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.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Letter #57 from Wilbur C Garner 8 January 1945

January 1-17 Germans withdraw from the Ardennes
Monastery, Kornelimunster, Germany; monastery built c. 1728; served as command post for XIX Corps Henry Jay MacMillan
Hall of Knights, Monastery, Kornelimunster, Germany, used as XIX Corps war room.
Men review photographs and maps along the walls.
Image rendered by  Henry Jay MacMillan XIX Corps artist

Images captured in Kornelimunster and sent to Gwen, who labeled them and maintained a scrapbook of the images Bill sent to her.

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 

"Somewhere in Germany"
8 January 1945

Dear Sis: 

Well I really made a good haul on the mails day before yesterday. I received eight letters and three Christmas cards. Three letters from you, including your letter of the 26th of December, written while in Baltimore. That one really made good time. Well I'll start with your letter of the 20th November.

You asked me questions such as: Does the fact that Gwen is married to a U.S. citizen make her one also? Will the baby be a citizen of the U.S. or a British subject? Gwen is not a citizen and will not be until she takes out her papers which will take five years after she makes formal application. About the child, it is a U.S. citizen because I am a citizen. Does that answer your questions OK? I hope so. If you can think of any more questions I may be able to answer for you, just sound off, kid.

You asked me for something for the baby. The conditions the mails are in these days, Gwen would probably be over in the States before the things arrived here. Save your trouble until they get home, then you can spoil her and the brat also, Auntie. By the way, stop that "itty bitty" stuff. You slay me with that stuff. I'm hoping that Gwen will be able to make the trip over about the middle of May. Of course there are a lot of ifs, ands and buts about it. We will have to wait until she is ready to leave and then act quickly.

Well now that I know the dope, (not meaning Henri) let me ease your mind and tell you that you did not send me a whole letter from you to Henri. All you did was start one on the back of one of the sheets of paper that you wrote my letter on.

Incidentally, remember the boy whose picture I sent you from England and you said that certainly is a husky bruiser, well he said to wish you a "Happy New Year". The other day he was washing and he pulled up his undershirt and what do you think he found? on his chest? Yes, he had three hairs on it. Then I said when are you going to grow up Junior. Then I pulled up my shirt. Of course, he is knocking me in the head because I just told him what I had written to you. Well all joking aside, we get along OK and just like one big happy family. You know what the doctor said one day at one of our routine inspections?
He said I would really be a louses paradise. Well sometimes I wish I didn’t have so much hair.

You asked about the name Wilbur Charles. Well I just checked with the Judge Advocate about the name and I found out that it must be Wilbur Cecil if we want it to be a JR. I've written Gwen and told her that if it had to be a JR., like she wished, if a boy, that she would have to name it Wilbur Cecil. So I guess it will be Wilbur Cecil if a boy and if a girl, Carol Ann. What do you think of that? Of course, it won't make much difference because by the time I get an answer from you, it will be too late. Gwen expects to go into hospital about the 8th of February. The last letter I had form Gwen, she said that she never felt better in her life and that she was going to go through with colors flying. She is a rather spunky girl. You'll like her very much when you meet her.

Well it has been rather cold here and we have had quite a bit of snow lately. In fact, it is snowing right now and in the last hour and a half there has been about three inches of fall. Well we are going to try and take some pictures of each other the next couple of days. If they are good, I'll send you some. Incidentally, how about some snapshots of yourself, Sis. You never did send Gwen any, did you? Bernard and Jane took some of themselves and Mother and Dad and sent to Gwen and they also sent me a set of them. They were rather good.

You asked me if I have received any of the packages marked "Xmas packages". Yes I think I have received about all that you have sent. I'm missing about two that Mother and Dad sent me though. That bracelet has never come through. Did you ever receive that little bottle of perfume I sent you from Paris? I also sent Mother a package with some things in it, (Dutch shoes, letter opener from Waterloo, Belgium, little knife pin from Waterloo, Belgium Etc.) I don't think I marked any of the packages in that box for you. I figured I had sent you several things already and had better get Bernard and Jane and Souil and Harriet something. I hope that perfume doesn't get lost. I know you'll like it. It was gardenia.
I guess this is just about the longest letter you have ever received from me since I've been in the Army, and don't expect every letter to be this long. I'm neglecting Gwen tonight. 

I have written her almost every night since I returned from England. I think I have only missed about three nights and two of them were unavoidable, but tonight I just can't seem to think of anything in particular to say to her. She'll excuse me.

You asked me how the colonel is. He left us about a month ago for good ol' Washington, D.C. He accepted a job in the War Department. He already had about 36 months overseas so he really deserved to go home. He served in Alaska, Kiska, Attu, Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, and was last in on the Kwajalain Islands invasion then came over and picked us up in England. 

Well, Sis I guess I'll close for tonight and hope to hear from you again real soon. Give me a nice long letter next time. I'll bet you can't beat this one. So long for now. Take it easy, kid.

Loads of Love from Gwen and me,

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