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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Letter #30 from Wilbur C Garner August 8 1944

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. Tessy sur Vire was taken on August 2nd, and by the 5th the Corps had covered 18 miles of hedgerows and was assaulting Vire. The 29th Division took it on the night of August 6th. There was still heavy fighting to be done on this shoulder of the pocket, and the Germans who had brought over all their armor from the British sector, made one more thrust to try to cut off the great flanking drive. The 30th Division, then under VII Corps, took the brunt of that attack at Mortain, and blunted and finally drove it back, in a magnificent stand. XIX Corps had its part in holding the attack, and finally in helping to bottle up nearly 100,000 Germans in the Falaise-Argentan pocket.
Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945) 

The following narrative depicts the horror of this battle of the Falaise pocket:
Before the Allies closed the pocket, the death and destruction dealt against the German Army was horrifying even though a number of Panzer divisions were able to escape from the envelopment. "The battlefield at Falaise was unquestionably one of the greatest 'killing fields' of any of the war areas", Eisenhower noted in his memoirs. "Forty-eight hours after the closing of the gap I was conducted through it on foot, to encounter scenes that could be described only by Dante. It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh."
Robert Rogge, who fought with the Canadian Army in Falaise, recalled the destruction:
"It reeked of the destroyed [German] army. Burned-out tanks, lorries, motorcycles, and carts were in ruinous heaps. Bloated, black-faced corpses lay everywhere, and the summer stench was overpowering. Dead, grossly swollen horses were carelessly mingled with human corpses and savaged equipment. The men held dirty handkerchiefs over their faces, but nothing could keep out the stench. It got into their clothes and remained with them for days."
 (Sources: Crack! and Thump, Crusade in Europe, Fearsome Battle, Honor Untarnished, Wikipedia.)

S/Sergent Wilbur C. Garner,33377578
G-1 Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, c/o Postmaster, N.Y.

Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Disbursing Officer
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota

"Somewhere in France"
8 August 1944

Dear Mary,

I received two letters from you about 3 days ago which I have been unable to answer until about now. I just hope I'll be able to finish this one.
You asked who this boy Henderson is that I spoke of. Last June there was a very similar incident which both of us experienced. Sometime the first of May a year ago his wife gave birth to a child. About the first of June he got an emergency furlough for the purpose of seeing his wife as she was in a very serious condition. His wife passed away 2 days after he got home. He had only come back off furlough when I was informed of my misfortune so you see we have had something in common and have been pretty much buddies ever since. He is from Seattle, Washington. 

That picture that Gwen sent you of her in a row boat was very good. She said she would like to see one of you in your uniform, so if you should get one, please keep her in mind.
You asked if I'd like some more of the fruit. All but the candied pineapple. It was good and different from the average package. You can send more please.

Mother wrote me about Harriet wanting to sub-let her apartment. I'm wondering about the condition that exist there. Well, Sis since there is no more news and I wrote two pages on this one page, I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again.

Lots of Love,
P.S. I hope you can read this.

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