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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Letter #81 from Wilbur C Garner 17 April 1945

"The bombing of Magdeburg--/April, 1945
2nd armored waits for jump off." Armored vehicles on road outside Magdeburg, Germany.
Ink sketch of jeep at lower left corner. by H.J. MacMillan;
The 2nd Armored Division moved on in its speed to take the great Hermann Goering Steel Works just south of Immendorf after a sharp fight, and on the 11th of April went its phenomenal course 57 miles in a single day, to reach the Elbe River, last natural barrier before Berlin, just south of Magdeburg. The 83rd was not to be outdone. They reached the Elbe River on the 12th of April at the town of Barby. Magdeburg showed signs of offering strong resistance, so the 2nd Armored immediately crossed the Elbe south of the city, and moved out with two battalions to form a bridgehead. The bridge that was begun here received such heavy artillery fire that it was abandoned to put all available bridging into the crossing that had begun opposite the foothold that the 83rd had by this time, also gained on the east bank of the Elbe.  
By the 13th of April the 83rd's bridgehead, reinforced by CC R of the 2nd Armored Division was seven miles deep and firmly held. The 2nd Armored's bridgehead was successfully withdrawn to concentrate all our forces in the southern bridgehead. There the XIX Corps held, on orders, waiting for the junction with the Soviets who were by this time not far away. An attack was launched meanwhile on Madgeburg, on the 17th of April, the 30th Division attacking from the north and the 2nd Armored from the south. By noon, the last resistance west of the Elbe in XIX Corps zone had been wiped out. While we waited for the Russians to appear, XIX Corps held the banks of the Elbe, and got down to the business of instituting military government over an enormous area, evacuating thousands of liberated prisoners of war, feeding and evacuating hundreds of thousands of displaced persons.
Wanzleben Germany 13 April - 8th May 1945

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"
17 April 1945

Dear Sis,

Well, Howdy, How are you these days? I haven't heard from you for sometime. I feel certain the mail is tied up someplace because I haven't even been hearing from Mother or Gwen. I did finally get a letter from Gwen today dated the 29th of March. You see how far behind Gwen's mail is. I guess it will catch up with us soon. I hope so anyhow. She had sent Mother a copy of the pictures I took of Carol while in Cardiff. I guess you have seen them by this time. What do you think of her? Isn't she the prettiest little thing you ever saw? Well I think so anyhow. 

She's the apple of her daddy's eye, and I'm not kidding, either. I know her Auntie Mary will be very proud of her also and will most probably spoil her to death. Well, I guess I've got to stop here. 

Some of these damn officers should be reclassified. I've typed seven letters for him right away and now he wants them typed all over again and right away. Well that old son-of - ——-can wait awhile. They must think we've got nothing to do.

It has been a beautiful day today and rather warm. A lovely day for the Air Corps and they've really done a good job today. I think summer is just about here, to stay, I hope. The Germans have cherry and apple trees planted all along the roadsides and they are really beautiful blooming along the roads. This part of Germany is very fortunate in the fact that we past through in such a hurry. Most of the towns right now though are being leveled once more, thank goodness.

Well, Sis, there is no more news now so I guess I'll close. So long and take it easy. I changed my mind. Take it easy and I hope to hear from you soon.

Loads of Love from Gwen, Carol and myself,

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