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, January 31, 2014

Letter #34 from WIlbur C Garner 8 September 1944

The Corps crossed the Seine on August 28th, by September 1st the Corps advance elements had crossed the Somme, and at 0930 in the morning of September 3rd were into Belgium, the first Allied troops across the border. Tournai, the first large town in Belgium was taken the same day. 
From the archives of Wilbur C Garner album entry by Gwendoline R Wilkins

They sent Colonel Biddle and the 113th to cover the right flank of the Corps on the north side of Paris. The Engineers of the Corps threw seven bridges over the Seine, and one of them took the place of the road-bridge blown by the Germans at St. Germain. Now the Corps Commander could cover his right flank there and go hell-for-leather for the Belgian border. For three of the seven bridges the Engineers had to clear the opposite bank themselves, before they could put them in. That operation of the cavalry was slightly nuts, said the men of the 113th Group. When you're ducking 88's and being kissed by beaucoup beautiful girls at the same time; when the cafes open up, give away all their wine, and you dance in the streets while a burp gun is still rattling away within a block, that's a funny kind of war. But it was that way all the way up through those towns, Sartrouville and the rest.

Now the battle became the Battle of Supply. Trucks that should have been used to bring up gasoline and keep the dumps close behind the advance were continually pressed into services to carry troops in the pursuit. There just weren't enough trucks, and artillery ammunition again became a critical item until the resistance dropped off even more. For several days the Corps had to mark time until enough gas was accumulated to push on.

Civil Affairs ant the Resistance reported a few caches of German gasoline, but the G-4 was finally becoming desperate for more supplies. everybody asked each other about it every morning, and the G-4 was always full of liaison officers or visitors from higher headquarters explaining why they should get just one can of gas to get home. Major Marshall, Assistant G-4 finally got a liaison plane and went up to look over the canals in that part of Belgium, looking for tank barges. Then the QM sent out and tested the gas in it. We got 30,000 gallons that way. G-4 could always tell to a gallon how much there was in the dumps, and the heads always turned his way at the Staff meetings before any plan was discussed.

By September 8th the 113th Cavalry Group had drained all the other outfits of gas and made their way all across Belgium to the Albert Canal. The 2nd Armored Division could move only one Combat Command at a time, and the 30th Division had to move half way across Belgium on foot. The Germans had time to set up an initial defensive line on the Meuse and to man the Siegfried Line. They left the fortress of Eben Emael undefended, and the 30th Division took it on September 10th. 

From the archives of Wilbur C Garner album entry by Gwendoline R Wilkins
Although all the bridges on the Meuse had been blown, the 113th Cavalry made an end run through Liege to the south and the 30th Division assaulted the Canal and river lines near Vise to establish bridgeheads south of Maastricht. The 30th Division became the first Allied troops to enter Holland on September 12th. On the next day Maastricht was taken from behind, and the 30th had advanced to Valkenburg by the 14th. On the 17th Heerlen was in our hands and a coordinated drive by XIX and VII Corps drove to the Siegfried Line just over the edge of Germany. (Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945)




From the archives of Wilbur C Garner album entry by Gwendoline R Wilkins
S/ Sergent Wilbur C. Garner 33377578
G-1 Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, c/o Postmaster, N.Y.


Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Supply Office
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota (6)
U.S.A. 




"Somewhere in Belgium"
8 September 1944

Dear Sis, 


Well as brother to sister, I have some startling and embarrassing news for you. I have written Mother and informed her of the existing circumstances and thought I should inform the rest of the immediate family. Gwen is pregnant and I have been trying to get back to the U.K. to marry her ever since about the first of July. 


I expect to leave here in about three more days. I feel like I have let you all down and sort of lost the confidence all of you have placed in my judgement. I guess it is just one of those things. The sad part of it is that I had to leave England when I did. I'm going to try to get Gwen back to the U.S. as soon as I can. She can get so much more there that she needs than she can in Eng. I'm sure she would get along OK with Mother & dad and it would be company for them. I intend to see that consulate in London when I get back.

I got a letter form Allen Sutton the other day and he is now in Australia. He has been in new Caledonia for a while. He likes the country and people very much.


We have really been busy over here lately. Sis, I don't think I have ever seen people quite so happy. They stand along the roads and streets and nearly wave their arms off. Some are even crying. You can get almost anything for a pack of cigarettes and I do mean anything. Money is no good. The people don't want it. All they want is food, cigarettes and candy.


Well Sis, I guess I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again. 


Good Luck,
Bill

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Letter #33 from Henri Romieux 3 September 1944

Assigned to TG 32.17, she sailed from Guadalcanal on 8 September, arriving in transport area one off Peleliu on 15 September. She sent her troops ashore in boat waves 11-16  that afternoon and then spent the next five days unloading cargo as required and using boats to retrieve casualties. On 22 September, John Land got underway for Hollandia, New Guinea, with 34 casualties embarked and arrived alongside Comfort (AH-6) in that port on the 26th. She then received five days of power plant repairs alongside Aquarius (AKA-16).

 
H. Romieux, SK1c USNR
USS JOHN LAND
c/o Fleet P.O.
San Francisco, Calif.


Mary Garner, SK2c USNR
U.S. Naval Air Station
Wold-Chamberlain Field
Minneapolis, Minn.
c/o Supply Office 


3 September

Mary Dear,


Thanks for your faithful letter writing. Received one today and I was a bit down in the dumps but after your letter all seems fine again.
Sam was surprised to hear you were out of Disbursing and into Supply. You sure did a heap of work then on Transportation - I know. Hope you like your new work and believe it will be quite a snap compared to your other work.


