About this blog

As the author of this blog, Karen L Garner Martin Messick, I am the daughter of an American soldier, Wilbur (Bill) C. Garner, Sr. and Women's Royal English Navy service woman (British Wren) Gwendoline Rosa Wilkins, who met and married during World War II. They lived and loved for over 50 years before Mother passed in 2000. When she did I helped Dad with every day chores when I could. One day I was helping him clear things out and I lifted a plastic bag out of the seat of Mom's piano stool, asking Dad, "Whats in this bag?" to which he replied, "Just some of Mary's old letters." Mary, his older sister, was still alive at the time, residing in an assisted living facility, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I put the letters back in the piano seat thinking he did not want me to open the letters.
When Dad passed two years later, I inherited Mary's letters.
When I began to read them, I found they were mostly letters from Dad to Mary while he was in World War II ("The War"). I could not put them down. I wished I had opened them the day I first saw them so that Dad and I could have had conversations about them, but that was not to be...so as I read through these "Letters to Mary" I began to get a glimpse into Dad's young years when he met Mom and his time as a soldier. I have researched events during World War II to enhance my understanding of what was happening in the war as each letter came to broaden my understanding of what he might have been experiencing. I knew he landed on the beaches of Normandy, France D-Day plus 1 as he recounted his memory of that day to me when he was dying from Leukemia. It was horrifying. There were also letters from a companion Mary had met while in Minneapolis, he had been deployed overseas. I have entwined them chronologically with Dad's letters as it gives a greater dimension to the war itself. I intend to editorialize as necessary to explain personal relationships and situations as the story unfolds through the "Letters to Mary." I welcome any questions, comments and feedback. As the "Greatest Generation" fades away, I felt compelled to share these letters and story in hopes of continuing the legacy they left for the world. Let us never forget the untold years and lives that were sacrificed for freedom!
If you have stumbled upon this blog I have added a blog archive at the bottom of the blog page. Continue to scroll down to access the Blog Archive. The posts are chronologically listed and to follow the story it is best to start with the first post in December 2013.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Letter #21 from Wilbur C Garner June 24, 1944

The following text in blue, is taken from the Corps Publication " Normandy to the Elbe,"  a copy of which is in my archives and is reproduced here to provide the reader a sense of what was happening at the time the letter  in this blog entry was written.

On the 14th of June, XIX Corps became operational, taking over the 29th Division, which despite the agonizing punishment it had sustained on landing, was fighting its way forward into the first of the hedgerows. The 30th Division came across the beach, and moved in on the right of the 29th. Our job was to get as far as we could and then hold, while First Army threw all the strength it could muster into cutting off and reducing Cherbourg. To test the German defense, an attack was ordered for the next day, and inched forward for three days through the terrain and defense that was to try American fighting qualities for more than a month. Finally the attack rested on the line of the Vire River and the Vire and Taute Canal. The Command Post moved to Castilly, little more than a chateau and a church at a crossroad.

You came by the church as you rounded the corner on the road from the beach, and there was a long lane of trees that met overhead, and if it was Sunday the French would be walking to or from church in their stiff black clothes, and not even looking curiously at Jeeps any more. The Command Post tents clung to the hedgerows, back to back in three fields, and down at the far corner of the field was the War Tent, a big British hospital tent, and close beside it the G-2 and G-3 tents. There was usually a liaison officer or two from one of the outfits sleeping on the grass if the sun was out, because he knew he was due for a hard night, and Colonel West and the G-3 Officers would go in and out. Down to the right at the far end was the General's caravan, and when he came up to the War Tent most everyone left. This got to be almost home after a while, and you came back to it with relief if you'd been up front, and maybe there would be a drink of Calvados around somewhere, and you'd wonder if they'd bomb the place that night. They certainly must know we were here by this time. But maybe we weren't important enough. There was the time that those two Jerries came in fast to begin a strafing run from over the schoolhouse, but it just happened that there were two P-47's loafing around behind a cloud on the other side; who jumped them before they could start, and shot one down over to the west. But every night there was plenty of fireworks over the beaches, and we slept in our slit trenches most nights. The 12th AA Group set up in business, and began the shooting.

Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr  (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945) 

Text below in black is excerpted from the XIX Corps Newspaper  (from my archives)
Volume 2         Western Front Germany, October 1944        Number 6

Major General Charles H. Corlett, then in command of XIX Corps, called for an attack by his two divisions the morning following his assumption of operational command on June 15. The attack was merely a "limited objective" attack, designed to put the Corps in good defensive position until such time as enough power could be built up in the First U.S. Army to enable it to break through the hard crust of the German defense. The advance proved more difficult than was expected and was halted after three days, since by then most of the Corps line, though unduly long for an attack by two divisions, was along the natural defense line of the Vire River and the Vire-et-Taute Canal. 


G-I Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, c/o Postmaster, N.Y.

Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Disbursing Office
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota (6) 

"Somewhere in France"     24 June 1944

Dear Mary,
Well it has been quite a while since I wrote you last. I received two letters and one package from you yesterday. I thank you for the hard candy. I also received three letters from Gwen and one from Souil. Boy that was some haul.
Of course you can see my location has been changed a little. I'm sorry I haven't been able to write sooner but I guess you can understand. I'm glad you have finally received the letter Gwen wrote you. I have given her the low-down on you don't worry. Well it wasn't that bad so don't worry about it. I think she has written several letters since then.

Well this is funny country and peculiar people, at least in this area. Of course, I guess we could expect that at the present time. The weather is a little better and right now it seems like summer time but it will change shortly. I'm still wearing O.P's and also a heavy woolen undershirt and am not too warm believe it or not. 

Well, how are things with you these days? say, don't you think you are something? for your 1st class rating already. Well, Sis good luck to you and I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.
I'm glad you were able to get that purse for Gwen. Thanks a lot. Do I owe you any more money? Please let me know.
Well, Sis there is really not much to say right now so I'll close for now and hope to hear from you real soon again.

Lots of Love,

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