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, March 2, 2014

Letter #65 from Wilbur C Garner 9th February 1945

February 4-11, 1945 Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin meet at Yalta.

Finally on the 5th of February, XIX Corps moved north again, taking over the 29th, 30th, 83rd, and 2nd Armored Divisions, preparing to put it's long-held plans into effect and cross the Roer. There was more than the usual river-crossing for which to allow. Up the Roer were two great dams, the Schwammenauel and the Erfttalsperre, built by the Germans for just such an eventuality as now faced them: to delay an enemy force trying to penetrate into the Rhineland. If these dams were still under German control when our crossing started, a wall of water could be released to sweep down upon the troops and bridges, and sweep everything before it. XIX Corps Military Intelligence Interpreter Teams had discovered in Aachen complete plans for the military use of these dams, and the Wehrmacht's own diagrams of the extent and duration of the flooding to be expected.The discovery of these plans had shaped the strategy of the Fall attacks of the whole Twelfth Army Group. XIX Corps had initiated the series of attacks to seize these dams before it left the Aachen area. We knew exactly, thanks to the assessment by XIX Corps Engineer, what risk was, and the planning continued on that basis. Progress to our south to gain control of the dams was slow, and repeated massive attempts to bomb them out with great concentrations of aerial bombing failed. Having calculated the risk, the order was given to attack anyway on the 10th of February. On the night of the 9th the Germans did what remained for them to do with their control of the one remaining dam, the Schwammenauel, and blew the spillway. This was intended to raise the level and speed of the Roer to flood proportions and keep it that way for the longest possible time, until the great lake behind the dam was completely drained. The attack had to wait.We had no intention of waiting til the river subsided; only until the speed of the current had diminished to a point where the river could be bridged. The Corps Engineer gave his estimate as the 22nd. On the 23rd the attack was made, long before the Germans thought it could be done. (Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945)
"Defense of German Border"
2 soldiers w/ German 75mm antitank gun, Waubach, Germany by Henry Jay MacMillan

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


"Somewhere in Germany"
9 February 1945

Dear Sis, 

Good evening. How are things these days with you? So you passed your SK1c ratings exam. Good for you, kid. Now all you have to wait for is an opening.
I have received several letters from you in the last couple of days but have not had a chance to answer them yet. I'm certainly glad you received the perfume I sent you. Its only a small bottle but I thought you'd like it. It'l make you smell real sweet for Henri. Save it until Henri comes home. What makes you think he'll be coming home soon?

I had more news regarding Jane and child yesterday. It is very nice that things went so nicely. You said you bet Maj. Kogetad was in that bunch returning to the States. No. He is now LT. Col. & much much too big to be doing such a menial task as censoring letters. Ha! ha! I could be court martialed for what I think about him. Yes, Mary I did receive the sweater you sent me. 

Gwen will be getting over just as soon as she feels like both are capable of that long trip and I do mean long. I imagine sometime in May. I hope so anyhow. It will be much easier for her after she gets over there.

We have been very busy in the last week and I haven't had much time to write anyone. I'll try to catch up with my correspondence now. I got a couple letters from Gwen yesterday. The last was dated 29th Jan and she was feeling tops. I hope Gwen gets off as easily as Jane did.

Well, Sis, I'll close for now as there is not much news right now. Hope to hear from you soon again. I should be getting word from Gwen any day now.

Lots of Love from

Gwen and me,


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