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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Letter #27 from Wilbur C Garner 27 - 28 July 1944

From the archives of Wilbur C Garner
The capture of St. Lo, 18 July, 1944, made possible the next move by General Bradley and the First Army to break out of the stalemate of the hedgerows. After 1st Army's Operation Cobra broke trough, XIX Corps moved west of the Vire River, commanding the 29th, 30th and 28th Infantry Divisions and the 2nd Armored.
(Colonel Charles M. Wells was Adjutant General, and that section everybody thought of as Rear Echelon stuff, but he was up reconnoitering for a new cemetery with Col. Louis L. Martin, G-1, one day when a German mortar dropped in and got him, and he was evacuated to a hospital. That somehow pointed up the fact that there were a lot of people helping to win the war who had to do it by being patient, and sitting in a chair and paying attention to small things. And they knew what St. Lo was costing, when they processed the casualty reports of over a thousand men a day about that time.)
Those last days before the breakthrough, the stuff really began to pile up. Not one of those orchards along those little roads was empty. You'd have a battery of 105's south of the road and just the other side a battery of 8 inch howitzers or 155 guns. The 105's said the big boys were a nuisance kept'em awake nights, but they were glad to have them there. the ditches were a mass of wire and cables now, and farther back toward the beach there were miles and miles of dumps: rations, ammunition, clothing, trucks, jeeps, parts, tanks, tires, and the road from Isigny south was always jammed with convoys.)
The great breakthrough attack tore a hole in the German lines on the 25th of July, and drove for Avranches and Coutances. XIX Corps's job was to guard the east flank of the breakthrough and prevent the enemy from sending reinforcements from the east. The German 2nd Panzer and 116th Panzer tried just this maneuver, and met XIX Corps troops just north and west of Tessy sur Vire. These two crack outfits were fought to a standstill and forced to retreat, and the gap remained in the German lines for the First and Third Armies to pour through. Again the Corps fulfilled a vital task when it took Vire, which in General Eisenhower's plan was the pivot for the First and Third in their swing east, north and northwest, to bottle up the German Seventh Army.

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

"Somewhere In France"
27 July 1944

Dear Mary,
I received your letter of the 16th July on the 25th. Boy that was really good time and I don't mean maybe. I received the handbag you sent and forwarded it to Gwen day before yesterday. Thanks a lot, Sis.
Say, I'm sorry to hear that you probably won't get you SK1c rating. That's tough kid. Maybe something will break for you. Why don't you try to get a transfer? maybe that would be possible.
I'll thank you for the package of meats you sent even though I haven't received it. Say, Sis, if you can find some cheese I'd be glad to get some. say, that news about Lt. General McNairs death was rather a shock wasn't it? That just goes to show that war is no respect of persons. From the news, the boys seem to be doing OK.
I got a letter from Mother yesterday and she said that Souil may get out of the service sometime this fall. Well I hope he is not disappointed.

28 July 1944

Dear Mary

Well I didn't get a chance to finish this letter last night as a lot of work came up. Well, Sis I didn't get any mail today. I got a package of clothes I had asked for in May. Of course, it will come in handy and I don't mean maybe.
There hasn't been much news lately so I'll close this letter and get it off to you. I think I told you that I received Gwen's purse and mailed it to her. Thanks. 

Goodnight for now.
Lots of Love

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