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, February 27, 2014

Letter #63 from Wilbur C Garner 29 January 1945


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


Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Supply Department
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota


"Somewhere in Germany"
29 January, 1945


Dear Sis,


Howdy pardner! How are things out there in the Mid-West? I guess you are still studying for those exams. How are you making out with them?
I am very anxious to know how Jane is. I haven't heard from home for sometime now. The last letter I had was dated 30th December.
I have been getting Gwen’s letters lately, I got one from Gwen today dated 19th of January 45. That is rather good. Gwen was still feeling fine and anxiously looking forward to 8th Feb. She surely has been fortunate the way that she has felt, I think. 


Well we have had lots more snow since I last you. It seems like it snows almost every day. it has been plenty cold here too. I think I lost about 3 hours sleep last night trying to get warm it has stayed down 10-18 degrees for sometime. Yesterday I received the package of nuts you sent me. They are nice containers they use for packing them. I'll find something to keep in them. Thanks a lot.

Have you heard form Souil & Harriet lately? I haven't had a letter from them for sometime. I received a package from Souil the other day. The first since I came into the service. Boy I was shocked too! You could have knocked me over with a feather. It's about time those rich bitches started spending some money. I don't think I'll ever understand those two. I don't know how you feel but those are my sentiments. Of course, if they knew any of us actually needed some cash, I know they'd loan it to us. As far as I'm concerned, happiness means more to me than money. Say, what am I doing? You'd think I was preaching a sermon or something.


Well Mary, there's darn little to talk about so I'll have to wait until I get a letter from you. 


Loads of Love from
Gwen & myself
Bill
P.S. I think I thanked you for Gwen's slips once before, but in case I didn't thanks a lot.

Letter #62 from Wilbur C Garner 24 January 1945

 26 January 1945 Soviet troops liberate Auschwitz

In these images it seems as though there was a bit of celebration as the men donned pieces of a captured Nazi uniform. I think they were entitled!
Bill Garner and Bennie Henderson
Kornelimunster Germany
Benny Henderson and Harold Roberts
Kornelimunster Germany
Bennie Henderson and Harold Roberts
Kornelimunster Germany
Harold Roberts and Benny Henderson
Kornelimunster Germany


S/Sg. Wilbur C. Garner, 33377578
G-1 Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, U.S. Army


Mary W Garner, Sk2c
Supply Department
U,S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, 6 Minnesota 


"Somewhere in Germany"
24 January 1945


Dear Sis,


Howdy Pard! I haven't heard from you in some time. I hope you are OK. I guess you are just busy studying those problems for your exams. I can't remember the last time I wrote you so I thought I'd better write before I get a good bawling out.


Guess what a haul I made with the mail the other day. I got 16 letters from Gwen, 1 from Mother, 1 from Peggy Dashill who lives behind Mother & Dad and two others. Of course Gwen has been taking most of my evenings up. Last night I typed a 2 1/2 page of single spaced letter to Gwen. Probably the longest letter she will ever receive from me. The last letter of hers was dated the 12th of January and she was still feeling fine. I'm glad things have been rather easy for her so far. Gwen had received several letters from you and was in the process of writing you. 


Well, we have had more snow. I don't think there has been a night pass without about 3 inches of snow. Today it has been very clear and you should see the moon tonight. What a shame to let the moon go to waste tonight. Of course, I guess this is about the only place it is going to waste. 


With the moon and the snow tonight, every movement of a person stands out like a sore thumb. You can see a person for about 1000 yards. 

Did you ever receive that small bottle of perfume I sent you? I surely hope it didn't go astray. It was real good stuff.
I guess you really had a nice Christmas at home. Mother tells me that Dad was able to get 7 days off at that time. That was really nice. Things in the office are still rather slow. 


They'll probably be picking up again soon though. Well, I guess you are an Aunt by this time. It won't be long before you'll be another one. Two more weeks and Gwen will be going to the hospital. She is scheduled for the 8th of February.

Well, Sis, I guess I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again. Take care of yourself and don't work too hard.


Loads of Love from Gwen & myself,


Bill

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Letter #61 from Henri C Romieux 20 January 1945

January 11, 1945 Air raid against Japanese bases in Indochina by U.S. carrier-based planes. 


Henri C. Romieux, SK1c V-6 USNR
USS JOHN LAND (AP-167)
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Calif.


MARY GARNER SK2c USNR
C/o Supply Office
WOLD-CHAMBERLAIN FIELD
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA 


20 January 1945

Mary dear,


Guess what? I just today received that nice Christmas present. Really it pleased me very much and is a good picture of you I think. You know now I have it before me on my desk here as I am writing to you and you have no idea how it has hiked up my morale. Thanks a lot, you sure had me curious as to what it could be, and not a thing could have given me more pleasure. Now that makes two Christmas presents I have received so far, the other was a book from a Chum of mine in Minneapolis, "Barbary Coast". Not a new title but I found it quite interesting especially after spending the time I did in Frisco.


Is it not strange that I have not received the letter you intended for your brother, wonder where it could have gotten to.
You know I'll let you know if I get it. Had I his address I would send it direct to him upon receipt. I bet he got a big kick out of that mix up.


