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