Category Archives: From France

07.27.1944 Letter

Dear Willard and Grace;

Have received your letter of the 25th OK and was certainly surprised to know that you have not received any mail from me dated after May the 7th. I certainly can’t figure that one out. I would say that you should have around a half dozen since then. This is the second one this week. And I am receiving the blades. I also got the Guillon address before and mentioned it. I mentioned also that I wrote to Jack. Oh, I guess I replied to everything even what to do with the money from the typewriter. Maybe they’ll catch up all at once.

Send me the hand cream, shave cream, candy and a few blades. My stock is pretty good right now what with receipt of the package from Helen and Wilson. By the way I mentioned that it was mailed 6 June 44. That’s considered good time. Everything in good condition.

I sent yo a letter (typed) earlier in the week giving latest details. Let’s see if we can’t establish contact again.

Russell

France

09.26.1944 Letter

Dear Helen and Wilson;

Well you can see now that I’m in another country. And so far it has been quite an experience. Have certainly seen fresh results of war. Saw the City of St Lo which was totally destroyed. You can’t imagine it. You may have seen newsreels of it by this time. People smile and wave at us though.

I learn too that this is the rainy season here. Well I got used to rain back in ___. I think the people themselves provided the sunshine. They treated us swell.

Of course, I have one main difficulty. That’s speaking French. However quite a few French speak a little English.

Am in quite a nice place at present. Am sleeping in tents — no beds either. I’m looking forward to an opportunity to visit Paris soon. That too will be an experience.

More later.

Russell

France

10.04.1944 Letter

Dear Willard and Grace;

I have received the pictures — about 5 or 6 different letters. Don’t send any more though, because I should have liked to have had them while I was in ___. So hold back for a while.

As for Christmas package – I’ll tell you how I feel about. First, I appreciate the sentiment behind it. I can keep myself pretty well supplied with necessities from the PX — like shaving stuff, soap, blades, washrags, towels, candy etc — at least for some time in the future.

What I do appreciate as much as anything right now are those rolls of film that you may be able to send from time to time. I think there’s a new postal ruling that we G.I.s must request specifically just what we want or the postal authorities won’t accept a package. I request the film – ANY AMOUNT. That ougth to satisfy them.

Your last package arrived OK — that is, with chocolate, dark stuff, gum, candy etc. that will be enough to last for awhile. Besides, I’d like for the rest of the packages to catch up so I can keep some.

Now, I intend to send a package home as soon as I get all the stuff I want to put into it. Then I’ll send it to some one of you to distribute to all.

With me, and I get too much on hand, I can’t always take it with me.

I’ve visited Paris and it is certainly a beautiful city. Saw such famous places as the Arc de Triumph, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Napolean’s Tomb, Chamber of Deputies; walked the Champe Elysees, which is the world famous street. Never imagined that I would one day do that.

Anyway, alot of stuff has happened. Everything is out of doors now. A fellow down at the outdoor latrine that we now use remarked that he had defecated in better places but never had the beautiful view to go with it. With that I guess I’ll close.

Russell

France

P.S. No magazines yet. Hand cream is damn good.

10.04.1944 Letter

Dear Elizabeth;

Well, what do you think of where I am now. It sure was some experience coming here though. I saw a lot of stuff. If I could write every detail as I saw it I could probably write a book, but there’s a lot you can’t write, and eventually I’ll probably forget some of the interesting highlights.

Anyway, on the way here, I was separated from my baggage — the only clothes I had were those I wore. Naturally, that was the time for me to meet with an accident. Sure!! I split the seam in the seat of my trousers and could do nothing about it. It was that way for days, and every guy who watched me walk away sure did his duty in calling the fact to my attention.

Now, I have my hair cut so short that there really is nothing there.

Of course, I’m picking up a few things in French. I really wish that I had studied it. A lot of our fellows speak it like a native. But, I’m also surprised at the number of people who speak some English or speak it well. I noticed this especially in Paris. Yes, I’ve seen it, and in a lot of the shops, they speak English. It is certainly a beautiful city and has hardly been maimed by the war.