Sorry to hear you don't think you made out so good in your exam for SK1c but take it from me, the SK2c is much better off the best rate in the Navy. You know I would not give a damn if sometime soon I was busted to that because at least it would give me something to look forward to again in rates as CSK aboard this ship seems to be absolutely out for me, and besides I'm not too anxious to get it. Very few advantages and many draw backs. 


Well dear the censor says that now it can be told that we visited the Japs at Lingayen Gulf, so yours truly has another star in his campaign bar. The way I figure it that makes five stars so far we are entitled to. Not bad eh, for such a short time out? Well dear that's enough egotism for a long time, so will say good nite and thanks for the present.


Please excuse the scribble of a signature but my pen just went dry I guess or something.


Love- Henri

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Letter #60 from Henri C Romieux 16 January 1945

January 3, 1945 General MacArthur is placed in command of all U.S. ground forces and Admiral Nimitz in command of all naval forces in preparation for planned assaults against Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Japan.
January 9, 1945 U.S. Sixth Army invades Lingayen Gulf on Luzon in the Phillipines.



Henri C. Romieux, SK1c V-6 USNR
USS JOHN LAND AP-167
c/o Fleet P.O.
San Francisco, Calif.


MARY GARNER, SK2c
C/o SUPPLY OFFICE
U.S. NAVAL AIR STATION
WOLD-CHAMBERLAIN FIELD
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA


16 January, 1945


Mary Dear,


Again just a few lines in a hurry just to let you know all is fine by me. Have received no mail for quite a while now so that makes it difficult to write - because I can't even have your questions to answer. So far I have received one Christmas package - a good book - "Barbary Coast" from a chum of mine in Minneapolis - But then I have something to look forward to - just think of all the mail I'll have all at one time- maybe.


Well, dear I suppose by now you have been home and are back to the old grind again. I sure am anxious to hear all about the vacation.
Did I tell you that our Supply Officer was finally relieved- ha had had his orders a long long time ago. Believe we are lucky because the new one seems to be a swell fellow too and quite easy to get on with.
I have lots to say but I guess it will have to keep for a while anyway.
Please excuse the pencil- but I am down in one of the storerooms writing this and the movie is going on just a deck above- so I can't go thru and get my pen. Oh yes we have movies most every nite in the hero's mess hall, but I seldom go- You know I never was a movie hound anyway.


Mary I think of you a lot and hope we can see each other again soon. keep your chin up and write often-please-


Love Henri


No I did not get that letter you intended for your brother, but I am looking forward to it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Letter #59 from Wilbur C Garner 15-16 January 1945

January 16, 1945 U.S. 1st and 3rd Armies link up after a month long separation during the Battle of the Bulge.


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


Mary W. Garner, Sk2c
Supply Department
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, 6, Minnesota


"Somewhere in Germany"
15 January 1945


Dear Mary,


Howdy Sis! What's new? Anything particular? I received the package you mailed for Gwen in October. The two slips. They were very pretty. Thanks a lot I know Gwen will love them. What am I thanking you for, they aren't for me but for mine. She is such a sweet and loveable person.


Well it won't be much longer now. Gwen is anxiously looking forward to 8th of Feb. I haven't heard from Gwen for sometime now so I can't give you much news from her. The mail is all tied up someplace but it should break soon.


16 January 1945


Good evening! I didn't get around to finishing that letter so thought I'd scratch you off my list first.


Well, today I finally received a letter from Gwen. In fact, two letters. One dated the 4th & one the 5th of January. Land knows where the rest of them are. The one before that I received was 17th of December.
Gwen is still feeling fine. She has been one lucky girl. I guess you are an Auntie by this time. How does it feel?


Well things were a little busier in the office today. I hope they pick up once more. Say, it looks like the Russians are doing a rather good job now days. More power to them. I'd like to see them go straight to Berlin.


Gwen is getting all her papers straightened out once more so that she`ll be able to leave whenever the time presents itself. I know she'll like the U.S. much better than England. 


Well, Sis, I guess I'll close for now and hope to hear from you again soon. Take it easy and good luck on those exams. So long for now.
Loads of Love from
Gwen and myself


Bill


P.S. I finally got Mothers package with the bracelet in it. It is very nice.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Letter #58 from Wilbur C Garner to Souil Wade and Phoebe Emma Garner

This letter, while not to Mary, was saved through the years and ended up in the bundle of letters Mary saved. So it is included in the thread of "Letters from the War." When Mary and Bills parents Souil Wade Garner and Phoebe Emma Biggs Garner, passed away, Mary and Bill dissolved their household and quite possibly retrieved this letter that Bill's parents had saved, so it is included here in the time line of letters.



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


Mr. & Mrs. S. Wade Garner
2425 Calverton Heights Avenue
Baltimore, 16, Maryland




"Somewhere in Germany"
9 January 1945


 



Dear Mother & Dad

Good evening. How are you all tonight? I received two letters from you today. One dated 19th & 22nd of December. I certainly am glad that Bernard has gotten OK once more.
Is Jane’s Mother still pampering her so much? That is not at all good. It wouldn't have hurt Jane to come down with you and Dad where he could be looked after. That boy must give her,her own way in everything and take all orders from her. They ought to just go live with the Durdings’ and save a little bit. 


I haven't received the baby things you have sent me but I'll thank you anyhow. Also thanks for the After Shave Lotion. Boy that must have been some big bottle at that price. Thanks anyhow.