You know it's a funny thing but as you know - I have been in Supply here since I came out West and I sure hope I never have to get back in the Disbursing again. Supply is so much more interesting and varied and as little red-tape as possible. As I told you before we have had a swell Disbursing & Supply officer - he is one out of a million if you know what I mean. Well damn it - he has his orders and will be replaced by some USNR. I don't know but I expect the worst and at least I am positive he won't be nearly as good a fellow as we have now. Will let you know more later at any rate.
Say hello to Bessie please - does she still run around with that stores from the campus? and by the way I sure enjoyed hearing of your conversation with the "Madame". That one is sure curiosity itself.


You sure seem to be going through quite a shake up out there. Sure would be swell if you were transferred to the West Coast and I could get back there somehow. We sure would have some good times I assure you. Keep your fingers crossed at any rate.


Well Mary it is about time for that old sprinkler system to say- Lites Out - yes - just said first call and here I am down in one of the GSK storerooms writing - it's cooler here than in the office. Have been sleeping here lately too - just throw my sack on the deck and have a nice big electric fan over me - almost deluxe!
Take good care of yourself and keep the letters on their way please. Goodnite-dear- 


Love Henri

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Letter #32 from Wilbur C Garner August 28 1944

The narrative below describes the activities of the XIX corps in the time between Bill's last letter to Mary dated August 8 and the letter in this blog entry dated August 28. The text originlly appeared in the book Normandy to the Elbe published by the XIX Corps.
 
Tessy sur Vire was taken on August 2nd, and by the 5th the Corps had covered 18 miles of hedgerows and was assaulting Vire. The 29th Division took it on the night of August 6th.

There was still heavy fighting to be done on this shoulder of the pocket, and the Germans who had brought over all their armor from the British sector, made one more thrust to try to cut off the great flanking drive. The 30th Division, then under VII Corps, took the brunt of that attack at Mortain, and blunted and finally drove it back, in a magnificent stand. XIX Corps had its part in holding the attack, and finally in helping to bottle up nearly 100,000 Germans in the Falaise-Argentan pocket. From the 13th to the 17th of August the Corps pushed northeast; then it shifted to the east and from the vicinity of Brezolles drove due north to cut off the Germans trying to escape across the Seine at a narrow shoulder of the river from Elbeuf to Quellebeuf. It was XIX Corps who stopped them. The 30th took Evreux and advanced beyond; the 28th followed the 2nd Armored beyond Conches up to Elbeuf, where the powerful 2nd Armored for two days and two nights, slaughtered everything that tried to cross the river. On August 25th they reached Elbeuf itself, and Corps made contact with the Canadians to the north. That marked the end of the German Seventh Army.

These were the days when they were giving France away to us. This was something different from Normandy: the streets black with people, who seemed to do nothing twenty-four hours a day but stand there and cheer us and wave, and weep, some of them, and throw us flowers and fruit and vegetables, and stare wide-eyed at the trucks and jeeps and tanks. What always got them most were the Tank Retrievers that filled the whole road, with red lights blinking, and all armored up like something from Mars, and the Long Toms and 8 inch Hows. They loved them! 

From the archives of Wilbur C Garner
The XIX Corps Artillery got to be known as the best aggregation in Normandy. Under Brigadier General George Shea, they were just as tough as he was, and they demanded the best from every man and gun they had. The Divisions early had enough confidence in the Corps Artillery to take chances of counterattacks they otherwise wouldn't take, because they knew that Axel, the Fire Direction Center would lay in in a matter of seconds on any threat that appeared. The FDC was bombed pretty hard for three nights running near Ste. Marguerite. There were casualties, but they never stopped turning out the fire.

There was that CP we had in that dense woods, behind the chateau they were using for a children's home. And the little wizened Frenchman of the FFI who had come down from the group he led to tell us where they were holding a couple hundred Germans surrounded, but they couldn't clean them out because they didn't have enough arms, and the ammunition was running low. The G-2 sent him down to the 30th in a jeep to lead a patrol for them out there. An he sat in the jeep shaking his head with a quiet wonder, saying "I never thought I'd ever live to see it. All the rest who were with me when we started have been shot, and I really never believed I'd be alive this day!"

He was really amazed, and he kept touching his fingers to the back of his other hand as if to verify something he couldn't quite believe. His pocket was right in the line of the 30th's attack for the next morning, so they were glad to see him and gave him a dinner, but he kept shaking his head in that funny way, and saying the same thing over and over.

The bulk of the rest of the German Army in the west was now in full retreat. The Corps swung east to where XV Corps had made a crossing of the Seine, at Mantes-Gassicourt, where the 79th held a bridgehead, passed through and made after the Germans. The Germans might stop and fight in strength almost anywhere, and they did fight for river crossings and terrain features. But the drive of the Corps gave them no chance to organize anywhere. The Corps crossed the Seine on August 28th, by September 1st the Corps advance elements had crossed the Somme, and at 0930 in the morning of September 3rd were into Belgium, the first Allied troops across the border. Tournai, the first large town in Belgium was taken the same day.

They sent Colonel Biddle and the 113th to cover the right flank of the Corps on the north side of Paris. The Engineers of the Corps threw seven bridges over the Seine, and one of them took the place of the road-bridge blown by the Germans at St. Germain. Now the Corps Commander could cover his right flank there and go hell-for-leather for the Belgian border. For three of the seven bridges the Engineers had to clear the opposite bank themselves, before they could put them in. That operation of the cavalry was slightly nuts, said the men of the 113th Group. When you're ducking 88's and being kissed by beaucoup beautiful girls at the same time; when the cafes open up, give away all their wine, and you dance in the streets while a burpgun is still rattling away within a block, that's a funny kind of war. But it was that way all the way up through those towns, Sartrouville and the rest.