I walked down the Champs Elysees, saw the Arc de Triumph, Notre Dame, Chamber of Deputies, Napoleon’s Tomb and many other places. I also dropped into the IBM office, and they told me that it has been operating all during the war.

Taxis are either bicycle or horse drawn carts, all sizes and shapes, and usually haul one person. Some of the bicycle type look like miniature auto coupes, others are open.

It was interesting enough so that I hope I can go there for another day.

Mildred says you got some Nescafe for the package which she says is on the way. Thanks!

So long for now.

Russell

France

10.24.1944 Letter

Dear Willard and Grace;

Thought I’d better get this letter out to you while I think about it. It’s to let you know that reverse lease-lend is at work. Yes I’ve sent a package addressed to you, and if and when it comes, here’s how I would like you to dispose of it.

There’s a lot of liquids in it; it’s all packed in a wooden box — perfumes. One of Coty’s for each — Helen, Elizabeth, Ida, Mildred and yourself. Give the Guenlair to Mom. The German after shave lotion give to Willard and Wilson. Give Bob and Romayne a set of the English coins. I think you’ll be able to figure those out. There are three books in it. Maybe you will find these interesting. Pass them around, but don’t lose them. I have sent two more books to Mildred and asking her to pass those around.

So much for that. Another V-Mail follows.

Russell

France

10.24.1944 Letter

#2
Dear Willard and Grace;

Now that I have told you what to do with the package, I’ll give some of the latest dope.

Am not in the same place where I wrote to you from the last time. We’re in a place that was once used by the Germans. Might just as well be in prison. Can’t get any passes. It’s pretty monotonous right now, but it may improve. I hope!!!

It’s the rainy season over here now. No matter where this gang moves, it just follows a seasonal rain belt. Sometimes it rains steadily all day long. On others, we just have showers.

However, our eats are good and I am beginning to wonder how much I weigh. Had my hair clipped to about one thousandth of an inch in length. Right now, I’ve got a head cold but have lots of company.

With that will sign off.

Russell

France

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

11.03.1944 Letter

Dear Willard and Grace:

I now have your V-Mails of 5 and 21 Oct and needless to say I was glad to receive both. One I received yesterday, and the other today.

There seems to be some delay in the mail somewhere along the line or else most of my customers are not writing. I think it! held up somewhere.

Now, about the packages. I can now say that I have received both of them as one came in this week. That was the one with four rolls of film in it. I also received one from Mildred at the same time.

I am happy to hear that you have another on the way with more film. That will put me in good shape.

You know, the last roll of film I had developed didn’t turn out at all and it’s the first time that this has happened on any that have come out of that camera. They were all fogged up or didn’t come out at all. I’m inclined to believe that the fault lies in the developing, as some which I took while I was in Manchester turned out fine. It it happens on my next roll, I’m seriously thinking of sending for my developing outfit and develop my own negatives. It looked to me as though the films were developed in a room with some light in it. I don’t believe the fault lies with the camera. If it does, I’ll send for one of those, as I know where there is one at Mildred’s not being used.

I’m trying to learn a little French and have been able to speak a few words. That dictionary will come in handy. I look forward to learning as much about it as I can. There’s probably no better place than France to learn French. Don’t you agree? A fellow here in the office knows it real well and helps me out whenever he can.

I think I’ll drop Jack a line later on and forward it to you and you in turn can then forward it to him, as in the shuffle, I’ve lost his address.

What are Helen and Wilson doing? Not any letters at all from them anymore.

Guess I’ll close now.

Russell

France

11.09.1944 Letter

Dear Helen and Wilson;

What a country this is. All people are strangers. You can’t speak with them, nor they with you. About all you can do is gesticulate. At least it was that way when I first got here.

Each town has its narrow winding streets with portions of most buildings overhanging same to make the most of a crowded space. People gaze at GIs when they pass from open French windows. Every building has French windows. Why not? It is France.

The French seem doubtful about there own money though. They will pay 100 Francs for a dollar, which at our rate of pay amounts to two dollars for one dollar. It shows how much faith they have in the American dollar. But just don’t get caught selling a dollar. It’s rough.

They use every type of conveyance conceivable in moving from place to place. You see people riding bicycles; old, high, two-wheeled, horse-drawn carts; autos using charcoal burners; or some other type of just plain push-cart. Yes, shanks mare.

