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, February 20, 2014

Letter #54 from Wilbur C Garner 19 December 1944

In the text of the letter below I have highlighted my Dad's (Bill's) words "Tanks a lot." It is hard to believe he maintained a sense of humor through those difficult days but he seemed to have managed. He, in his letters to Mary, never misspelled "Thanks a lot" when letting Mary know how much he appreciated her gifts and letters. Therefore, I believe he was letting her know about his situation, during the time when  fighting had escalated and drawn near, with a wit that would pass the Censors....I smiled when I read that sentence, knowing how Dad (Bill), exhibited his sense of humor when I was growing up.
Planning for the drive across the Roer was well under way in the Corps when the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes forced a postponement, and finally a change in the defensive for the first time since the Corps had come into action in Europe. With the first deep penetrations toward the Muese by the German Sixth SS and Fifth Panzer Armies, the XIX Corps sector formed a deep salient into the German homeland. There was acute danger of an attack on the Corps north flank by the Germans through Sittard toward Maastricht to join the other prong which Rundstedt was pushing North through Eupen and Malmedy. The 30th Division was withdrawn from our front to hurry to Malmedy to hold off the German threat there. In the most critical days of the battle, this great division met and smashed the 1st SS Panzer Division. Some days later the famous 2nd Armored followed, to the western end of the "Bulge" where it met and almost completely destroyed the powerful German 2nd Panzer Division. Other elements of the XIX Corps stood fast, and prepared defensive plans for any eventuality, inspiring confidence in the civilians of that part of Holland occupied by our rear elements, that we would not desert them to fall again into the hands of the Germans.
(Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945)

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

Mary W.Garner, SK2c
Supply Department
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, 6, Minnesota

U.S.A. "Somewhere in Holland"
19 December 1944

Dear Sis,

Howdy pardner! Packages galore. Well, your packages mailed in September are just starting to come through. I've received about 2 from you and one from Mother & Dad and one from Bernard & Jane. Thanks a lot for that soap dish. I needed one of those but never thought to ask in any of my letters. It is a nice large dish too. Thanks for all of it, Sis. Boy you surely are knocking a hole in your pocketbook. You'd better take it easy.

I received a letter from Gwen yesterday dated 6th Dec. She is still feeling fine and anxiously looking forward to February.
Haven't had much mail from home lately. I guess everything is OK. 

Well, in another couple of days you'll be heading for good old Baltimore, well, I envy you but am very glad you were able to get a furlough home. I know it will mean an awful lot to Mother & Dad and it will at least keep their mind occupied. Here's hoping we can all be home for next Christmas. I'm certain Gwen will be there by that time.

There isn't much news right now. I just hope I'll be able to sleep tonight. A little rough the last two nights.
I got a letter from Mrs. Bell the other day and it seems as though she is going to be operated on. I hope it turns out OK. I guess you'll already know how she is doing by the time you get this letter.
Incidentally, Sis, Thanks for that cheese. I can always eat cheese. Tanks a lot.

Have you heard anything from Souil lately? I'm wondering how they are. Pretty lucky to be spending the winter in Florida. It will be much warmer than Indianapolis was last year.
Well, I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again.

Lots of Love and Luck

P.S. How is Henri?
Have you heard from him lately? You really goofed off by writing me his letter. Ha! ha! Keeping things from me Huh? Let me in on the dope. So long for now.

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