Dear Helen and Wilson;
Now that I’ve been in Germany a while, and you can tell just where I am, I thought maybe I could give you a little picture of what has happened in the past now that censorship has been lifted. I know
that you will be interested in more of the details than I could have given heretofore.
We came into Scotland (Firth of Clyde) on a Saturday — I believe it was the 14th of April — last year. We had been traveling on irregular course after leaving New York on April 6th, zigzagging all over the place. You see, we were not in a convoy, and the boat was supposed have sufficient speed to outrun most anything that might have tried to chase us. We ran into several storms, one of which lasted for about three days, and the waves were mountainous. But regardless of how bat the weather was a big “liberator” bomber managed to hang around like some mother bird circling her brood. He just barely kept above those waves too.
The Ile de France was so big that I didn’t mind the rocking and rolling in particular. But many of the boys sure kept their meals flying into the brink. And it wasn’t because they wanted to feed the fish. We didn’t waste much as we were only getting two meals per day and they were lousy. In addition, there was a PX aboard where we could buy candy, so we satisfied ourselves with that.
After arriving off the coast of England, which was hidden by fog, they managed to find the Firth of Clyde and we travelled up it all morning until we came to Gurock where we dropped anchor about noon. In another twenty-four hours we had debarked and were on a train headed for Manchester. Immediately after boarding the train, we had our first real cup of coffee since leaving the States, and doughnuts, courtesy of the Red Cross. From there on you know much of the story.
But after leaving England, you know little of the details. We boarded a liberty ship at Southampton after spending three days sleeping under the stars and headed across the channel to Omaha Beach. But it was another ten days before we debarked. Our priority just wasn’t high enough to get off any sooner. But the weather was beautiful and there was nothing to do but loaf while waiting. We watched LCIs and LCTs run their cargoes up on the beach, discharges their cargoes, and take off with the high tide. We watched “ducks” scoot from ship to ship like little beetles. We also watched ships all around us unload their cargoes on lighters, LCTs, barges, etc., and wondered when our turn would come. At night we slept on the decks or in the holds.
But one afternoon it came. The nets were dropped into the hold, our truck run on to the net, hoisted over the side and placed in the LCT. Then I climbed, like everyone else, down Jacob’s ladder onto the LCT. We were subsequently loaded and made the run for the beach about 1 1/2 miles off. The only thing exciting on the run was that the naval commander of our LCT and another tried to see how close they could come to each other without hitting. I remembered seeing a collision on one other day, so I was prepared to go for a little swim. But the other LCT got “cold feet” and went in reverse and nothing happened.
We ran up to the improvised dock that ran out from shore, dropped the ramp, drove the trucks off and then we were in France. We went up through the hedgerows which had been the scene of that furious fighting the first few days of the invasion. You could surely tell that they were not playing tiddly winks here. Then we pitched our tents and waited for the orders to move again. Three days later they came and our convey moved off. Another two days and we arrived at Rochefort and en Y just 25 miles south of Paris. Then of course you know much of the story from there until we moved to Troyes, about 90 miles southeast of Paris. From there a few weeks ago we left for our present destination – Bad Homburg, which is very picturesque little resort town in the Taunus Mountains about 10 miles north of Frankfurt a. Main.
In closing I’d like to say that I’ve received a package from you the other day that you mailed to me, probably in February. It had a little checkerboard, some cheese, chipped olives, pickles and some other items. Believe you me I’m putting some of it to good use tonight because we had a lousy supper. Had just plain rice, some sort of canned meat. The rice just had the water drawn off of it, so you can imagine how that would taste.
Thanks for all of this, and while you’re at it say thanks to Grace and Willard because I forgot to thank them for sending the film you and they sent to me.
Censorship of mail has been lifted, and Russell freely describes the locations in Europe that he has served.