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, February 1, 2014

Letter #35 from Wilbur C Garner 12 September 1944

...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. 

(The Engineers of the 1104th and some AA were way out ahead of the infantry for the last dash across Belgium to the Albert Canal. They went south to Vise and helped the 30th across the Meuse, and then dashed to Maastricht to build a bridge from the enemy side to ours. The 1115th with a battalion of infantry and some artillery made their own bridgehead on the other side of the Albert Canal, and hung their bridge on a barge in the middle of the canal to get it across near Fort Eben Emael. Then the 1104th built that great big Bailey at Maastricht, the largest one in Europe, and we put a picture of it on the Corps Christmas card. The engineers said it was on 190 foot triple triple span, two 110 foot triple single spans, and one 40 foot single single span. Anyway it was a long bridge.)

These weeks of August and September were a kaleidoscope of new scenes, rushing action, and hard work for the Corps troops and staff sections. Any mission away from the Corps might turn into a running fight with some pockets of Germans. We found our Command Posts in chateaux, woods, pastures, and again in chateaux. It was a real accomplishment to keep the Corps together and under control, ready for any eventuality. More than once the CP was pushed into and through a region dotted with German pockets.
 Art created by XIX Corps artist Henry Jay MacMillan
Bailey Bridge, Holland, Maastricht; soldier on military
vehicle guards bridge; trucks cross bridge in background
Siegfried Line Conference,
Chateau Horne, St. Trond, Belgium

General Corlett & General Hamilton Maguire in the War Room of XIX Headquarters. Tongres, Belgium. Generals sit at table in foreground; 4 soldiers stand near "OPERATION MAP" at back of room, soldier at left on telephone

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"
12 September 1944

Dear Mary,

Good morning Sis, how are things with you these days? Well I wrote to you about four days ago so you should feel lucky at getting another letter so soon after that one.
Well, it is a beautiful day but the nights & mornings are really COLD. I thought I'd freeze the night before last. If these pup tents had heat in them it would be OK. Well it can't last forever. I should be sleeping now but I just had to catch up on my letters so this is where I started.

I received the box of hard and assorted candies that you mailed on 24 July 44 just about 3 days ago. It was really good and it kept perfectly. Thanks a lot. All the boys in the section also send their thanks. There are 5 of us in my section and we each one get a package about 1 every two weeks. For a while it was better than that but they have dropped off again for awhile.

Have you heard any more about changing your station? Well you may just as well see the States while it is gratutious. (Misspelled but I don't have a dictionary) I'd like to be stationed out West for awhile after I get back to the states.

I got a letter from Souil the other day and they seem to be keeping him rather busy. I got a letter from Jane, and Bernard is really glad to see fall come again so he can start teaching once more. I don't think his summer job turned out so well. I got a letter from Gwen the other day and she is just fine. It seems as though the navy is keeping her very busy also. Well, Sis I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again.

Lots of Love,

P.S. If you can get more of that candy send it along.
P.P.S.S. Ha!Ha! Don't worry about anything for me for Christmas. It would just be something else for me to carry. Just forget all about Christmas this year. We'll make up for it the following year. Then maybe Gwen will be with us too. So long P.P.P.S.S.S. Happy Birthday, I hope you get this in time. Love

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