Charles F. Bruns lived in the East Central Illinois town of Champaign. A local athlete, ‘Chick’ joined the Army in 1941. In October of 1942 he was sent to the European Theater. During his tour he was able to keep is daily thoughts in a journal that is presented here. Additionally, photos, letters written to home, news paper articles, and historic references will be shared.

Chick Bruns

Letter Home – October 29, 1944

PLACE – France
TIME – 1830 Hours
SETTING – The sun has went down in the Moon is peaking its way through the tall trees. The night is going to be cold and crisp. We have a fire going in a small stove that we have picked up along the way, or I should say that we have borrowed from some house. The light we have is candlelight. Some of the fellows are playing cards others are writing letters. Whether the shells are flying is a question that no one thinks about, but I may make a few mistakes.

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Dear Mother & Dad,

I have promised this letter for a long time, so now I’ll make my promise good. I’ll go as far back as I can remember and tell you all I can about France. We were out in the bay waiting for the bombers to come and bomb the coast before we went in. Soon the bombers appeared overhead, and never before in my life have I ever seen so many at one time. We could not see what was going on, on the shore as the smoke screen had been laid down by the navy. But the noise that you heard was something I’ll never forget. Not only did the planes make a lot of noise, but rockets were also fired toward shore, so you can picture yourself what the shore looked like by the time we hit it. It took us a little while to get in as the beach was mind, and the shore party hadn’t cleared a space for us to hit. I waded ashore in water up to my waist. The Germans had taken off, and what ones that didn’t run were captured. I didn’t look much for souvenirs, but I did find a bottle of German schnapps. Some of the Fellows found bread, wine, cheese, and some canned goods. So we preceeded to have a good meal. Supplies had started to move in and the “dough boys” had taken off. We moved the next day and every day after that for some time.

19441029b-Lscan-600It was really a life to be living. The Germans were on the run and our dough-boys right after them. It was just like Sicily, one by pass after another, or clearing the roads of German wreckage. The people really treated us swell. Southern France was a wine center anyway and believe me they had plenty. They would stop you on the road and make you fill your canteen, or they would be waiting there with a bottle and a glass. Even though you were full of wine they would still want you to drink more. You have read stories and have seen pictures of the French girls kissing the Americans. Let me tell you, they are all true. When we would hit a town there the people would be waiting for us, and if the convoy would stop in town the girls would swarm out to the trucks, and if you were in town on foot, wow! You would be mobbed. Aix was about the first prettiest city I saw, and what a crowd of people lined the streets to greet us. I was driving an old German vehicle and what a time we had coming through there. The dam the old thing jumped out of gear, and had only one gear and that was forward. There we were weaving in and out of tanks and not daring to stop as we wanted to make it to the company bivouac before we got rid of the truck and its load. Ha, ha, I still laugh when I think of it.

It was Aix, or I should say just outside of Aix, that I had my first milk since I had been over sea’s. I had just about forgot how milk tasted. But from that time on milk was fairly easy to get. Eggs was another thing that was easy to get, as most of the farmers still had their cows and chickens. The Germans were moving too fast to worry about taking anything they had to carry extra. There was plenty of tomatoes and other vegetables, and when you are eating “C” rations, those vegetables and fruits came in mighty handy.

19441029c-Lscan-600We then followed the Rhone River straight north. Later we swung over toward Montilamar, where the third division was given credit for destroying a large German convoy over 18 miles long. That’s another site in this war that I will never for get. As far as you could see nothing but vehicles, dead horses and men. They were trapped and destroyed by airplanes and artillery fire. The typewriter that I am using right now came out of that convoy. The German typewriters are like our own, except the “Y” and “Z” are changed around. They also have a few extra markings that are used on their letters. After Montilamar we went toward Grenoble. Grenoble is over close to Switzerland border and the country was really too beautiful to describe. The mountains and valleys were as green as could be, and look as if someone had mowed them with a lawn mower. From Grenoble we continued toward Bourg, and on up to Besancon. Besancon is about all the farther I will tell you about, from there on you will have to guests.

Many a time we had some close shaves, and good times. One time we were looking for a forward dump, to get rid of some TNT that we were caring. Well we got onto the wrong road and didn’t know it at that time. We came up to one small town and there we found the Marqui’s guarding the road. I didn’t think much about it at that time but we all thought it was a little funny that there wasn’t any GI’s around. The next town we came to the Marqui’s stopped us. About that time I reached down for my gun and they told us that the Germans had pulled out, but they always leave a few snipers around. We went on a little farther until we ran into one of our officers that had been out on recon, and he told us that the infantry had bypassed this part of the country, and wasn’t within 10 miles of us. So we made our dump right there, and back to the town we went. Being the first soldiers in a town is something to remember. The people all take pictures, everyone wants to kiss you, young and old alike. The drinks are on the house. Boy it’s hard to put all that happens in a letter, but they really show you a good time. Another thing is they catch these women that if I must say it, “shack up with the Germans”. They want us to cut their hair off, but that’s way out of our line, ha ha. It’s a shame as some of the women and young girls are really pretty but after their hair is cut, ha ha their looks change, and are they ever ugly.