Now the battle became the Battle of Supply. Trucks that should have been used to bring up gasoline and keep the dumps close behind the advance were continually pressed into services to carry troops in the pursuit. There just weren't enough trucks, and artillery ammunition again became a critical item until the resistance dropped off even more. For several days the Corps had to mark time until enough gas was accumulated to push on.

Civil Affairs ant the Resistance reported a few caches of German gasoline, but the G-4 was finally becoming desperate for more supplies. everybody asked each other about it every morning, and the G-4 was always full of liaison officers or visitors from higher headquarters explaining why they should get just one can of gas to get home. Major Marshall, Assistant G-4 finally got a liaison plane and went up to look over the canals in that part of Belgium, looking for tank barges. Then the QM sent out and tested the gas in it. We got 30,000 gallons that way. G-4 could always tell to a gallon how much there was in the dumps, and the heads always turned his way at the Staff meetings before any plan was discussed.
(Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945) 


From the archives of Wilbur C Garner
From the archives of Wilbur C Garner




From the archives of Wilbur C Garner



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


Mary W. Garner, SK2c
U.S. Naval Air Station
Supply Office
Minneapolis, Minnesota (6)


U.S.A. "Somewhere in France"
August 28, 1944


Dear Sis,


It has been about two weeks since I last wrote you but I haven't really had the chance. In fact I haven't even been able to scribble a note to Gwen for about 10 days. Let Mother know I'm still kicking in case I can't drop her a line. 


I've been trying to get you a couple of souvenirs of France but I haven't had a chance to even do that. The weather here has been fairly good and I've got some nice pictures I hope to get developed some day soon. I hope the film does not go bad before I get a chance to have them developed.

I think I owe you about four letters. I'm sorry I haven't been able to answer them. You said you had some canned meats & sardines if I want them. I surely do & thanks a lot.


You also asked me what you could send Gwen. I'll leave that up to you. You said I'd have to write for it. Oh well I'll ask for something in my next letter.


I guess Harriet will shortly be heading south to Florida. So you finally got your transfer to the Supply Office. I surely hope you like it better than the Disbursing Office. If your station is closed down, I hope they ship you someplace where you can see more of the U.S.A. I'd Like to ship to the West Coast before I leave the Army.


Well Sis, I'll say so long for now and hope to hear from you again soon. Say, "Hello" to all the folks for me.


Lots of Love and Luck,
Bill

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Letter #31 from Henri Romieux 16 August 1944

 While en route, BM2c (Boatswain Mate 2nd Class) John D. DeLucca died of wounds received on Tinian. The transport USS John Land anchored in Segund Channel there on 9 August and debarked her passengers.

Reporting to Transport Division 24, 3d Fleet, John Land provisioned at Espiritu Santo before sailing north to the Russel Islands, arriving there via Guadalcanal on 17 August 1944. She then loaded 1,219 men from 2d battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, and conducted rehearsals for the upcoming Palau landings off Cape Esperance on 26-29 August.
(Text from
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER 805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060)

H. Romieux, SK1c USNR
USS John Land
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Calif.



Mary Garner, Sk2c USNR
c/o Naval Air Station
Wold-Chamberlain Field
Minneapolis, Minnesota


16 August


Mary dear,


Just received your letter for which many thanks, I have not written for quite a spell but not that long, so expect by now you have had more of this chatter from me. Have been busier than usual the past few weeks and had to neglect my correspondence a bit. 


My mother writes that she has not heard from me for several weeks also. Sure was surprised to hear about Naval Air Station not taking more cadets, what on earth are they going to do with that place from now on? And civilian help too. Gee it would be something if you were transferred to Frisco. Maybe I could see you sometime before long. I am sure you would like it out there better than in Minneapolis anyway.

Had quite a celebration when we crossed the equator, we all were dunked in the swimming pool and of course had our hair all cut up, so that I had to get a baldy-I wonder if it will ever grow back, because I look llike something the cat dragged in without it. But anyway we all had alot of fun and it helps when one is so far from no-where.


As to sending me something thanks a lot but really there is nothing I need. We have a pretty fair canteen here and I eat more candy than is good for me. What do you hear from your brother in Normandy, and does he like it better than before? Here all is fine and I am accumulating more and more to tell you about when we next meet. 


Is Edwards still out there, I thought she was going to write me some time-have not heard from her yet.

Well Mary, will say so long for today, take good care of yourself and write real soon, won't you. 


Love, Henri

Monday, January 27, 2014

Letter #30 from Wilbur C Garner August 8 1944

The great breakthrough attack tore a hole in the German lines on the 25th of July, and drove for Avranches and Coutances. XIX Corps's job was to guard the east flank of the breakthrough and prevent the enemy from sending reinforcements from the east. The German 2nd Panzer and 116th Panzer tried just this maneuver, and met XIX Corps troops just north and west of Tessy sur Vire. These two crack outfits were fought to a standstill and forced to retreat, and the gap remained in the German lines for the First and Third Armies to pour through. Again the Corps fulfilled a vital task when it took Vire, which in General Eisenhower's plan was the pivot for the First and Third in their swing east, north and northwest, to bottle up the German Seventh Army. Tessy sur Vire was taken on August 2nd, and by the 5th the Corps had covered 18 miles of hedgerows and was assaulting Vire. The 29th Division took it on the night of August 6th. There was still heavy fighting to be done on this shoulder of the pocket, and the Germans who had brought over all their armor from the British sector, made one more thrust to try to cut off the great flanking drive. The 30th Division, then under VII Corps, took the brunt of that attack at Mortain, and blunted and finally drove it back, in a magnificent stand. XIX Corps had its part in holding the attack, and finally in helping to bottle up nearly 100,000 Germans in the Falaise-Argentan pocket.
Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945) 

