May 22, 1945
Today, censorship has been lifted, so at last I can tell you all about what I have been doing since I arrived in Europe.
I wrote you before about how we came over on the Queen Mary, and that I arrived in Scotland on a very rainy day. From there, we went by train at night, to the port of Weymouth, in Southern England. We stayed there in a camp that Suzie, (John’s bet thoroughbred registered hog,) would be ashance of. All we had to eat were C rations which are nothing more than some hard dry crackers that even Elmer (John’s Dog) would turn away from. The weather was very cold, and we had a lot of mud to contend with because it rained all the time.
We stayed at this base only a short time, and from there went to a port on the English coast, where we loaded on LCI’s. The night before we left, the navy fed us the first good meal we had since we got to England. I as seasick all the way across the channel, and lost all my dinner on the rough night crossing to France.
We arrived at La Harve, and it was there that we got our first real look at war damage. The town had been a target on D day, and it was blasted to rubble. There were no building standing, and the harbor was filled with sunken ships, with only their mast sticking above the water.
We stayed in a camp there for 9 days, before we were loaded in the old World War 1 French boxcars for our trip to the front. I don’t know if you ever heard about these old cars, but they were called “40&8”’s, and were ment to haul 40 men and 8 horses during the great war. We were crowded into them for 3 days and nights. The train was old and very slow and didn’t travel very fast. It was really cold, and the floor of the car was wet, due to the rain that had leaked in through the bullet holes in the ceiling. When we went to sleep, we would lose our legs and forgot them till morning, when we could stand up and reclaim them. It was bad during the night because there was always somebody that would have to see Aunt Minnie, and would step all over you on the way to the door.
At last we arrived at Buil, very near the Belgium border. Tents had been set for us in a bombed out factory. After doing a little marching, and a few inspections, we left there for the 7th Army depot.
It was about 3 weeks before I was assigned to the Cavalry. From there, I went right to the front line, and helped to man a outpost on a hill overlooking a town full of Jerries. We had field glasses, and every time we saw any of the enemy moving around we would contact our big guns and send a few rounds over at them. One day, however, it was a pretty hot place for us to be, as they got a big gun zeroed in right on our position, and for every round we fired at them they fired 25 at us. It was there I received my first enemy fire. I got pretty scared, and dug a really deep foxhole.
One night, I was selected along with 6 other men to man a house right next to the Jerries. We started out at 3 a.m., and took up the house which we very hard to do, since the enemy was just a few yards away. But we did it, and all day long we go good information looking out the windows, and got out about 10 that night with nobody getting hurt.
About two nights later, we started to take the town on foot, and I was lead scout. We worked our way past mine belts, and reached the main part town without much trouble. There was a heavy fog that morning, and it saved a lot of lives, since the enemy couldn’t see us. When the fox lifted, we found ourselves in a house with a back window that looked directly across the river at a German pill box, staring us right in the face. One our guys went out and they opened up with the machine gun fire. We were pinned down in that house for 3 days and night with no food, water, or sleep, and the Jerries throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us. Our radio was dead, and we were in a bad spot. However, help finally came, we were relieved.
We walked 8 miles to our starting point and expected to rest for a while. But we immediately mounted our jeeps, and took off for Sarrbrucken. Right into foxholes we went. After sweating out 88’s for a week, and cold damp rain, we took off on foot for our objective, which was the Seigfried line.
You can’t imagine the number of pill boxes and dragons teeth tank traps. We were lucky because the left flank broke thru the German lines and they had to pull back. This made it possible for us to be the first men in the 7th Army to break thru the line. After cleaning up a few pockets of resistance there in the woods we left for the Rhine river.