Incidentally, I have a Parker pen with some of my things. It was Betty's. I don't know where it is since you moved but it used to be in the chest of drawers that was in Marys room. Would you put it in a small package and register it Air Mail. That way it won't take so long. Be sure it is packed as small as possible. I dropped my other pen on the floor and bent the point like a corkscrew.


So Kenneth Cromwell is married now. Man! Anything can happen these days. Whats next?
Well you say it has been cold over there. It has been plenty cold over here also. It's done nothing but snow here for the last 4 or 5 days now. In some places there are drifts 3 ft. deep. It was about 8-9 inches on the level, I think.


I used to like the snow and sledding that came with winter but it has an entirely different meaning over here now. Well, maybe it won't last too much longer. Here's hoping anyhow.
Say, you know the wedding picture with the soldier on one end and the A.T.S. girl on the other, Well those two were married shortly after that picture was taken. Also there is a girl across the street from Gwen who is married to an American soldier. 


I understand there were 14,000 that were married while in England. That really cuts the nose off of some American girls. I don't think they like it either.
I'm glad your eye is OK again. You should have had it taken off long ago. I'm glad you had my letter transferred to Harlem Park Church, since Mary also went there. Incidentally Gwen is going to join the Methodist Church when she gets over there. She used to belong to a Methodist, but changed to Anglican or Church of England, so she could get into the WREN'S. Gwen asked me what Church I'd like the baby christened in. She thought I would like it christened in a Methodist Church. She said she would like it christened Methodist. I suggested waiting until she gets to the States and the take it to Harlem Park. Its OK to wait 7 or 8 months to have it christened, isn't it? What do you think?


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


Gwen & myself,
Bill

Letter #57 from Wilbur C Garner 8 January 1945

January 1-17 Germans withdraw from the Ardennes
Monastery, Kornelimunster, Germany; monastery built c. 1728; served as command post for XIX Corps Henry Jay MacMillan
 
Hall of Knights, Monastery, Kornelimunster, Germany, used as XIX Corps war room.
Men review photographs and maps along the walls.
Image rendered by  Henry Jay MacMillan XIX Corps artist



Images captured in Kornelimunster and sent to Gwen, who labeled them and maintained a scrapbook of the images Bill sent to her.

S/Sgt. Wilbur C. Garner, 33377578
G-1 Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, c/o Postmaster, N.Y.
Mary W. Garner, Sk2c


Supply Department
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, 6, Minnesota 

"Somewhere in Germany"
8 January 1945


Dear Sis: 


Well I really made a good haul on the mails day before yesterday. I received eight letters and three Christmas cards. Three letters from you, including your letter of the 26th of December, written while in Baltimore. That one really made good time. Well I'll start with your letter of the 20th November.


You asked me questions such as: Does the fact that Gwen is married to a U.S. citizen make her one also? Will the baby be a citizen of the U.S. or a British subject? Gwen is not a citizen and will not be until she takes out her papers which will take five years after she makes formal application. About the child, it is a U.S. citizen because I am a citizen. Does that answer your questions OK? I hope so. If you can think of any more questions I may be able to answer for you, just sound off, kid.


You asked me for something for the baby. The conditions the mails are in these days, Gwen would probably be over in the States before the things arrived here. Save your trouble until they get home, then you can spoil her and the brat also, Auntie. By the way, stop that "itty bitty" stuff. You slay me with that stuff. I'm hoping that Gwen will be able to make the trip over about the middle of May. Of course there are a lot of ifs, ands and buts about it. We will have to wait until she is ready to leave and then act quickly.


Well now that I know the dope, (not meaning Henri) let me ease your mind and tell you that you did not send me a whole letter from you to Henri. All you did was start one on the back of one of the sheets of paper that you wrote my letter on.


Incidentally, remember the boy whose picture I sent you from England and you said that certainly is a husky bruiser, well he said to wish you a "Happy New Year". The other day he was washing and he pulled up his undershirt and what do you think he found? on his chest? Yes, he had three hairs on it. Then I said when are you going to grow up Junior. Then I pulled up my shirt. Of course, he is knocking me in the head because I just told him what I had written to you. Well all joking aside, we get along OK and just like one big happy family. You know what the doctor said one day at one of our routine inspections?
He said I would really be a louses paradise. Well sometimes I wish I didn’t have so much hair.


You asked about the name Wilbur Charles. Well I just checked with the Judge Advocate about the name and I found out that it must be Wilbur Cecil if we want it to be a JR. I've written Gwen and told her that if it had to be a JR., like she wished, if a boy, that she would have to name it Wilbur Cecil. So I guess it will be Wilbur Cecil if a boy and if a girl, Carol Ann. What do you think of that? Of course, it won't make much difference because by the time I get an answer from you, it will be too late. Gwen expects to go into hospital about the 8th of February. The last letter I had form Gwen, she said that she never felt better in her life and that she was going to go through with colors flying. She is a rather spunky girl. You'll like her very much when you meet her.


Well it has been rather cold here and we have had quite a bit of snow lately. In fact, it is snowing right now and in the last hour and a half there has been about three inches of fall. Well we are going to try and take some pictures of each other the next couple of days. If they are good, I'll send you some. Incidentally, how about some snapshots of yourself, Sis. You never did send Gwen any, did you? Bernard and Jane took some of themselves and Mother and Dad and sent to Gwen and they also sent me a set of them. They were rather good.