The people all seem to be well dressed, especially the women. The clothes are good, and make up is good, and because of the perfume they use, you can smell them a block away. They do have plenty of perfume, and all kinds of it. And there seems to be plenty of women’s clothing– a lot more than I saw while in England.

But when I walk down the street, I just get the feeling that I can’t trust anyone. Some of this is probably due to the lack of knowledge of the language. And then you have to remember that the Germans were around here for about 4 years too, and you really don’t know who’s who. In this respect, you may ask a question in French and get the surprise of your life when the party answers in English. There certainly are a lot of people who speak several different tongues.

I guess the black market is pretty strong too. Especially so in gas and cigarettes. They steal gas from GI trucks just like they used to steal coal from slow moving coal trains at home. People will stop you on the street and offer to buy cigarettes from you at prices, which if we were paying for same anywhere, would be exorbitant. You know there are a lot of GIs who don’t smoke.

There’s no entertainment to speak of at all. I have seen one movie since I have been here, and then the projector was on the blink and no one could understand what they were saying. If one goes into town, there is still nothing to do. Of course, there is plenty of champagne to drink and it costs about three dollars or better for a quart bottle. And at home it’s a luxury.

We have a shower room now which is probably a lot more than some guys over here have. Went without a shower for a couple of weeks here about a week ago. But I’m back on schedule now. I think I had B.O. That reminds me; the Army must think there is a lot of B.O. too as our soap ration now is nothing but Lifebuoy. But as a soap it isn’t bad; but the odor!

But there’s no excitement, at least in our end of the business. Oh, I read a lot of interesting stuff on paper, but that’s about all. I get the biggest kick out of the whole think when we change our address from time to time. That’s when I see some of the country.

We are near a town right now, but as I mentioned before, there’s no excitement or entertainment there.

Other than that, I am picking up a little French and I’m going to see if I can’t cook up a deal to teach some Frenchman or women English while they teach me some French.

That’s all for now.

Russell

France

11.28.1944 Letter

Dear Willard and Grace;

Have your V-Mail letter of the 11th. You apparently haven’t received the package I sent to you nor the letter explaining how the contents should be distributed. Anyway, both are on the way somewhere.

Have been away from here about a week, having been in four more countries — Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and last but not least, Germany. A real interesting trip. Here’s how I got it.

The Mayor walked into the office one morning and said that he needed one enlisted man to go with, explaining that he would be exposed to danger and that if anyone didn’t want to go, to say so, no one backed out. Then our names were put on a piece of paper, put in the hat, and he drew. Well, he drew mine.

We first went into a town in Germany over a road that was registered by enemy artillery. It was a bad day, and though there was fine, it didn’t come near us.

We stayed in this particular town for a couple of hours, and believe me, I kept my carbine ready all the time.

It was a picturesque little German town, setting at the bottom of a valley, with steep hills rising sharply from three sides of the town. A stream meandered through the heart of it.

While I was standing in the street, a car pulled around the bend, without any insignia, and came to a halt. I recognized a couple of share-tails and saluted, but to my amazement, they all spoke in a heavy German accent and I admit I was a little uneasy for a minute. But, then it turned out that they were Belgian liasion officers with our Army and probably spoke Flemish, which is a little like German I guess. They wanted some information, and I showed them where to get it. Then we chatted and I passed them some cigarettes which they were glad to receive. Then they drove off.

We were in Germany again on another day, this time at Aachen. They sure raised cane with that place. People don’t speak, but would if you spoke to them. However, the policy over there is not to fraternize and it’s being enforced.

You know, our side is after an unconditional surrender and the Germans have known that for a long time and are making us fight for it. But then Morgenthau has to throw in his two cents worth and it sure makes wonderful German propaganda. On announcing something that he thinks should be done to Germany only arouses a natural reaction in people anywhere when told that they should or would be reduced to a slave state. He should keep his trap shut, and it would probably save a lot of lives on our side.

Well guess that’s the limit for this time.

Russell

France

Russell was selected to make a visit to Germany. Fabulous accounting of Germany during this time period.