The following narrative depicts the horror of this battle of the Falaise pocket:
Before the Allies closed the pocket, the death and destruction dealt against the German Army was horrifying even though a number of Panzer divisions were able to escape from the envelopment. "The battlefield at Falaise was unquestionably one of the greatest 'killing fields' of any of the war areas", Eisenhower noted in his memoirs. "Forty-eight hours after the closing of the gap I was conducted through it on foot, to encounter scenes that could be described only by Dante. It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh."
Robert Rogge, who fought with the Canadian Army in Falaise, recalled the destruction:
"It reeked of the destroyed [German] army. Burned-out tanks, lorries, motorcycles, and carts were in ruinous heaps. Bloated, black-faced corpses lay everywhere, and the summer stench was overpowering. Dead, grossly swollen horses were carelessly mingled with human corpses and savaged equipment. The men held dirty handkerchiefs over their faces, but nothing could keep out the stench. It got into their clothes and remained with them for days."
 (Sources: Crack! and Thump, Crusade in Europe, Fearsome Battle, Honor Untarnished, Wikipedia.)



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


Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Disbursing Officer
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota
U.S.A.


"Somewhere in France"
8 August 1944


Dear Mary,


I received two letters from you about 3 days ago which I have been unable to answer until about now. I just hope I'll be able to finish this one.
You asked who this boy Henderson is that I spoke of. Last June there was a very similar incident which both of us experienced. Sometime the first of May a year ago his wife gave birth to a child. About the first of June he got an emergency furlough for the purpose of seeing his wife as she was in a very serious condition. His wife passed away 2 days after he got home. He had only come back off furlough when I was informed of my misfortune so you see we have had something in common and have been pretty much buddies ever since. He is from Seattle, Washington. 


That picture that Gwen sent you of her in a row boat was very good. She said she would like to see one of you in your uniform, so if you should get one, please keep her in mind.
You asked if I'd like some more of the fruit. All but the candied pineapple. It was good and different from the average package. You can send more please.


Mother wrote me about Harriet wanting to sub-let her apartment. I'm wondering about the condition that exist there. Well, Sis since there is no more news and I wrote two pages on this one page, I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again.


Lots of Love,
Bill
P.S. I hope you can read this.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Letter #29 from Henri C Romieux August 2 1944

A month had passed since Henri's last "Letter to Mary", when the letter in this blog post arrived Minneapolis, 2 August 1944.

The text in blue is an account of the USS John Land's activity in that time period July 4 1944 - August 2 1944.

The troopship USS John Land got underway from
Eniwetok for Saipan on 15 July 1944 to embark troops for the Tinian invasion, the next objective of the Marianas operation
John Land loaded 850 officers and men from 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, on 20-21 July before conducting another landing feint off Tinian town on the 24th. The marines did not spend too long at sea, however, as John Land's boats put them ashore on Tinian the next day. Returning to Saipan, the transport received 122 casualties for evacuation and carried many of them to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, via Eniwetok, as the hospitals at the latter atoll were overloaded. While en route, BM2c John D. DeLucca died of wounds received on Tinian. The transport anchored in Segund Channel there on 9 August and debarked her passengers. (DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER 805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060)


Henri C. Romieux, SK1c, USNR
USS JOHN LAND
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Calif.


Mary Garner, Sk2c USNR
U.S. Naval Air Station
Wold-Chamberlain Field
Minneapolis, Minnesota


2 August

Dear Mary,


Just received your letter of July 16th. Yes I am sure glad I won the argument cause I do look forward to your letters. I can just imagine the perfect Sunday it is - I know Minneapolis does get some nice summer days at least once in a while. Those days I used to think it was hot back there will seem cool after being out here, and I can't imagine I'll ever complain about Mpls summers again.
Too bad about that D.O. of yours regarding SK(0)- know just how you feel and can't say I blame you for giving up after all. Some people are like that you know- always want things done the hardest way- "The Navy Way".


I was surprised to hear about NTS Electrical folding up so soon like, wonder what those so called sailors there like Madame Hammond will do now. It would really serve them right to get assigned to some out of the place Islands.
No I can't believe there is a chance of NAS folding up - must be just scuttlebutt. Speaking of scuttlebutt - you should hear it here - it's terrible and I am accused of being one of the worst spenders- Now Mary, you know better don't you?


Hope you have a nice time taking care of the T/R's for the jigs- That place will get just like NSD Oakland, 90% black and what chance have the poor whites?


Too bad you say - that that Fortune Teller was wrong. Well maybe its all for the best - the glamour of that Air Cadet uniform with all the gilt might soon wear off, and you would then wish it was just an ordinary enlisted man instead. What?
Of course you know if your not in Minneapolis when I get back - I sure will take a trip and quick like to Baltimore. 

Well, Mary that's about all I can gossip about for today. Keep up the good work and don't stop those letters whatever you do.
By the way if you get a chance phone madame Hammond and get the low down about NTS - and by all means keep his curiosity going about us - it's too good to let it stop. 


Love and More Love, Henri

Friday, January 24, 2014

Letter #28 from J. P. Tousley August 4 1944

This blog letter is from an apparent friend of Mary's also enlisted in the Navy and stationed originally with Mary in Minneapolis. Mary saved this letter among the others and for purposes of being true to the "Letters to Mary" I have included it here. It is the only letter from J. P. Tousley. I never heard Mary speak of this person so I have no idea about their fate during or post war, although an internet search does turn up a lot of people and businesses in Minnesota with the surname Tousley. I found the letter to be humorous and enlightening as he describes personal experiences in preparations for his service in the war.