You asked me if I have received any of the packages marked "Xmas packages". Yes I think I have received about all that you have sent. I'm missing about two that Mother and Dad sent me though. That bracelet has never come through. Did you ever receive that little bottle of perfume I sent you from Paris? I also sent Mother a package with some things in it, (Dutch shoes, letter opener from Waterloo, Belgium, little knife pin from Waterloo, Belgium Etc.) I don't think I marked any of the packages in that box for you. I figured I had sent you several things already and had better get Bernard and Jane and Souil and Harriet something. I hope that perfume doesn't get lost. I know you'll like it. It was gardenia.
I guess this is just about the longest letter you have ever received from me since I've been in the Army, and don't expect every letter to be this long. I'm neglecting Gwen tonight. 


I have written her almost every night since I returned from England. I think I have only missed about three nights and two of them were unavoidable, but tonight I just can't seem to think of anything in particular to say to her. She'll excuse me.

You asked me how the colonel is. He left us about a month ago for good ol' Washington, D.C. He accepted a job in the War Department. He already had about 36 months overseas so he really deserved to go home. He served in Alaska, Kiska, Attu, Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, and was last in on the Kwajalain Islands invasion then came over and picked us up in England. 


Well, Sis I guess I'll close for tonight and hope to hear from you again real soon. Give me a nice long letter next time. I'll bet you can't beat this one. So long for now. Take it easy, kid.


Loads of Love from Gwen and me,
Bill

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Letter #56 from Wilbur C Garner 26 December 1944

 
 Monastery, Kornelimunster, Germany; founded in 807 A.D. by son of Charlemagne; served as command post for XIX Corps Image rendered by Henry J MacMillan corps artist

On the 22nd of December, XIX Corps was ordered south to the area of Aachen to take over the divisions formerly under VII Corps; the 104th, the 8th and the 78th Infantry Divisions In the bitter cold of the German winter, the Corps held the north shoulder of the "Bulge" and even undertook local attacks led by the 78th Division to straighten out the line, and keep the German forces there busy. In our CP in an old monastery at Kornelimunster we spent a cold and relatively cheerless Christmas, mindful of the bitter fighting and suffering going on further south. (Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945)
Images of Aachen in rubble when the XIX Corps entered town. Images captured by Wilbur C Garner

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


Mary W,. Garner, Sk2c
Supply Department
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota, 6 


"Somewhere in Germany"
26 December 1944


Howdy kid! At long last a couple of letters have come through. I received your letter of the 9th Dec today. In the last 2 days I have received 4 packages from you mailed in September. I received another 3 or 4 last week from you so I guess they all came through. I have not received the nightgown and slip for Gwen yet but expect that will be coming along the next day or so. 


Well as you can see from the heading I spent Christmas and a couple of days in Germany. I was very sorry to leave our other area. I cannot tell you much about it except to say it was a very nice set-up. Of course, we could talk with people there. I found a very nice family and used to spend a number of evenings there. Of course, since we are in Germany we can't even look at people much less talk to them.


I can't give you much news from Gwen because I haven't had a letter from her since 4th of December. Your letter today and the one from Mother are the first letters I've had from anyone for about 3 weeks. Maybe it will start coming through again soon. I'll let you know when I receive one and give you the news.


It has been beautiful weather for the last 4 days. Days are clear and the nights have been moonlight.
Mary, please don't use any of your ration points on stuff to send me. After I had written you asking for some cheese I realized it required points. Please forget it. I've got enough chewing gum to last me months too. Thanks to you.


Well, Sis, I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again. I guess you had a very pleasant Christmas at home. So long for now.


Loads of Love from Gwen and me,
Bill

Friday, February 21, 2014

Letter #55 from Henri C Romieux 20 December 1944



Henri Romieux, SK1c USNR
USS JOHN LAND AP-167
c/o Fleet P.O.
San Francisco, Calif.


Mary Garner, SK2c, USNR
SUPPLY DEPARTMENT
U.S. NAVAL AIR STATION
WOLD-CHAMBERLAIN FIELD
MINNEAPOLIS, 6, MINNESOTA 


20 DECEMBER 1944

Mary Dear,


Just received your letter of December 5th and as you well know was most happy to hear from you. No really I am not tired of your chatter about you plans for the holidays, so please, don't stop, but keep more of the same coming my way. I am anxious to hear all about your trip home and what you did while there, so don't disappoint me now and be sure and let me hear all about it. 


No such luck as my being back to go East with you but keep on dreaming, maybe some time it can all happen—who knows.
Had a letter from Mother in Quebec and she is all settled in her plans now and will spend the winter with her nephew in Montreal. She seems quiet happy again and if only she didn't worry too much about yours truly, she will be okay I know for the winter at least. She is really a wonderful old lady and I hope it will be possible for you to meet her sometime, cause I am sure you both would like each other much.
Please excuse the delay in answering your letters, but honestly it was not possible to write until this moment. As yet I have not received any of my packages. Some of the fellows got theirs recently so maybe mine will come in the next few days, I hope! 


Have you taken your exams for first class yet and when do you expect to be rated? As for me Chief is very far away and really I don't give a damn, cause I would almost as soon stay first and not have to put up with what I would have to in a higher rating and anyway. I expect to get out in a year, cause you know then I will be 42 and eligible for a discharge as I believe I have told you before. 

