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.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Letter #22 from Wilbur C Garner June 29, 1944

 The following text in blue, is found in the XIX Corps Publication " Normandy to the Elbe,"  a copy of which, is in my archives. An excerpt of the content is reproduced here to provide the blog reader a sense of what was taking place in the XIX Corps up to the time the "Letter to Mary" in this blog entry was written.

Day by day the Corps units came in, got their assignments and dug into their jobs. The Corps Artillery began its work, and its effectiveness was apparent at once. Many of us carried on our jobs shuttling between the Command Post and the Front, learning by hard experience which roads were under fire, how a burp-gun and an 88 sounded, and what the fighting was like down where efficiency or inefficiency in our jobs meant lives.

Almost at once however there was the supply problem. Artillery ammunition was rationed, and when the terrific four-day storm blew in we sat with our fingers crossed, only a few rounds to a gun, and hoped nothing would happen. The slow tempo of peasant life in Normandy seemed little affected by our presence. A double row of men and officers crouched in some ditch down near Airel or St. Clair would look up in surprise as a peasant wandered unconcernedly down the road under the fire of German mortars, going after his cows. But in Isigny we found the individuals who had waited for us as Liberators, the FFI of the area. And they were glad to see us, even in the powdered ruins of their homes.

When the French Major with Civil Affairs came into Isigny he had the first French uniform they had seen for all that time, and they crowded around him, with all the news at once. And soon every town you went to had the office of XIX Corps "Affaires Civiles", and a captain and a couple of sergeants in the mayor's office, with an interpreter; and the patient farmers sat in the ante-room waiting to go in and see the officer and ask their questions. There was that creamery Civil Affairs fixed up at St. Marguerite where the refugees were taken and fed, and sat around gossiping, waiting for a chance to go back to their homes.
Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945) 

S/Sergeant Wilbur C. Garner 33377578
G-1 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) 

29 June 1944
"Somewhere in France"

Dear Sis, 

I received your letter of the 10th of June today. It seems to have taken considerably longer for it to reach it's destination. I guess this thing will soon begin to run smoothly once more and it will be regular.

Yes, Mary, it's very interesting to compare the news you are receiving with the actual stuff. Of course, I cannot mention it so you derive no benefit form it.

I received two letters from Mother one from Gwen and one from Jane today. Jane verified the suspicion that you and Mother have had and said they expect it about 1st of January.

You asked what you could send me. Well now you've got me because I don't know what you can get. If you can get hold of any soup or canned or bottled meat spreads (or are they rationed?) you can send me some of those.

I'm sorry to hear about Souil not feeling so well. I surely hope he can get home for the 4th. Maybe that will help him some. Well Sis, I guess I'll close for now and hope to hear from you real soon again. Take it easy and don't study too long on those exams.Lots of luck, Sis

Lots of Love
P.S. That hard candy is really good. You can send some more if you find some. Thanks to you.

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