J. P. Tousley, SK1c
Lion 8, Distr. Office
c/o FPO
San Francisco, Calif.


Miss Mary Garner, SK2c/c
U.S. Naval Air Station
Wold-Chamberlain Field
Minneapolis, Minnesota


Friday, Aug. 4, 1944

Well, Mary Dear!


I hope you'll forgive me for not at least sending a note along with that request for T/R. I had one written, but forgot to put it in the envelope. I found it in my writing case the next day.
I imagine by the time you get this letter, my wife will be on her way. She told me you sound like a very nice girl, and I told her she should see you when you're mad at somebody, or when you do your bucket dance. Have you been having any trouble with those boys in the bucket brigade lately?


I want to thank you very much for all you've done for my wife (and me too) and would like it very much if you would get in touch with that girl who owes me $5.00, and tell her to go down-town and buy something nice for herself, and if there is any change, to go into the Viking room and spend it all on Boiler Makers. But tell her to hang on to her hat. She loses her hat when she drinks too much, you know.


I received a letter from Caffey and then one from you. I've been so busy lately, I haven't had time to write letters.
The first week we were here, all we did was sit around and think about what a swell place Mpls. is. The second week they gave us the works! Marching up and down mountains, drilling, rifle instruction, and a half dozen other things. Then one Sunday they took a group of us to a place North of Frisco, Tiburon, not far from what was Port Chicago. That blast almost knocked me out of my bunk. It was nice out there. Everything was so clean and there was only 500 men there. They taught us how to dock small boats, how to steer them, all about their motors. That lasted for one week. The next week we learned all about welding, more motors, caterpillars, also rifle, pistol and reboluer practice. Then our vacation was over, and we had to come back here. I forgot to tell you,- we had to take liberty boats into Frisco for liberty, so now I guess that makes me a real salt. What did the chief say?
When I got back here, they put me in the Lion 8 Distr. office and I haven't done any work yet. The main base still has Lion 8's accounts, but we expect to get them next week. Then we'll go to work. The D.O. personnel consist of 1 D.O., 1 Ens. Asst., 1 pay clerk, 1 Chief, 3 firsts, 3 seconds, 4 thirds, and two strikers. So far we have about 2000 accounts and expect many more. Lion 8's supposed to be the biggest outfit to leave the states. 

Captain McCaine is the head man, so figure it out for yourself.
Richard would be in his Glory out here, every Coke bottle has San Francisco on the bottom. I've been trying to figure out how much he owed me when I left. Oh well, it's too late to collect now so he's safe.
Don't let anybody kid you about "Sunny Calif.". After living in Minnesota all my life, I catch cold out here the first nite I'm here. Fo'give me Miss Brown, but a guy's got a right to his own opinion. Down on the Peninsula it's fine, but Frisco, ugh.
I hear they are going to cut down on the personnel there, is that correct? I also heard they were going to give Gilk that recruiting job he's been talking about. Only a little different location. I heard his going to set up a recruiting office in the jungle of Madagascar, (did I spell that right?) and see if he can't get some more men like Schaefers, Mitchell, Adams, and Andy King into the Navy. By the way, Schaefer's brother is out here. He thinks the guys off his bat too.
This should make Little Eva and Knabley happy. All our material is purchased and paid for by the Supply Depot in Oakland. Ho-hum, all we have to figure is a few mileage claims. We only have 2 typewriters, and I think somebody threw them away during the war of 1812.
Tell that Kitty form Kansas City that I met a Hill-William out here by the name of Wainscott, who said he knew her.
Say hello to everyone you're on speaking terms with, especially Gorjus Kanton, deliteful DeMarrs, and give Sorry Jo a pinch for me.
Does B.P. go down to the bank every day, or did they catch on down there?
Are Gilk and Coffey still "that way" about each other?
Don't forget to give my love to the Chief, and if Gilk can be had, give him a little too. And don't forget to write!

                                               Sincerely Tously
P.S. I just thought I'd warn you Gilk, that Brown is gunning for you, with a request for checkage in one hand and a forty-five in the other.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Letter #27 from Wilbur C Garner 27 - 28 July 1944

From the archives of Wilbur C Garner
The capture of St. Lo, 18 July, 1944, made possible the next move by General Bradley and the First Army to break out of the stalemate of the hedgerows. After 1st Army's Operation Cobra broke trough, XIX Corps moved west of the Vire River, commanding the 29th, 30th and 28th Infantry Divisions and the 2nd Armored.
(Colonel Charles M. Wells was Adjutant General, and that section everybody thought of as Rear Echelon stuff, but he was up reconnoitering for a new cemetery with Col. Louis L. Martin, G-1, one day when a German mortar dropped in and got him, and he was evacuated to a hospital. That somehow pointed up the fact that there were a lot of people helping to win the war who had to do it by being patient, and sitting in a chair and paying attention to small things. And they knew what St. Lo was costing, when they processed the casualty reports of over a thousand men a day about that time.)
Those last days before the breakthrough, the stuff really began to pile up. Not one of those orchards along those little roads was empty. You'd have a battery of 105's south of the road and just the other side a battery of 8 inch howitzers or 155 guns. The 105's said the big boys were a nuisance kept'em awake nights, but they were glad to have them there. the ditches were a mass of wire and cables now, and farther back toward the beach there were miles and miles of dumps: rations, ammunition, clothing, trucks, jeeps, parts, tanks, tires, and the road from Isigny south was always jammed with convoys.)
The great breakthrough attack tore a hole in the German lines on the 25th of July, and drove for Avranches and Coutances. XIX Corps's job was to guard the east flank of the breakthrough and prevent the enemy from sending reinforcements from the east. The German 2nd Panzer and 116th Panzer tried just this maneuver, and met XIX Corps troops just north and west of Tessy sur Vire. These two crack outfits were fought to a standstill and forced to retreat, and the gap remained in the German lines for the First and Third Armies to pour through. Again the Corps fulfilled a vital task when it took Vire, which in General Eisenhower's plan was the pivot for the First and Third in their swing east, north and northwest, to bottle up the German Seventh Army.
 


