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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Letter #73 from Wilbur C Garner 30 March 1945

In the Allied plan for finishing the war, XIX Corps was selected to spearhead the Ninth Army drive out of the Rhine bridgehead after the crossing had been forced for Berlin. However, the corps engineer, Colonel Hubert S. Miller had command of all the naval and engineer forces involved in the great amphibious operation on the Rhine, and XIX Corps Artillery lent its fire power to the massive concentrations that covered the crossings. The Flak Suppression barrage that XIX Corps Artillery under Brigadier General George D. Shea fired on the southern landing area of the simultaneous airborne operation was so efficient that nor one friendly plane or glider was brought down by enemy antiaircraft fire in that zone.
On the night of the 23rd of March the great crossing began, and by the 29th the 2nd Armored Division of XIX Corps was across the Rhine and attacking east. The 83rd Division was motorized with the trucks of XIX Corps Artillery and given the task of following up the 2nd Armored's advance, to form the northern arm of the giant pincers movement which was to cut off the Ruhr district. The drive went on day and night.
All the bridges on the Dortmund-Ems Canal, the first of many obstacles, were found blown, but by the afternoon of the 30th of March the 2nd Armored Division had built their own bridges and were across and rolling again. A long, narrow, threatening armored finger was thus thrust deep into inner Germany. In the vicinity of Haltern to which the Corps Command Post moved, the 88s from the south kept the one road over which the Corps had to deploy all its divisions under almost constant fire. One Regimental Combat Team of the 17th Airborne Division held the Germans off to the south, while three divisions swarmed through the narrow gap. The 30th Division which had made the original Rhine crossing came back to XIX Corps along with the 15th and 113th Calvary Groups. A few days later the 8th Armored Division was added to the Corps. 
Then began the successful accomplishment of one of the biggest operations ever conducted by one Corps.  The 2nd Armored by-passed the great city of Hamm, leaving it to be cleaned up by the 95th Division, and angled south-east to Lippstadt where they met the 3rd Armored Division on the afternoon of the 1st of April to close the Ruhr pocket. Here the Ninth and First US Armies cut off and captured over 300,000 German troops, and the last remaining industrial area of Germany. Germany's doom was sealed!

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

Mary W. Garner, SK1c
Supply Department
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, 6, Minnesota

"Somewhere in Germany"
30 March 1945

Dear Sis, 

Howdy kid. I guess you figure by this time that I have forgotten you. You are wrong. I have been to England on a seven day furlough. Boy did those days fly by in a hurry. It seemed like a day. Well here's the story. I left Corps on the 8th of March and returned last night. When I arrived on the 14th in Cardiff, Gwen was still in the hospital. Boy I was worried then. Almost a month there. I found out that Carol had a substance on her stomach for about 9 days and wouldn't take milk properly. Carol was coming along fine by the time I arrived though. 

On the 15th I went to the hospital and brought Gwen and Carol home. I went right into the hospital just as soon as I got home and found out that Gwen was still in the hospital. Was she excited and happy to see me. She just shook all over. We had beautiful weather while I was there. I took about three rolls of pictures and Gwen is sending Mother a set. We'll have more made for you. In the meantime, ask Mother to send you her copy and let you see them. She (Carol) is the prettiest baby I've seen in a long time. (I'm not prejudice either).

Here is a picture of me at Korneliminster, Germany in January. Not too good but "Combat". Say Gwen should see the picture you sent her of yourself. I didn't recognize you. What a debutante. Mother! Watch that girl! When I returned to Corps your letters were next in size to the pile I had from Gwen. About 10 letters from you. Thanks a lot. Also a package containing the cheese and sardines. Thanks! Thanks!

While in Cardiff I reported Carol's birth to the U.S. Consulate. The papers go to Wash. for checking and then returned to Cardiff. It will take about 2 months so Gwen probably won't be able to get over until maybe July. You mentioned the fact that Gwen would have to spend some time at Ellis Island. No Gwen goes through all of that at London. When the boat docks she just gets off and catches the train so there would be no delay. I don't know whether Gwen could notify you as to when she would arrive or not, due to secrecy of ship sailings. 

I know it would be a big help if someone could met her in New York. I understand now that U.S. furnishes all transportation right to the city of destination so I guess they would look out for her. I'll let you know as soon as I find out anything.
Well, Sis I guess I'll have to close for now and hope to hear from you soon again. So long for now. Take it easy and give my regards to Henri.

Lot and Lots of Love
from "We Three"
Bill, Gwen and Carol

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