We crossed the Rhine at Worms, and kept on going east toward Wurzburg. It was there that I got hurt, and left the troop for a month to the day. We had just taken a little town when we were passing a hill heavily covered with large trees. There were snipers in those trees just waiting for us. One of them picked out our jeep as a target, and opened up with a machine pistol. The lead was flying all around us, and my friend, Sgt. Hinck, right beside me, was killed. A bullet bounced off my machine gun and when I pulled back, I lost my balance, and fell out onto the road. We going about 45 mph, and how I kept from breaking something I’ll never know. I didn’t think at the time, however, since my knee was pretty busted up and bleeding pretty bad. I had a concussion out of it, and I will always have a scare on my right knee. I was taken to hospital, and it was 15 days before I could walk. It was no fun, except the rest and sleep was wonderful after being in action for so long. No sleep and always fighting , or standing guard every night with nothing but cold rations to eat, and cleaning up in any spot we could find, shaving in cold water, and being dirty wet and cold most of the time, was very hard on everybody. I know why young men came back old. It was nothing to laugh about, and I don’t ever want to see a war movie, or even a scary one, again. I want to throw my gun away, and never see it again, either.
The troop had kept on going when I was hurt, turned toward Nurnburg, and then south along with Patton’s 3rd Army and our own 7th Army. They went down toward the Austrian Alps, where our mission was to hold the Brenner pass, and stop the Germans down in Italy from coming back north. It was a break for us when the war ended, and our mission was cancelled. I was back with them at that time. We went into the mountains, to mop up some S.S. troops, and were there when we got the news that the was ended.
Since the time our outfit was on the front line, until the time when the war was over, we were in action all the time. (Of course I was in hospital for a while, and got some rest.) From the last of January to May 15th, we were on the go. We finally pulled back up the autobahn past Munich to the town of Lorsch, where we enjoyed our first rest. We spearheaded for the 12th Armored and the for the 63rd Division and for the 4th Division and for smaller units. We had built up a name for ourselves, and all over the front, everybody knew about the 116thcavalry. The 101st Cal., which we were a part of, took all the credit, and we did all the work. But the worm has turned and now and when anybody speaks about the 101st Cav. Bropup, nobody knows about them and wonders who is the 116th. We were up for a presidential citation turned in by the 12th Armored, but our colonel turned it down, since it was only for the 116th and not for the 101st, so that was that.
Here is what the 12th Armored had to say about us. One day we had orders to cross a bridge at all cost, and take the town on the other side. WE did and when the 12th got there they wanted to know where we were. They found ou we had gone on, and taken the next town up the road. When they got there , they found we were 5 towns up, and still advancing. We had the Germans on the run with a few jeeps and armored cars and light tanks, and were pushing back a whole army. We had some big guns with us, but we never did see them. We went 20 miles and hour, and they went 20 miles a day. We made good use or our speed, capturing towns, leaving the infantry to clean them up, and moving on to the next town. Sure we got shot at, but we shot back. We lost a few men, but that’s war.
Now don’t go worrying about me. It’s all over, and I’m o.k. and look the same as I did when I left Ohio. I may be a few pounds thinner, and maybe lost some of my good looks and table manners. I also have picked up a few more cuss words, but will try hard to lose the habit of using them when I get home. I always think about home, and look forward to the letters I get. I ‘m always glad to hear that all is well with you and Dad and Sis. I did my part and now leave the old biddies who talked about the farmers who were deferred for farm work. No body ever said any thing to me, but I knew it was being thought of me. Maybe some of the boys were in longer than me, but were never on the front lines. Maybe there were hauling supplies or fixing radios or doing this and that. Those were all necessary jobs, but I was there in front of every body else, helping to spearhead for the 7th Army, which covered half the western front, and when I get back, I’ll have a good line to hand them about what the 116th Cavalry Recon Squad did. There are a bunch of guys here who are really tops, and I’m proud to say a part in their battles. True I came on as a replacement, but thay had only been on the line about two weeks when I joined them.
I did all right in battle, since several times officers spoke words of praise about my efforts under fire. I was made Cpl on the 15th of May. It seems like all the boys like me and they are glad that I am their leader. I say again, don’t worry about me. All is well, and soon we will have our combat jackets and m.p. bands on. I end this long letter with
All my love,