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


Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Disbursing Office
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota
U.S.A.


"Somewhere In France"
27 July 1944


Dear Mary,
I received your letter of the 16th July on the 25th. Boy that was really good time and I don't mean maybe. I received the handbag you sent and forwarded it to Gwen day before yesterday. Thanks a lot, Sis.
Say, I'm sorry to hear that you probably won't get you SK1c rating. That's tough kid. Maybe something will break for you. Why don't you try to get a transfer? maybe that would be possible.
I'll thank you for the package of meats you sent even though I haven't received it. Say, Sis, if you can find some cheese I'd be glad to get some. say, that news about Lt. General McNairs death was rather a shock wasn't it? That just goes to show that war is no respect of persons. From the news, the boys seem to be doing OK.
I got a letter from Mother yesterday and she said that Souil may get out of the service sometime this fall. Well I hope he is not disappointed.


28 July 1944


Dear Mary


Well I didn't get a chance to finish this letter last night as a lot of work came up. Well, Sis I didn't get any mail today. I got a package of clothes I had asked for in May. Of course, it will come in handy and I don't mean maybe.
There hasn't been much news lately so I'll close this letter and get it off to you. I think I told you that I received Gwen's purse and mailed it to her. Thanks. 


Goodnight for now.
Lots of Love
Bill

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Letter #26 from WIlbur C Garner 22 July and 24 July 1944

From the archives of Wilbur C Garner
The XIX Corps was very active fighting their way into the German salient on the way to free the town of St. Lo.  The following text in blue is excerpted from "Normandy to the Elbe." It provides a few details of the Corps activities, between the last letter Mary received from Bill dated July 9th and the letter in this blog entry, dated July 22 - 24 from Wilbur C Garner. 
Upon arriving in St. Lo, France, Bill's impression of the town was tragic. He recounted to me the the sight of the town of St. Lo when the troops rolled in after successfully pushing the Germans out.  "It was a shell of a town, just total devastation, those poor people." He captured a few personal photos which are shared in this blog.

The hedgerows were a great problem tactically, and a lot of people stayed up nights trying to figure out how to beat them. When they did, Ordnance stayed up nights, making the hedgerow cutters they mounted on the tanks, and putting them on. Then we found the TD's needed turret covers to protect the crew from overhead fire. Ordnance designed and made them.

From the archives of Wilbur C Garner
The capture of St. Lo made possible the next move by General Bradley and the First Army to break out of the stalemate of the hedgerows. After 1st Army's Operation Cobra broke trough, XIX Corps moved west of the Vire River, commanding the 29th, 30th and 28th Infantry Divisions and the 2nd Armored.
With the line straightened out, the western sector was transferred to VII Corps, and having the 35th Division to the 29th, XIX Corps turned its attention to St Lo. The fighting that followed will probably rank forever as some of the grimmest and bloodiest American troops fought on the European Continent. When the 29th had ground its way to the edge of the old town, a task force of the 29th and of the 113th Cavalry Group, under Brigadier General Norman D. Cota, Assistant Division Commander of the 29th, went in and took the town, and held it under a rain of fire from the Germans on the ridges to the south. To take it they had to root out and kill off the bitter-enders of the 3rd Parachute Division, fighting from every hole and corner, and stand off a massive armored counterattack.

Coming down that road into St. Lo the morning after, we got a flat from the shell-splinters road, and while we stopped on the roadway to fix it, not daring to pull off because there were so many mines, the ambulances began careening by at full tilt, one right after the other, and then there came a jeep with a couple of cameramen perched on the back, and they stopped to ask if we had a drink for them. We had some Calvados, and the cameramen took a long pull and wiped his mouth, but his eyes were still staring. "It's horrible down there", he said, "I hope never I never have to see anything as horrible again. There aren't enough ambulances, and they're laying the wounded out along a wall. They hit an ammunition truck down there just now, and just about wiped out a battalion." We fixed the tire and moved down the road, and sure enough they had the first corner at the bottom of the hill zeroed in with mortars, and it took us an hour of hitting the ditch to get across and down. And the ambulances kept coming by. We saw one get hit at the corner, and that was too horrible, as the man had said. They were from the 546th Ambulance Company, that Corps outfit, some of them. later on, going back up the road, there were a couple of Aid Stations in the orchards, and the cases had spilled out of the two small tents they had and covered the ground with stretchers, all among the soft green grass and the blossoming trees.
Suddenly the next days the war began to seem endless. Were we going to butt our heads into these hedgerows for months? Wistful questions began coming up from Divisions to the Corps G-2; "How far down does the Bocage country extend? How long before we can break out where we can see?"


18 July:
After bloody street fighting all day, St. Lo falls, at 1900 hours, to task force from 29th Infantry Division; 115th and 116th Infantry Regiments had formed and are about the north and east sides of the city from south of St. Georges Montcocq to south of Ste. Croix de St. Lo to south of Martinville and across Bayeux road to stream north of la Barre.
 

Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945) 




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


Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Disbursing Office
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota U.S.A. 


"Somewhere In France"
22 July 1944


Dear Mary, 


Well, Sis, how are you these days? I received the two packages you sent me. The nuts and the other one gum drops and hard candy. Thanks a lot. It is surprising how well the nuts kept.
I had a very interesting conversation with a Polish girl. No I haven't learned Polish and don't know much French. I found out she has a cousin in Chicago and has lived there 30 years. This girl is a servant here and her home is in Krakow, Poland. She has been here for nine years. You should have heard me trying to find out where I could get some Roquefort cheese. I got as far as Roquefort but I couldn't seem to make her understand the cheese part of it. Finally she understood and said the Germans were eating it now. I'd have to wait until we got in that particular sector of the country.

"Somewhere In France"
24 July 1944


Well I didn't get to finish this letter the other night so I'll try once more. I got a letter from Mother today and she had finally received my letters saying I had arrived in France. 

Talk about the irony of it all. She sent me a news paper clipping saying prisoners had arrived at Meade that were captured by the hometown unit. Well we can't all be lucky.

Say, Sis, from your letter, I'd say things are really changing back home. Well I guess there's not much we can do about it. We'll have to change it back when we get home.
It's getting dark now so I'll have to close for now. Take it easy.


Lots of Love,
Bill
P.S. How about more nuts Sis. Thanks a lot good luck with your exams.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Letter #25 from Wilbur C Garner 9 Juy 1944

The first week in July the 30th Division went to work on the salient which the Germans had kept west of the river Vire, a salient which reached menacingly toward the sea at Carentan, where they were able to keep the bridge on the one road there under intermittent artillery fire. On July 7th the 30th crossed the Vire from the east and the Vire and Taute Canal from the north, and, joined by the 3rd Armored, slugged its way down through St. Jean de Day, to erase the salient. 

9 July:

In St. Jean de Daye area, 120th and 117th Infantry Regiments encounter determined opposition; 119th Infantry Regiment moves south along Vire River through Cavigny. CCB of 3rd Armored Division attacks southwest toward Hts. Vents ( southeast of Esglandes) and reaches objective but is ordered to withdraw. Counterattack by 2nd SS Engineer Battalion is frustrated by heavy artillery concentration.


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


Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Disbursing Office
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota


U.S.A. "Somewhere in France"
9 July 1944


Dear Mary,
Well, Sis, I have finally received some mail. I received a letter from Mother, Gwen and one from you today. Boy it was really good to hear from you once more. Your letter was dated the 20th June so you can see how long it takes these days.


You mentioned the candy. Yes I received it and it was very good. In fact, we all enjoyed it very much. I haven't received the nuts but imagine they are on this side someplace. I'm glad you like the little pin I sent you. It wasn't much and had a very poor clasp on it but I thought it would be better than nothing.


So the bill is again before the house to send Waves over. Well you know somebody has to stay home. I don't know whether I'd come over if I were in your shoes or not. Of course they have to pass the bill first. The only thing I can say is that it would surely make you appreciate the good old U.S.A. all the more and I don't mean maybe.


Gwen doesn't seem to like her new station very much. The girls there are much more peculiar than the ones she has been used to. She likes the surrounding better though. It is also in an area that she knows rather well. I guess she'll tell you all about that.
Well there isn't much more to say right now. Just be watching for us. I don't think they know we're here. Well take care of yourself and lots of luck with your exams.


Lots of Love,
Bill

Monday, January 20, 2014

Letter #24 from Wilbur C Garner 7 July 1944

 The following text in blue, is found in the XIX Corps Publication " Normandy to the Elbe,"  a copy of which, is in my archives. An excerpt of the content is reproduced here to provide the blog reader a sense of what was taking place in the XIX Corps up to the time the "Letter to Mary" in this blog entry was written.
 
When the French Major with Civil Affairs came into Isigny he had the first French uniform they (the citizens) had seen for all that time, and they crowded around him, with all the news at once. And soon every town you went to had the office of XIX Corps "Affaires Civiles", and a captain and a couple of sergeants in the mayor's office, with an interpreter; and the patient farmers sat in the ante-room waiting to go in and see the officer and ask their questions. There was that creamery Civil Affairs fixed up at St. Marguerite where the refugees were taken and fed, and sat around gossiping, waiting for a chance to go back to their homes. And in St. Clair on the 14th of July, Bastille Day, the band of the 29th played in the little square, and the children of the town carried flowers to the monument of the Poilu, and the veterans of the last war stood stiffly in their black suits, and Colonel Price made a speech, and they couldn't seem quite to realize that France was free, at least this little part of it. Isigny was a wreck, the center of it, but there was still the cheese factory, and you could get wine once in a while, and the combination was good for eking out K-rations. We began to get pretty tired of K-rations.

The first week in July the 30th Division went to work on the salient which the Germans had kept west of the river Vire, a salient which reached menacingly toward the sea at Carentan, where they were able to keep the bridge on the one road there under intermittent artillery fire. On July 7th the 30th crossed the Vire from the east and the Vire and Taute Canal from the north, and, joined by the 3rd Armored, slugged its way down through St. Jean de Day, to erase the salient.