Just think today it makes three years I have been in this lash-up.

Well dear there is not much more to go on chattering about except to say all is fine by me and I hope I'll get to see you before more months roll by. Be sure and write soon and let me know all about Christmas.


Loads of Love- Henri

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Letter #54 from Wilbur C Garner 19 December 1944

In the text of the letter below I have highlighted my Dad's (Bill's) words "Tanks a lot." It is hard to believe he maintained a sense of humor through those difficult days but he seemed to have managed. He, in his letters to Mary, never misspelled "Thanks a lot" when letting Mary know how much he appreciated her gifts and letters. Therefore, I believe he was letting her know about his situation, during the time when  fighting had escalated and drawn near, with a wit that would pass the Censors....I smiled when I read that sentence, knowing how Dad (Bill), exhibited his sense of humor when I was growing up.
 
Planning for the drive across the Roer was well under way in the Corps when the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes forced a postponement, and finally a change in the defensive for the first time since the Corps had come into action in Europe. With the first deep penetrations toward the Muese by the German Sixth SS and Fifth Panzer Armies, the XIX Corps sector formed a deep salient into the German homeland. There was acute danger of an attack on the Corps north flank by the Germans through Sittard toward Maastricht to join the other prong which Rundstedt was pushing North through Eupen and Malmedy. The 30th Division was withdrawn from our front to hurry to Malmedy to hold off the German threat there. In the most critical days of the battle, this great division met and smashed the 1st SS Panzer Division. Some days later the famous 2nd Armored followed, to the western end of the "Bulge" where it met and almost completely destroyed the powerful German 2nd Panzer Division. Other elements of the XIX Corps stood fast, and prepared defensive plans for any eventuality, inspiring confidence in the civilians of that part of Holland occupied by our rear elements, that we would not desert them to fall again into the hands of the Germans.
(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
Supply Department
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, 6, Minnesota


U.S.A. "Somewhere in Holland"
19 December 1944


Dear Sis,


Howdy pardner! Packages galore. Well, your packages mailed in September are just starting to come through. I've received about 2 from you and one from Mother & Dad and one from Bernard & Jane. Thanks a lot for that soap dish. I needed one of those but never thought to ask in any of my letters. It is a nice large dish too. Thanks for all of it, Sis. Boy you surely are knocking a hole in your pocketbook. You'd better take it easy.


I received a letter from Gwen yesterday dated 6th Dec. She is still feeling fine and anxiously looking forward to February.
Haven't had much mail from home lately. I guess everything is OK. 


Well, in another couple of days you'll be heading for good old Baltimore, well, I envy you but am very glad you were able to get a furlough home. I know it will mean an awful lot to Mother & Dad and it will at least keep their mind occupied. Here's hoping we can all be home for next Christmas. I'm certain Gwen will be there by that time.

There isn't much news right now. I just hope I'll be able to sleep tonight. A little rough the last two nights.
I got a letter from Mrs. Bell the other day and it seems as though she is going to be operated on. I hope it turns out OK. I guess you'll already know how she is doing by the time you get this letter.
Incidentally, Sis, Thanks for that cheese. I can always eat cheese. Tanks a lot.
 

Have you heard anything from Souil lately? I'm wondering how they are. Pretty lucky to be spending the winter in Florida. It will be much warmer than Indianapolis was last year.
Well, I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again.


Lots of Love and Luck
Bill


P.S. How is Henri?
Have you heard from him lately? You really goofed off by writing me his letter. Ha! ha! Keeping things from me Huh? Let me in on the dope. So long for now.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Letter #53 from Wilbur C Garner 15 December 1944

December 16-27, 1944  Battle of The Bulge in the Ardennes

Part of the Prisoner of War Interrogation team at Corps had been attached to the 113th Cavalry near Sittard when we were getting ready to hit for the Roer. The officer with them was on his way to his old home, with a good escort of the American Army: Lt. Ernest Kaufman had grown up just on the other side of the Roer, in a little town just south of Duren. Just before he had been forced to leave Germany in '38 all the countryside had known about the great new dams that were being built in the wooded area up the Roer. He came and talked about it to Colonel Washington Platt, the G-2, who sent him to First Army with the urgent advice to listen to him. The Army Engineer did, and it was news to him. Lt. Kaufman was among the first into Aachen, and made for where he knew the information would be: the offices of Water Administration. He had to blow a safe to get them, but there they were - the complete Wehrmacht plans for the flooding that would follow the destruction of the three great dams, with the delineation of the area to be flooded, the speed of water, the duration of the flooding and all. Now the Army was really interested, and we could see the results in the way the plans were laid. It was then, on the 16th of December, that the Ardennes offensive of von Rundstedt struck, and forced a postponement of three months in all our plans. The Corps moved south of Aachen and took over the divisions formerly under VII Corps: the 104th, the 78th, and the 8th. There with a Command Post in an old monastery in Kornelimunster, the Corps held the north shoulder of the "Bulge", rebuffed German patrols, and later pushed forward toward the big dams on the fronts of the 78th and 8th Divisions.



