10.29.1944 Letter

Dear Howard;

Now after you read this letter, why don’t you sit down and drop me a line and let me know just what the hell you are doing. The only way I find out anything about you is when your wife writes to me. Yeah, I got a letter from her today, and in it was your address, which I didn’t know before. Do you know where I am. No, you don’t. The best way for you to find out, is to place your finger somewhere on a map of France and take a good guess; and one thousand to one you won’t guess right.

But away with this idle chatter — this will give you some idea of what has happened or what I have been doing with my time… For a time we were stationed at a beautiful chateau – or was once a beautiful – and slept out most of the time, you guessed it in our pup tents with good old hay for a mattress. From there I managed to see Paris a couple of times. Since Elizabeth said she sent my last letter to her, to you, I don’t believe that I will have to tell you much about that. By the way, I did buy some perfume for her while there and have already sent it to Grace with a lot of other stuff.

Right now, though, we have conquered the confining walls of what was a place used by Hair Schicklegruber and his Heiling Henchman. We eat in buildings that he once built and work as well. Good buildings these Heinies built too. There no pikers along these lines. However, we G.I.’s really go to work on a place once we come in. The other day, the whole company had to report for a policing detail at 12:45. At least we thought it was the ordinary policing detail; however we did the job. I will always regret not having the film on which to record it. You see the company street is a concrete road and it is several hundred feet long. A battery of brooms was brought up and the command to sweep street was given. It certainly was a wonderful sight to see former schoolteachers, college professors, athletic directors, lawyers, and master sergeants and me just sweeping the dirt off the company’s street. We stirred up enough dust so that one would think a company of cavalry was going through. A few hours later it rained and got the street all muddy again. We’ll probably sweep it again because I don’t think rain was mentioned anywhere in the order.

One night awhile back, another fellow and I decided to go out on pass to a little town about five kilometers from where we were stationed. Plenty of G.I. traffic along the road, and it wasn’t long before we were picked up by a Red Ball express truck – that’s what particular supply lines are called.

We got into town OK, spent the evening at a Frenchman’s house, there being a femme that this buddy of mine had met previously at a dance a couple of weeks before. He could speak French; so that cut me out along that line. But Pop – her Pop – and I had a good chat as he spoke English very well. He related to me just how the people in this town which bore no scars of battle, but which had been used by the Germans, felt at the coming of the Americans. He stated that he first saw an American patrol in the town and at first he was so surprised that he could hardly believe it. But when he observed more closely he was sure of it. They remained in the town for about two hours before departing. A day or so later, they returned again, to see if anything new and different had turned up. From then on, nothing but French flags were flown in the town. “I’ll have to continue on sheet 2”

#2
Only a short time has elapsed before the main body of the outfit passed through this little village. His own words best expressed just what his reaction was. They were to the effect that the parade through Paris “down Champs de Elysees” was probably the more beautiful to look at but the parade which passed by his front door was the real thing. “Tanks, tanks, tanks” he explained. “Always the Americans ride”, he said. The Germans had nothing but carts. Horse drawn, and bicycles for their transportation. This particular outfit or outfits must have taken four hours to pass through he said. Everybody in town or in near it was covered with the dust that it stirred up. He expressed the feelings of most Frenchmen by giving a sigh when asked how they felt about the Americans coming. He stated that it was hard for one to exactly imagine just how it felt on such an occasion if one hadn’t undergone similar conditions. It was particularly impossible to speak freely while the Germans were there, at the same time pointing out that someone in this community was working for the Gestapo, and he had not been suspected simply because he had lived in the community for a long time and apparently acted the part of a stalwart citizen. But the marquis found out and shot him. They wasted no time. So said he….

Anyway, on the way back from this particular town, he picked up a ride with a couple of G.I.’s deadheading on the Red Ball Express. They had a few shots of cognac which is what I call “rot gut” and when we arrived at our camp I was sure glad to get out of that truck. There were a pair of trucks in the deal and we were in the land truck. Well, these French wind about like some of the country roads back in Pennsylvania and whenever they came to a curve in the road, they made it as short as possible straightening out the road wherever possible. Most of the time, I just sat there ready to jump if anything did go wrong. But I guess being fortified with cognac just makes them better drivers, because we arrived save and sound thought we did have to just about yell our brains out to get the driver to stop.

But as long as we’re in France, I’m going to see just how much French I can pick up — I mean the language. A fellow here in the office speaks it fluently and spends quite a bit of time with me on it, for which I’m very grateful.

But I guess that’s about all I have to offer for now.

Russell

France

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