The Corps Commander needed more and fuller information on the yard-by-yard situation than he could get from the Regimental Commanders and staffs, who had their own worries. He talked about it to Colonel Carl Jones, the Deputy Chief of Staff, and major Roy Attebury went to work to organize it. Men from the 2nd Signal battalion drove the jeeps and worked the 193 radio, and every day the officers of the Combat Liaison Section went out to where the attack was the hottest to radio back the details the Corps Commander would need to make his decisions. Whenever you came to the CP of whatever regiment or battalion was making the attack, Capt. Bill Dollahite, or Sam Salzman, scribbling up the dope for his radio operator to encode. Toward evening thy'd come back to the CP and go report to the Chief of Staff, General Maguire, G-3 Colonel Gustav West and the G-2 Washington Platt. Or they'd bring back some special supply problem of the front line units and the G-4 Colonel O'Shea would go to work on it.

The day they crossed the Vire River, and the Vire et Taute Canal, the Combat Liaison was on the job. You came down this long hill to the river, along the road where they'd knocked out the 88, and down at the end of it was where they wanted to put the bridge. This was the first important XIX Corps operation, and the Engineers wanted to make it good. They did. The 228th Field Artillery Battalion hedged off a 200 yard bridgehead with HE and smoke, and twenty minutes later that troublesome little river, thirty feet across, was bridged, the vehicles were back in hiding and the armor was pouring over the bridge to clear the way for the 30th.

There was the little man who was roads and bridges engineer for the French government in the area. He knew the roads, and the river and canal like the back of his hand. The MII Team attached to G-2 had gone out and found him, and brought the first of his information to the Engineers. He and Colonel Hodges of the Engineer Section became great friends. Very soon we were raising and lowering the water level in that canal to fit all the needs of the moment: low when we wanted to cross, high to guard our flanks. We raised the river suddenly one night, by six feet, and caught and drowned some German horse-drawn artillery on an underwater bridge they had built at Pont Hebert.

Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945) 

Text below in black is excerpted from the XIX Corps Newspaper  
Volume 2         Western Front Germany, October 1944        Number 6 (from my archives)

LE TOMAHAWK 

On July 7the Corps attacked to reduce the German salient west of the Vire River which reached up to three or four miles of Carenten. The attack was launched by the 30th Infantry Division. After this division had established a bridgehead south of the canal and west of the Vire River, it was joined by the 3d Armored Division, and together the two divisions slugged it until by July 16 the German salient within the XIX Corps zone was wiped out. At that time the line west of the Vire River was transferred to VII Corps, which assumed command of both the 30th Inf Div and the 3d Armored Div.



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



Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Disbursing Office
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota


7 July 1944
"Somewhere in France"


Dear Mary,


Well, Sis, how are tricks? Boy it has been rather hot here today. A very sudden change. It has been very nasty for the past week.
Has anything been happening to you, that is of particular interest? 


I was thinking about Souil on the 4th and wondering whether or not he was able to get home for his birthday. Boy, I surely hope he could. I know it will make a big difference to him. I wish I could help him. Well, he is soon rolling up one years service. In the meantime, I'm nearing two. 

Oh my what a life. It can't last forever. That's about the only consolation there is. I haven't heard from home for about five days now. I guess everything is OK.
Say do you remember that conserved fruit you sent me sometime ago? Well it surely tastes good today. I told you there would be harder days. Thanks again.


You should see my hair. I've had it all but shaven. I have about 1/4 of an inch left all over the top. What a sight!
Well Sis there is not much news now so I guess I'll close. This is just a few lines to let you know I'm OK.


Lots of Love
Bill
P.S. Good luck with your exams for SK1c. Boy won't you be the cat's meow.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Letter #23 from Henri C Romieux 3 July 1944



USS John Land  joined TG 52.15 (attack group) during a brief provisioning stop at Eniwetok on 9-10 June, but was then transferred to TG 52.9 (demonstration group) while en route to Saipan. Arriving off Saipan early on 15 June, the transport helped conduct a feint landing off Garapan that day before sending her boats to assist Calvert (AP-65) and Fuller (AP-14) unload their assault troops. At 1621 that afternoon, six John Land LCMs carried her first passengers ashore, a weapons company of the 24th Marines. Her guns then helped fend off an evening raid by Japanese aircraft. As the main landing progressed, the ship continued operations in the transport area, assisting other ships and unloading troops as called for on 16-17 June. Late on the 17th the transports retired northeast of Saipan as a Japanese carrier task force closed to contest the landings, ultimately fighting and losing a two-day battle against American forces in the Philippine Sea on 18-19 June. John Land returned to the now safe transport area to unload cargo on 23 June, a task completed three days later. During the latter stages off the island the transport received 93 casualties from the beach, many directed to her as hospital ships Relief (AH-1) and Samaritan (AH-10) were full of wounded and had turned away boats.

After retiring from the island on the evening of the 26th, John Land arrived at Eniwetok on 30 June.
The crew helped transfer wounded to hospitals there before mooring alongside Hector (AR-7) for two weeks of boiler repairs. 
This excerpt above regarding the activity of the USS John Land is from the DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER, dictionary of American Fighting Naval Ships


H. Romieux, SK1c,USNR
USS John Land
c/o FPO San Francisco


Mary Garner, SK2c USNR
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minn. (6)
Disbursing Office


July 3,1944

Dear Mary,
Received several of your letters the past couple days also the snaps. Thanks, I always look forward to your newsy letters- keep up the good work. It really helps my morale or something.
Too bad you are having trouble with the University again hope by now it has cleared up and all is working smoothly. Yes I too miss our conversations about everything and once in a while business!


Is your land lady still trying to convert you? Well Mary, there really isn't much to write about except I do miss you a lot. If ever I do get a leave I sure intend to make tracks for MNPLS-because I kind of like that place and hope to see you still there.


The sooner this damn war is over and I can get back to the good old days will make me very happy.
Is Edwards still out there, say hello to her if she is. I have not received that letter from her yet.
take good care of yourself and drop me a line often.


Love Henri