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


Mary W. Garner, Sk2c
Supply Department
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, 6, Minnesota


"Somewhere in Holland"
15 December 1944


Dear Mary,


Howdy, Sis! I received two letters from you yesterday dated 9th and 12th November. It's about time I was hearing from you once more. The mail has been lousy going and coming lately. Did you ever receive that small bottle of perfume from Paris that I sent you? I hope it hasn't gone astray. 


So you think Gwen is a good luck charm for me. I wonder what makes you feel that way. Gwen is a wonderful girl and will really make a good mother & wife. Incidentally she hates smoking and drinking. I think maybe that is something else that made me like her so much.
Don't worry about not being able to send her anything more than you have. I hope to be able to get Gwen to the States about April or may of next year. Of course, a lot depends upon how strong the baby is and whether or not Gwen feels like she can make the trip. The sooner the better, I figure. She'll be much happier, too. If you have anything you want to send her, send it to me, I'll see that she gets it.


Hey you dummy, that insignia I sent you is mine (XIX CORPS). Here is a paper clipping you may be interested in. Ops! Excuse me. I sent the last one I had to Mother.


So you think I'm going to let you spoil my child, huh?
Not on your life. You probably won't pay any attention to mine if Jane has twins. I wouldn't like that. One at a time goes further. I guess they'll all be spoiled. I haven't seen any children around that home that didn't become spoiled. We'll see.
I had a letter from Gwen day before yesterday dated 5th December and she is still feeling fine. I feel certain everything will be OK with her.


I haven't heard from Souil & Harriet for sometime but I guess she is OK. Harriet was very fortunate to get a job right next door to where Souil works. I hope she'll decide to stay with him for the duration or as long as he remains in the States.


Well, Sis, there is not much more news now so I guess I'll be signing off. So long and take care of yourself I hope you had a nice Christmas at home "Lucky".


Lots of Love from Gwen and Me,
Bill
P.S. Can you get any cheese up that way?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Letter #52 from Delphine Romieux 12 December 1944

December 17, 1944 the U.S. Army Air Force begins preparations for dropping the Atomic Bomb by establishing the 509th Composite Group to operate the B-29's that will deliver the bomb.

D. Romieux
442 Bonaventure St.
Three Rivers P.L. Canada


Mary Garner, Sk2c USNR
c/o Supply Office
U.S. Naval Air Station
Wold-Chamberlain Field
Minneapolis, Minnesota
U.S.A.


Three Rivers P.L.
December 12-1944


Dear Miss Garner,


I received a letter from Henri a few days ago asking me to choose a little Christmas gift for you which I would be very glad to do but I was told you would have duty to pay, so I thought best to send you the money order. I certainly appreciate your kindness to Henri and hope to have the pleasure to make your acquaintance before too long a time.


My best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Sincerely, 

Delphine Romieux

Monday, February 17, 2014

Letter #51 from Henri C Romieux 29 November 1944

 There were no words written by Henri on this V---Mail

H. Romieux, Sk1c USNR
USS JOHN LAND
c/o F.P.O. San Francisco, Calif.
29 November, 1944
WAR & NAVY
DEPARTMENTS
V-MAIL SERVICE
———————————-
OFFICIAL BUSINESS


Mary Garner, SK2c USNR
SUPPLY DEPARTMENT
U.S. NAVAL AIR STATION
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA



Sunday, February 16, 2014

Letter #50 from Henri C Romieux 4 December 1944

John Land began Operation "Magic Carpet" duties, loading some of the hundreds of thousands of Pacific veterans headed home to the United States. With some 1,733 passengers embarked at both Wakayama and Guam, the transport sailed for home with all possible speed, arriving at San Pedro on 21 October. She sailed again seven days later, this time loaded with 1,006 Construction Battalion (Seabees) troops, who were brought to Guam on 12 November. Taking on 1,828 passengers at Tinian on the 15th, she sailed home for the last time the following day, arriving in San Francisco on 29 November.

John Land made three more "Magic-Carpet" voyages to the western Pacific over the next six months. The first, begun 14 December 1945 when she sailed for Noumea took her to the South Pacific, where she found no passengers available, before moving on to Manila to pick up troops on 15 January 1946.


On December 15, 1944 U.S. troops invade Mindoro in the Philippines.

Henri Romieux, Sk1c USNR
USS JOHN LAND AP-167
c/o Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Calif


Mary Garner, Sk2c USNR
C/o Supply Office
U.S. Naval Air Station
Wold-Chamberlain Field
Minneapolis, 6, Minnesota 


4 December 1944

Mary Dear,


Not much of interest to write about but just a line to let you know all is fine by me. The new supply officer is taking over since the first of the month, so had a little more work than usual- but outside of that things have been going pretty easy. Really it is best to be busy as the time goes by more rapidly.


The mail service has not been so good the past couple of weeks - your last letter was dated 7 November - just think almost a month ago. And I have not heard from Mother since the later part of October- oh well- some, one of these days I will really have lots of it from you all.


This is the rainy season in these parts now so it has been quite comfortable - days are hot but nites quite cool - as a matter of fact I had a blanket over me last night and was none to warm. It really feels good after all the hot weather we have been in.


Well dear its hard to believe tho that it is so near Christmas - just don't seem right for some reason. Hope you have a nice trip home and a real good time. Be sure and write and let me know all about it. What do you hear from your brother in Europe?
Goodbye for tonight, will write more shortly-


Lots of love- Henri

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Letter #49 from WIlbur C Garner 7 December 1944

S/Sergent Wilbur C. Garner, 33377578
G-1 Section, Hq XIX Corps
APO 270, U.S. Army 


Miss Mary W. Garner
2425 Calverton Heights Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 16
U.S.A. 