Another time our truck broke down in a small village named Oyeu. That is the first time since I have been over sea’s that I felt like I might be home. I spent four days there and they were furlough days. Some of the people could speak English so we got along swell. The people I spent most of the time with spoke good English, and happened to be the richest people in town. Their names were Boyer, and they owned the textile factory there are in Oyeu. The people from all around were very friendly and every morning they brought us eggs, and fresh milk. Also fresh bread. Everyone called me Charlie. Even after mass one Sunday, the pastor had us in for a drink the wine. It was the wine used in the mass, so was pretty good. I haven’t had any wine that was used in the mass since I was an altar boy, many years ago. We had dinner at the Boyer’s house and what a meal it was. I was so full I could hardly move. We were then invited over to another ladies house for coffee and cognac. I had met a nice girl while I was there on my furlough. She told me that most of the French girls wanted to marry Americans, as that was a good way to get to the United States. Some dopes will probably fall to. It was hard to leave when it came time, but the next day I wasn’t over 150 miles from there, and back to the old grind.

Besancon, was the next main stop. We build a bailey bridge across the Doubs river. Maybe you might have seen my picture in the newsreel at one time or another, and never knew it. They took quite a few pictures of the bridge. There was plenty of snipers in collaborist and marching them through the streets. The people threw rocks, kicked, and spit at them. Also they were rounding up the women, and there was really a gang of them. I had my camera and took quite a few pictures. From this town on things started to get tough. Food was scarce, and the people’s attitude had changed. We have often wondered what it will be like when we hit Germany. This is about all I can think of now, but if there is anything that you would like to know just write and ask me. If I can answer them I will.

All my love

Your Son,
“Chick”

P.S. Better pass this letter around as I doubt if I’ll ever get a long letter off to everyone

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October 29, 1944 – Sunday

SONY DSCToday is Sunday, but just another day. Chopped a lot of wood today and the exercise did me a little good. Did a little work and wrote a few letters. Received a package from home.

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October 28, 1944 – Saturday

SONY DSCIt rained all night last night, but the sun is out this morning. How long it will stay out I don’t know. Received a letter from Pat. The mail is surely slow. The company is doing its usual mine sweeping.

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October 27, 1944 – Friday

SONY DSCIt was miserable all day today. The company is working on a road through the forest. We built a fire but I kept pretty warm just chopping wood for it. Played some cards and went to bed.

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October 26, 1944 – Thursday

SONY DSCWe move today right after dinner to a new area. We’re still in the woods. It’s really tough going on the “dough boys” and I really feel sorry for them. We set up our tent and I popped some corn. Played a little cards and went to bed.

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Letter Home – October 25, 1944

19441025-Lscan-600Dear Mother & Dad

Guess I’ll drop you a V-mail today. We received a bunch of papers and packages today. I received a package from Gee with the cookies, candy and popcorn in it, and also about 20 Champaign papers. We had just been talking about eating some popcorn when the package came. So we had popcorn. That cookies were a little stale, but they will were surely good to us. It shouldn’t be long and our Christmas packages will be coming in.

We had a clear day today. It peps you up a little when you get to see the sun. I guess it won’t be long now and the snow will be flying. I hope Mr. Grierson’s getting along okea. Tell him a low for me. Guess this is all for now. Goodbye and I love you both very much.

Your Son,
“Chick”

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October 25, 1944 – Wednesday

SONY DSCWe were going to move today but the area we were to move into was shelled pretty heavily so we stayed right where we are. I received a package from home today. Popcorn, just what I wanted. Also some cookies and they really hit the spot. Not much to do. Took a run down to battalion to pick up one of our trucks that had been blown up by a mine. Wrote a few letters and went to bed.

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October 24, 1944 – Tuesday

SONY DSCI start on my 3rd year over sea’s today. All I hope is that I’ll be home before it’s over. Made a trip down to the battalion and that’s about all. Wrote a few letters. A kid ran over a mine in front of our bivouac and blew his leg off. The mine had been buried deep and the mine detectors had missed it.

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October 23, 1944 – Monday

SONY DSCTwo years ago today we left the shores of good old U.S.A. I have often wondered when I’ll get back there. It has been raining all day and there is little to do. Played some double pinochle. Williamson was captured and wounded by some Germans today, but three of them took care of him and gave themselves up to him. So instead of him being captured, he captured some krouts. Wrote some letters and went to bed.

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Letter Home – October 22, 1944

19441022-2-Lscan-600Dear Mother & Dad

Just a few lines to let you know I’m okea. I’m still at a loss for words & something to write about. The weather is still bad, & if we could only think of some way to rig up a stove it might not be so bad. The trouble is always having to tear the stove down when we move.

You keep wanting me to look Bud up. I’m afraid at the present time that’s impossible. You see he is in and another army all together different that I’m in. I couldn’t even look a fellow up in our own division, & Bud isn’t in a division so that makes it worse.

I know my mail is slow in getting home, but it can’t be helped. Mail service here is terrible. Even your mail to me, takes a month to get here. When we were in Italy it only took about 10 days. That’s because we are so far from any naval ports. By By & I’ll write again Soon.

Your Son,
“Chick”

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