baby and pram, were thrown into the water and later shot at. In the train station and through the streets the pogrom spread. Before it was over, around eighty German-speaking townspeople were dead. Some say hundreds were murdered.

The perpetrators were the "Revolutionary Guards" (a post-war paramilitary group), Czech and Soviet soldiers, and a group of unknown Czechs who had recently arrived from elsewhere. Local Czechs, including the mayor, Josef Vondra, tried to help the victims. Finally, a state of emergency and a curfew were declared, and by 18:25, streets had been cleared by the army. Like many controversial events in post-war Czechoslovakia, contemporary propaganda blamed the incident on the Germans. But according to extensive research by historian Vladimir Kaiser, it was the chief investigator of the explosion - a military officer named Bedrich Pokorny - who laid the explosives, as a pretext for revenge.

For many years the event was shrouded in silence in Czechoslovakia. On the other side of the border, however, some historians began calling the massacre the "Sudeten Lidice", estimating the number of dead at over two thousand.

[Lidice, a village in the Czech Republic, had been completely destroyed by German forces on orders from Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler in reprisal for the assassination of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich in the late spring of 1942. On 10 June 1942, all 173 men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered. Several hundred women and over 100 children were deported to concentration camps; a few children considered racially suitable for "Germanization" were handed over to SS families and the rest were sent to the Chełmno extermination camp where they were gassed to death. After the war ended, only 153 women and 17 children returned.]

After 1990 Czech historians started investigating the Ústí event themselves, tracking down Czech and German witnesses. Today, according to Vladimir Kaiser, it is clear that the explosion and the massacre were both planned well in advance. The explosion, he said, was only a signal for the massacre, which took place literally seconds afterwards in several different locations simultaneously. The historians have also uncovered facts suggesting that both the explosion and the massacre were planned by officials from the Czechoslovak ministries of interior and national defense.

Sixty years later, on 31 July 2005, the mayor of Ústí unveiled a memorial plaque on the bridge with the text "In the memory of victims of violence on 31 July 1945". At that time, the issue of the Sudeten Germans was still a thorny one causing tension between the Czech Republic and Germany. Prague had so far refused to repeal the 1945 Benes decrees ordering the expulsion of 2.5 million Germans from Czechoslovakia, despite calls for it to do so as a mark of respect and admission of responsibility. The decrees had stripped Germans of their property and expelled them for their support for Hitler's annexation of the Sudetenland area in the run-up to World War II. Some 25,000 to 30,000 people died during the expulsions.

In spite of the sensitivity of the subject and the opposition to the memorial, the ceremony went ahead. Unveiling the bronze plaque, Ústí mayor Petr Gandalovic emphasized that the victims had been innocent people killed after the end of the war.

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