Christmas Greetings written from Bill to Mary, addressed to their parents home in Baltimore, as Bill expected Mary to be home on leave for the holidays. On a card designed by one of the members of the 62nd. Engr. Topogaphical Co., Mac Millan, he simply wrote Bill and Gwen
The printed information inside the card reads as follows:

XIX CORPS. U.S. ARMY
CROSSING THE MEUSE RIVER AT MAASTRICHT, HOLLAND
The Meuse River was the last obstacle between us and Germany.
Maastricht is the oldest town in Holland. It,like Trier, was an outpost of the Roman Empire. On the site of a Roman wooden bridge, "ponsMosae", the foundations of the present "Massbrug" were laid in 1280, it was restored in 1683; altered in 1932, destroyed by the Dutch Army on May 10, 1940 to slow up the German advance; repaired in 1942; blown up by the Germans on 13 September 1944; and repaired as shown by XIX Corps on 30 September 1944.


The Tomahawk Insignia of the Corps was encircled by a wreath of Holly inside with a simple
"Christmas Greetings" message


Signed
Bill and Gwen

Friday, February 14, 2014

Letter #48 from Wilbur C Garner 1 December 1944

XIX Corps attacked for the line of the Roer. The enemy had had time to dig in well, and the resistance they offered was bitter. But the Divisions of the XIX Corps, working under the Corps plan, refused to hit him where he was strongest, by frontal attacks on the line of low ridges parallel to the river. The 2nd Armored lashed out northeast with crushing power, overcoming the muddy terrain and inferiority in tanks by sheer fighting guts. This attack drew most of the German armor, and the enemy threw in the best he had. Against the 2nd Armored he threw the 9th Panzer and the 15th Panzer Grenadier, but the 2nd Armored and the Corps Artillery and Tank Destroyers knocked out 118 of their tanks. As the armor flanked each ridge, the attached infantry cleaned out the Germans from its flanks. At the same time in the center the 29th drove east toward Juelich. Meanwhile the 3rd Panzer Grenadier and elements of the 116th Panzer Division smashed at our right flank where the 30th Division turned them back. By the 28th of November all three divisions were at the Roer, and the plans for crossing were begun. Higher headquarters had to hold up any such operations until possession of the Roer River dams was assured. With these dams under German control a wall of water could be sent down the Roer to wash out any crossing operations, and isolate our bridgeheads beyond rescue. So the Corps held at the Roer to wait for the dams to be taken.     (Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945)

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


Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Supply Department
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, 6, Minnesota


U.S.A. "Somewhere in Holland"
1 December 1944


Dear Sis,


How is Henri these days? I've heard tell of people getting letters mixed up but that is the first time I've experienced it. Well OK let me in on it. So you are worried about Henri. Have you heard from him yet?


I got a letter from Mother, Souil and you all dated 26th-28th of October and a letter from Gwen dated 16th Nov. Gwen is still feeling fine. I told you she expects the baby about the 8th of February. Gwen is hoping it is born on the 14th then all three of our birthdays will be on the 14th. Gwen's Birthday is 14th October. She is also hoping it is a boy. If a boy we are naming it Wilbur C. (Charles) Garner, Jr. I've suggested several names, if a girl, but we haven't decided about that yet. 


I saw the picture "Janie" last night and that was a really swell picture. I enjoyed it. It sorta took a guys mind off of the war for a few minutes.
I hear the Army-Navy game is being played in Baltimore this year. Boy I'd like to be back there to see it. I'm glad you will be able to get home for Christmas. I'd call that very fortunate.


I'm glad to know that Souil & Harriet have been able to find a nice place. I guess she thinks she is up in the top bracket. Spending the winter in Florida. Well it is much better. Harriet was lucky to get a job there also. Well more power to them. I don't know but I imagine Souil will be coming over some of these days, if it is only after it is all over.


Thanks for sending that stuff for Gwen. I'll see that she gets it.
The weather has been fairly nice here lately, I mean for 24 hours. Darn fortunate if it is nice for any longer than that at one time. A little sunshine looks good once in a while. I guess it has gotten rather cold where you are now.


Well, Sis, I guess I'll close for now and hope to hear from you soon again. Take it easy on that Christmas leave. How many days did you get? Let me know how Baltimore looks. Goodnight for now.


Loads of Love from Gwen and me,
Bill
P.S. Got any more of those good nuts or sardines or cheese. Thanks

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Letter #47 from Henri C Romieux 22 November 1944

Again assigned to Admiral Barbey's assault force, the troop ship steamed to Aitape, New Guinea, where she loaded elements of the 3d Battalion Landing Team, 172d Infantry Regiment, 43d Division, U.S. Army. Getting underway on 28 December 1944, John Land rendezvoused with other warships in Leyte Gulf and proceeded through the Philippines to Lingayan Gulf (DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER 805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060)



H. Romieux, Sk2c USNR.
USS JOHN LAND
C/o Fleet P.O.
San Francisco, Calif


Mary Garner, SK2c USNR
C/o Supply Office
U.S. NAVAL AIR STATION
Wold-Chamberlain Field
Minneapolis, Minnesota 


22 November 1944

Mary Dear,


Just received your letter and of course as usual was looking forward to it and am now happy again. And for your information and guidance I will tell you — that I am not going to worry about 'from that point of view' as you say, and what ever gives you the idea that I will ever want you to forget ma any way? I guess I at least will have something to say in that regard, or won't I?


