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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Letter #76 from Wilbur C Garner 4 April 1945

April 12, 1945 Allies liberate Buchenwald and Belsen concentration camps: President Roosevelt dies; Truman becomes President.
 "Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge/ over the Elbe river--/Built by 234th Eng."; soldier stands at one end of bridge over Elbe River, Barby, Germany.
by Henry J. MacMillan
Great numbers of depots, airfields, factories, stores, rolling stock and dumps fell into our hands (XIX Corps) in this area; the roads began to fill with hundreds of thousands of Russians,  Jugoslave, Poles, French, Dutch, Belgian, Hungarian and Italians. 

After the sealing-off of the Ruhr, the Corps had two fronts, moving rapidly away from each other. To the northeast the 2nd Armored flanked by the 83rd and the 30th rolled toward Weser, the Elbe and Berlin; to the southwest the 8th Armored, the recently attached 95th, and the Regimental Combat Team of the 17th Airborne were reducing the Ruhr pocket. At one time these two fronts were 125 miles apart; but during the entire operation the units of the Corps were completely under its control, and the Divisions in good battle formation. It is doubtful if any Corps was ever faced with as many varied situations in such a limited time. The good order that obtained all through the operation, often under strong and sometimes unexpected resistance, speaks highly for the fine leadership, superior discipline, staff work and communications.
The 2nd Armored Division, attacking east in two columns, came up against the Teutoburger Forest on a long, high ridge running north and south all across the sector.  In the early years of the Christian Era, the German tribes had inflicted a decisive defeat on the Roman general Varus and his legions on this dark and bloody ground. Here the Germans of this day tried to stand and fight . The 30th and 83rd Divisions came up rapidly to where the 2nd Armored was engaged in the passes of this forest, and together these three veteran organizations broke through after several days of heavy fighting.
By the 4th of April the 2nd Armored had reached the Weser River near Hameln, of Pied Piper fame. 

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"
4 April 1945

Dear Sis, 

Good evening, Sis. How are things with you these days? In all the excitement with Carol and my 7-day furlough, I think I've forgotten to congratulate you on your promotion. I think it is really swell.
I got the pictures of Carol that I took while in England tonight and I've done nothing but look at it. She is really one pretty little girl and she surely has a couple of proud parents and I'm not kidding. I know she'll be spoiled a plenty.

Did I thank you for that picture you sent me of yourself. Boy you look like some debutante to me. It is really a very good picture of you. Thanks a lot. Gwen liked her picture also.
Well it has certainly been a very lovely day today the sun has shone brilliantly and it has been fairly warm. I'm certainly glad to see summer just around the corner.

We only let these German civilians out on the streets between the hours of 0900 and 1200 noon and then only one from a family. You should see them just hanging in the doorways waiting for 0900 to roll around.
You should see my bed. I have set up a canvas cot and used a large double down comfort as a mattress. I have a large down pillow. Boy can I saw wood on that! And how! I don't think I have stirred the last two nights I slept there. I'm glad we have stayed here a couple days so we can all get rested and get some much needed sleep. 

I hope you received my money order in time to send Mother some thing for Easter from Gwen and me. I know Mother received another one I sent her so I guess you got the one I sent you also. Would you do me a great favor. I had forgotten about Dad's birthday. I have just sent my spare cash to Mother. If you have any spare cash would you send Dad something for his birthday from Gwen and I. I'll send you $8.00 for it when I get paid the end of April. Thanks, Sis. I didn't get paid last month because I wasn't here to sign it so I'll get 2 months pay next month.

Well, Mary there's not much news here now so I'll say so long for now.

Lots of Love from
Gwen, Carol and me,

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