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 9, 2014

Letter #72 from Wilbur C Garner 4 March 1945

Bills image captured crossing the Roer River
Bills image captured entering the City of Julich in rubble.

Bills images captured entering Julich after crossing the Roer



Once across the Roer, there was no pause in the attack. The Germans had been surprised by our ability to cross at all, with the river at such a state of flood, and the 29th and 30th gave them no chance to recover. The thousands of mines, the miles of anti-tank ditches and defensive works prepared as a result of "community digging", were rapidly overrun and the ground consolidated. The enemy was also thrown off balance by the direction taken by the Ninth Army's main effort, as made by XIX Corps, once across the Roer. He had expected us to head for Cologne, and when the attack angled east and then north, all his preparations were thrown off balance. The German divisions wheeling to meet the threat, and those coming down from the north as reinforcements, were caught in mid-maneuver by the speed of the XIX Corps' advance. Once on the run, they got no breathing space to stop and organize. The Corps stepped up its speed day by day The rush never stopped until the Rhine was reached.

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


"Somewhere in Germany"
4 March 1945

Dear Sis, 

Well, I guess I've neglected you lately, but I couldn't help it the way things have been popping over here lately. I haven't even been able to write to Gwen for 3 nights. We have really been going like a house of fire. 

It seems just like it was August and September. Well we are just one step closer now to getting back home.
Here's the news you are probably waiting for. The baby was born on the 17th of February at 7:40 pm. It's name is Carol Ann and she weighed exactly 8lb 8oz. Quite a large baby I'd say, wouldn't you Aunty? Ha!Ha! You are twice as old as I am. You were twice an Aunt and I've only been a Uncle once. If you don't get it sit down and figure it out. 

I received another package of nuts from you in the last week that was mailed on 8th of January. Thanks a lot Boy! They were surely good. Well the weather here has been pretty lousy lately. We've had rain, sleet, snow and very little sunshine. It has also gotten pretty cold again, too. I guess it is still rather cold where you are also. 

Mary, this is a short letter tonight but I'll do better next time. I've got to get off another one before I go to bed and it is now 9:00P.M. Both Gwen and Carol are doing fine. So long for now.

Lots of Love,

P.S. I'm enclosing a money order for $8.00. I don't know exactly when Easter is but would you send Mother some flowers or some wearing apparel(gloves, purse, etc.) for Easter? Thanks a million, Sis. I surely hope I'll be able to repay you some day for all the favors you've done for me. Lots of Luck.

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