Yes I too am damn glad the election is over and now maybe, the politicians will leave things alone and the war can go forward without them very nicely. Since in the service especially - I find politics in these days most disgusting to say the least. Would say more but I know it would never in the world pass these censors, so that will have to do for the present - but just you wait till this thing is over and the enlisted man can put some pressure on politics. (yes the enlisted women too, of course- I did not mean to slight you all.) 


Had a letter from Mother at the same time as yours too and she has been visiting my brother in Scarsdale, NY but by now is back in Ontario with her niece and believe she will stay there through the winter, which I believe is the best place for her and where she will be the happiest I know. 


Yes I can just see you doing the shopping for the baby things and getting a big kick out of it. So your mind is really made up and you don't plan to get out if you can in January - well if that's the way you feel that's the thing to do, otherwise you would not be content with yourself. You speaking of the first snowfall and I know you don't like it a bit - but I wish I was there as that is just what time of year I really do like in Minnesota - guess its just born in me, but I never could live where there is snow all year - I really like the cold too, if I don't have to stay out in it too long, of course.


No your guess is wrong about November, but I still have hopes before too long. Thanks for offering to get Mom something for Christmas, but as she is in Canada and there is always the nuisance of customs duty, I thought best to send her a money order which I did a week ago. 


Well dear, just in case you don't get any more of my mail till the holiday time - here is wishing you the Merriest Christmas of all and I hope you have a nice time with your folks at home. Keep those letters coming along - cause I just thrive on them - really -


Loads of love and then some,

                                        Henri

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Letter #46 from Wilbur C Garner 22 November 1944

Planning for the drive across the Roer was well under way in the Corps when the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes forced a postponement, and finally a change to the defensive for the first time since the Corps had come into action in Europe.
(Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945)


S/Sergent 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, Minnesota


U.S.A. "Somewhere in Holland"
22 November 1944


Dear Mary,

Well one more Christmas away from home. Just a little note to let you know I'm OK. Haven't heard from you lately.
Here's hoping we will all be able to be together for next Christmas. I'll be thinking of you all.


Merry Christmas and God Bless you,
Lots of Luck and Love from Gwen and me,


Bill

Back of Card

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Letter #45 from Wilbur C Garner 17 - 19 November 1944

More enemy armor fell before the attacks of the 29th and 30th. Captured German staff officers were unanimous in their praise of the tactics employed in this Corps drive - complaining that they were constantly confused as to the direction and strength of the effort by our refusing to plunge head-on into their planned defenses, and by our unexpected maneuver and feints. Model tactics executed by hard fighting veteran troops crushed one of the enemy's most concentrated efforts since D-Day, and by the 28th of November the 2nd Armored, 29th and 30th Divisions were on the Roer River. Some Germans held out in the Sportsplatz of Juelich, and a little pocket in Hasenfeld Gut farther north. These pockets took a few more days of desperate in-fighting to eliminate.(Text from the Corps Newsletter "The Tomahawk Strikes" From Siegfried line to victory)

Making the Army's main effort, General McLain's XIX Corps was to prepare plans for seizing a bridgehead over the Roer River at Juelich. In line with the mission of protecting the First Army's left flank, General McLain was to make his main effort close alongside the First Army. (Text: Captain Fredric E. Pamp Jr (Public Relations Officer XIX Corps 1945)

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

Mary W. Garner, SK2c
Supply Dept.
U.S. Naval Air Station
Minneapolis, Minnesota

U.S.A. "Somewhere in Holland"
17 November 1944

Dear Sis,

Good afternoon, kid. How are you doing these days? Boy I sure hope you've been getting my mail better than I've been getting yours. I haven't had any mail or packages from home for about two weeks now. I know it is tied up here on the continent though because Gwen writes every day and I haven't received any letters from her for almost the same length of time. I can't give you any news of her? Gwen was fine on 27th of Oct.

Have you received the small bottle of perfume I sent you? It was a bottle the Colonel brought back from Paris. Boy I sure hope you receive it in good shape. I got a bottle for Gwen too. Hers was a little larger.

How is the weather out your way these days? I imagine it has started to get rather cold. It has not been so cold here but it has been nasty and rainy.

"Somewhere in Holland"
19 November 1944

Hello. I didn't get a chance to finish this letter the other night but will before I go to bed tonight. Boy I feel fine tonight. I finally got a letter from Gwen dated November 3rd. There are six before that one, that are still missing. Gwen is feeling fine, "I'm feeling fine-never felt better in all my life", which is just how things should be. And if it is double trouble honey - just you look out - when I meet you again - for not warning me!! There are twins in her family also and due this generation. Ha! ha! Wouldn't that be something? What a man. Well we shall see. Gwen is very anxious for time to pass quickly so that we can get back to the States.

Well kid I'll close for now and hope to hear from you real soon. No mail from the States for a couple of weeks. Got any more nuts or canned meats/ Boy sure could use some. So long for now. Take it easy and don't work too hard.

Loads of Love from Gwen and me.
Bill