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.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Letter #66 from Wilbur C Garner 15 February 1945

The Army Artillery was more noisy than usual the night the Germans hit down south, and the XIX Corps' 554th AW Bn shot down a JU-52 that got mixed up in the lights of the 226th Searchlight Battalion. It had a full load of parachutists out for sabotage in our rear areas. They were all killed. And all the next day the trucks carrying the 30th south roared down the road through Heerlen, and the Dutch began to look anxious, thinking we were going to pull out. But they felt better when the Tomahawk emblem stayed around those few days. There were reports of parachutists in all our rear areas, and one of the AA outfits had quite a job rounding up a few who holed up in some houses. And every time you went anywhere for those weeks, you were stopped by MPs who wanted to know who won the World Series in 1938, or the capital of the Empire State.

(Sometimes, "said the Assistant G-4, "you have to fight your own army harder than the enemy." These men have got to have sleeping bags and shoe pacs for this weather, and we've got to fight for 'em, day and night it seems." He turned to one of his officers. "Better go up to Army again this afternoon and pound on the table. They're doing their best, but they'll do better if we make enough noise." )

(And suddenly there was snow, and the Germans had camouflage suits of white which made them practically invisible. But our men stood out against it, good black targets. G-5 turned to and collected sheets, covers, anything white, from thousands of German civilians, although they complained bitterly. Soon our troops too were equipped with camouflage for snow.)

(The Ack-Ack* had its biggest day New Year's day when the Luftwaffe made its final effort. From dawn to dark they knocked off 33 German planes of which they actually found the wreckage.)

(Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945)
*The Allied slang for anti-aircraft fire, ack-ack, does not come from the Acht-acht, but is World War I signalers' phonetic spelling of letters "AA"
S/Sgt Wilbur C. Garner, 33377578
G-1 section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, c/o Postmaster, N.Y.


"Somewhere In Germany"
15 February 1945

Dear Sis,

Howdy! How ya doin pardner? I received your letter dated 16th January today. It was good hearing from you once again.  "Fats" I heard you are getting to look like "Tugboat Annie" You better watch that old ——— You'll begin to look like me soon. Do you know I'm back to 195 lbs? What a big tub of ——I am.

So you've been authorized a new type of cap. What does it look like? Is it anything like our overseas caps? No mail from Henri, well I'm looking out for you. I think it has only been about 2 days since I wrote you last. You'll probably get 10 or 12 letters when they all begin to come through.
I got a letter from Gwen today. They were dated 1st and 2nd of February. Gwen was still feeling fine. I guess things are all over and she is almost ready to start for home in another few days. Gwen was going to the hospital on the 8th. Red Cross is supposed to notify me but they probably will send the telegram, if they send it, about next Christmas. I've seen too many cases. One of which is in the headquarters. His Mother died in July and he hasn't received the notification yet. I guess they have their hands full though.

I'm glad you got the books Gwen sent you. I have just finished writing her 6 pages and thanked her for you. Say , sis how do you like the first page of this letter? I think it makes a rather attractive note paper. It is my insignia with our "Motto". I wish they would have some made for us. 

I just took some glue and made it. I received all the affidavits from home last week and I have already forwarded them to Gwen. Thanks a lot, Sis, for the part you played for me in gathering them. I feel certain that will be all that is necessary. I certainly hope so anyhow. Gwen has already gotten her British exit papers and passport so now all I have to do is to get a passport for the Child and there is not much to that. It just means a trip to Brussels or Paris. I'll try to get you a nice big bottle of perfume.

Well, Sis, I guess I'll close for tonight and hope to hear from you again real soon. Glad to hear you passed your exams for SK1c.

Lots of Love from Gwen, Junior, and me,


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