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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Letter #82 from Wilbur C Garner 19 April 1945

April 21, 1945 Soviets reach Berlin.

"Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge The treadway bridge over the Elbe River.
Built for 83rd Div. by 234th Engr. Bn. 1115 Engr. group-XIX Corps..." 
Bridge crosses Elbe River, Barby, Germany
by H.J. MacMillan;
Finally on the 30th of April, the 125th Calvary Squadron of the 113th Calvary Group moved out from the bridgehead at Zerbst, and made contact with the 1st Battalion of the 340th Regiment of the 121st Infantry Division of the RED ARMY at Apollensdorf.
The task of the XIX Corps was over then.......

Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945. 

XIX Corps was the first into Belgium, the first into Holland, the first to reach the Wurm River, the first to breach the Siegfried Line against serious opposition, first to reach the Roer River, and the first American troops to reach the lower Rhine. After a delayed crossing of the Rhine, troops of the corps were the first to reach the Weser, first to reach and cross the Elbe, and would have been first in Berlin, had it fallen to American troops in the Grand Strategy of the war to take Berlin. From the beaches of Normandy to in early June to east of the Elbe - over 800 miles - the Corps has been out of line only two days. XIX Corps had demonstrated itself, from Normandy to the Elbe, to be one of the outstanding fighting teams of this war.

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"
19 April 1945

Dear Sis, 

Well I received your letter of the 8th of April last night about 9:30pm and surely was glad to hear from you once more. In fact I had a letter from everyone in the family including two from Gwen. Yours was the latest in date by 5 days.

You mentioned Joe being at Camp Edwards, Mass, yes, Mother wrote and told me about him. She didn't mention a courts martial though. What type is it? General, Special, or Summary? I hope he does get a discharge. That boy is just not all there at times. The Army can't do him any good. I know. I've told Gwen to steer clear of him unless Mother & Dad are around if he does come around. I'd feel much more satisfied at her safety. I feel very peculiar towards him. I can't exactly express myself.

Well, how are you making out with that job that was dumped into your lap? I guess by this time you have either dug yourself out of it or you are buried 5 ft under it. Don't let it get you down, Sis.
Incidentally, thanks for getting those slips for Mother for Gwen and me. Mother wrote me saying that they were very nice. I'm glad she liked them.

So you are still in practice taking care of peoples children, well wait until you get back home as a civilian, Bernard and I will make sure you never spend a lonely evening. Ha! ha!
Say, have you heard any more form Henri? I hope he gets home as you stated he had hopes of. Boy I've got almost 1 1/2 years over here now! 2nd July. I never thought I'd make it and now I feel I'll be lucky to be home for Christmas of `46. It will seem like a nightmare to get back to the States once more. Well give Henri my regards when you write next.

Well, how has the weather been lately? We've been having really swell weather. The sun has shone every day for almost 3 weeks now and it has been quite warm. All the fruit trees are in bloom. Over here in Germany they plant their cherry and apple trees all alongside the roads. They are very pretty. This is really beautiful country. Those Harz Mountains we came through were beautiful. The hills are heavily wooded; most of them with pine trees. They remind me of Louisiana but the country is not like people say the Germans are the cleanest people on earth. 

These towns are positively filthy. When we were in Blomberg I got bit up by a bunch of fleas. All the buildings are lousy. I don't know how these people stand the smell of them. The Dutch are by far the cleanest and neatest people. 

Well, Sis, there is not much more news here right now so I guess I'll close for now. That little daughter of ours is fine. I'll tell you more later. So long for now and don't work to hard.

Lots of Love from Gwen
Carol and myself'

This is the last "Letter to Mary" from Bill that was saved by Mary from World War II. There will be subsequent posts of interest that will share Bill and Gwen and Carol's  journey to the USA.

No comments:

Post a Comment