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 31, 2014

Letter #34 from WIlbur C Garner 8 September 1944

The Corps crossed the Seine on August 28th, by September 1st the Corps advance elements had crossed the Somme, and at 0930 in the morning of September 3rd were into Belgium, the first Allied troops across the border. Tournai, the first large town in Belgium was taken the same day. 
From the archives of Wilbur C Garner album entry by Gwendoline R Wilkins

They sent Colonel Biddle and the 113th to cover the right flank of the Corps on the north side of Paris. The Engineers of the Corps threw seven bridges over the Seine, and one of them took the place of the road-bridge blown by the Germans at St. Germain. Now the Corps Commander could cover his right flank there and go hell-for-leather for the Belgian border. For three of the seven bridges the Engineers had to clear the opposite bank themselves, before they could put them in. That operation of the cavalry was slightly nuts, said the men of the 113th Group. When you're ducking 88's and being kissed by beaucoup beautiful girls at the same time; when the cafes open up, give away all their wine, and you dance in the streets while a burp gun is still rattling away within a block, that's a funny kind of war. But it was that way all the way up through those towns, Sartrouville and the rest.

Now the battle became the Battle of Supply. Trucks that should have been used to bring up gasoline and keep the dumps close behind the advance were continually pressed into services to carry troops in the pursuit. There just weren't enough trucks, and artillery ammunition again became a critical item until the resistance dropped off even more. For several days the Corps had to mark time until enough gas was accumulated to push on.

Civil Affairs ant the Resistance reported a few caches of German gasoline, but the G-4 was finally becoming desperate for more supplies. everybody asked each other about it every morning, and the G-4 was always full of liaison officers or visitors from higher headquarters explaining why they should get just one can of gas to get home. Major Marshall, Assistant G-4 finally got a liaison plane and went up to look over the canals in that part of Belgium, looking for tank barges. Then the QM sent out and tested the gas in it. We got 30,000 gallons that way. G-4 could always tell to a gallon how much there was in the dumps, and the heads always turned his way at the Staff meetings before any plan was discussed.

By September 8th the 113th Cavalry Group had drained all the other outfits of gas and made their way all across Belgium to the Albert Canal. The 2nd Armored Division could move only one Combat Command at a time, and the 30th Division had to move half way across Belgium on foot. The Germans had time to set up an initial defensive line on the Meuse and to man the Siegfried Line. They left the fortress of Eben Emael undefended, and the 30th Division took it on September 10th. 

From the archives of Wilbur C Garner album entry by Gwendoline R Wilkins
Although all the bridges on the Meuse had been blown, the 113th Cavalry made an end run through Liege to the south and the 30th Division assaulted the Canal and river lines near Vise to establish bridgeheads south of Maastricht. The 30th Division became the first Allied troops to enter Holland on September 12th. On the next day Maastricht was taken from behind, and the 30th had advanced to Valkenburg by the 14th. On the 17th Heerlen was in our hands and a coordinated drive by XIX and VII Corps drove to the Siegfried Line just over the edge of Germany. (Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945)

From the archives of Wilbur C Garner album entry by Gwendoline R Wilkins
S/ Sergent Wilbur C. Garner 33377578
G-1 Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, c/o Postmaster, N.Y.

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

"Somewhere in Belgium"
8 September 1944

Dear Sis, 

Well as brother to sister, I have some startling and embarrassing news for you. I have written Mother and informed her of the existing circumstances and thought I should inform the rest of the immediate family. Gwen is pregnant and I have been trying to get back to the U.K. to marry her ever since about the first of July. 

I expect to leave here in about three more days. I feel like I have let you all down and sort of lost the confidence all of you have placed in my judgement. I guess it is just one of those things. The sad part of it is that I had to leave England when I did. I'm going to try to get Gwen back to the U.S. as soon as I can. She can get so much more there that she needs than she can in Eng. I'm sure she would get along OK with Mother & dad and it would be company for them. I intend to see that consulate in London when I get back.

I got a letter form Allen Sutton the other day and he is now in Australia. He has been in new Caledonia for a while. He likes the country and people very much.

We have really been busy over here lately. Sis, I don't think I have ever seen people quite so happy. They stand along the roads and streets and nearly wave their arms off. Some are even crying. You can get almost anything for a pack of cigarettes and I do mean anything. Money is no good. The people don't want it. All they want is food, cigarettes and candy.

Well Sis, I guess I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again. 

Good Luck,

No comments:

Post a Comment