My father’s father, our Papa, passed away when I was very young, and I often wish I’d had the chance to truly know him. I enjoy hearing stories about him, and often think of how much Mr. S would enjoy him if they’d been able to meet.
He served in the US Army during WWII. I believe he spend most of his time in Germany as a tank squad leader.
This letter once hung in my grandparents’ home and now hangs proudly in my aunt’s. It was penned by him in (then) Czechoslovakia on May 7, 1945, the evening before official V-E Day.
I am enthralled by the details of censorship, illness, lack of water, kissing girls on the street, longing for home, Nazi suicide, a drunken SGT, poor hygiene and the joy of victory in this treasured piece of family history. I’ve done my best to transcribe it below as it originally appeared, typos and all, as I can only imagine the way his thoughts, feelings, and exhaustion affected the letter.
This is about the happiest – the most happy of days and nights that I have ever had or seen in my life – and there will only be one happier – that when I can get home. We heard the news over the radio about 4:30 this afternoon – of course we were right up here where we almost knew about it before anyone else – just had to wait for it to be officially released — I will tell you the story of that when I get home as I doubt if censorship would permit it! But to start from the beginning!
Our trip from Germany to here was rough — it rained and I had been sick for two days and am just getting over it. A case of the [flu] combined with stiff joints from the damp weather. The last time I wrote was just before we arrived back into the field and from there we came here. There were 8 of us trying to sleep in the half-truck, we got lost and it took us 24 hours to finally get here. I was miserable – “O” ‘s to eat, nothing to drink and so crowded. But it was worth it. Mother, and all of you, I will never forget the wonderful morale I get when we saw the sheer happy faces of these liberated people. Believe me, they were almost crazy with happiness. They mobbed us – had all their flags, their native costumes on, the old women and men with tears running down their cheeks – they hardly knew how to act. As we passed down the highways, they ran out to meet us – with flowers, shrubbery and all sorts of gifts. We stood on the railings of our truck and shook hands with as many as we could. MP’s and Military Czech police couldn’t keep them back. Then as we entered Pilsen – it was even worse. Our vehicle was lead vehicle and the news had spread that we were coming – mile upon mile it was the same, masses of screaming out of their mind people. We had to drive slow – when we would stop, the girls would kiss us (we didn’t object) – they would climb right up on the vehicle and actually smother you! We would pick up the ones we liked and motion to them – there was a real cute blon[d]e – and a brown haired girl that looked like Bonni G – – they were okay. The people who couldn’t crowd the streets were hanging from windows throwing flowers – we were covered. Our faces were dirty, I hadn’t shaven for four days and looked terrible — but that didn’t matter then. My headache left and I felt fine except for my stomach which is still giving me trouble. Everyone was wild – even us GI’s. They followed us to the billet area – a large gymnasim [sic] and mobbed us with paper for our signature. They did everything – carried our bed roll, cots, etc inside, brot [sic] us hot water, coffee- cognac, wine, anything – one lady kissed me and said, “Son, this is your home” – especially the old people seemed so glad. All day long they stand out-side the fence wall waiting for a glimpse of us or someone to come by to talk to them. We had to have the town mayor order them from the premises as they were too much in the way – and there are nazis’s still here – so we have to still be careful! And to today when news of peace came – they thronged outside – I went over and told a small group [that] the “war finis” which is German or french for finish. Mother, they didn’t know how to act – the[y] wept- got down on their knees and prayed, and hugged andkissed [sic] each other – and the American Flag is flying from the top most building in the city. These people seem very well off, they far out-pass the German and French we saw – dress pretty nice and look pretty much okay. A few can speak English or at least a few words – naturally, they can all speak German by new!
And how did we take the peace ! We almost went nuts too – someone pounded on the piano, we got up on the desks, pounded the track horns, turned on all the radios, blew trumpets- and just acted like a bunch of girls at a basketball tournament or something of that sort! Our first thoughts were of those going home. Every one thinks that it won’t be too long – but I personally think that it will. We have only been here three months now – and altho [sic] I sorta hope that we won’t be in the occupation troops – but I think we will stay here. T S Mnd says that all troops going to the OBI will get 21 days furloughs before they leave the states again – but I would just as soon stay here for a year then [sic] to go over there for six months. For several reason[s] the trip, the training – – – and at least now we know that we won’t be “killed or something else in action” – and that is really good conselation [sic] ! I hope that there is an army of occupation here in this country – a bunch of Czech soldiers also returned today – the streets are packed with US and Czech soldiers – the vehicles have women, flowers, GI’s in them – the people have baked cakes and brought out their best wine – – it looks like I will have a terrific time on guard tonight. I am going to sleep in the morning until ten o’clock when I go on guard again!
As for the Germans – there isn’t much left of them – we thought that the people were mobbed – so were the Germans – – they gave up with out a fight, I haven’t even fired a buillet – and they lined the roads and all the by-ways waiting to be picked up. It seemed strange but with the men were German girls who had gone fanatic over Nazi ways and they were shown no special attentions. Some of them were very young – others were old, their clothing was torn and they really looked down and under. None of them smiled but you could tell that they were glad One place in Pilsen we had to hold up the convoy for some to pass as we went through they werepacked [sic] as far up the street as we could see – nothing but blue uniforms. All seemed to have a cane or or a leg, or an arm shot off and limping. The Czech patriots helped alot [sic], they soon had rouded up all that were left in town, the German general committed suicide I guess just before the town fell. It seems nice-no more black-out, no more nothing. I wonder how the people at home are celebrating- I can see Times Square and Boradway [sic] in NYC tonight – of course at home it’s only three o’clock in the afternoon, while here it after nine o’clock in the evening.
With this phase of the war over – it brings up the post war future. I still hope to go to school. The army is going to have this I and E program that will offer some subjects and use soldiers as teachers – – I would like to get something like that – it certainly would be a good basis to startfrom [sic] when I do get out. The end of the war makes you feel like you are so much closer to a discharge – and that is what we all really pray for almost every night. All of us from up in that neck of the woods got together tonight and discussed how wonderful it would be to getto [sic] Fort Snelling at once and getour [sic] discharges – and that trolley ride out of camp – andknow [sic] that it was goodbye for good, then Pat and Omer and I catch the next train or bus and in 8 hourse — be home for good! That will be the happiest day, no doubt about it!
This place is like a morge [sic] tonight – everyone who isn’t on duty has taken off to town. I perhaps won’t beable [sic] to halt a person at all. The Czech’s wanted to pull our guard for us – – they said they would form a solid ring around the place – but that couldn’t be done – -you know the army!
I trust that you got the hints I threw about being in Nurnberg [sic] (mentioned all the Nurnberger people and Delmer N – the teacher) that is where we had the nice room but for only 2 nights – and I didn’t even get a chance to take a bath!
I’ll bet any amount of money that the other guy who is to be guard with me is drunk someplace and will never show up – he is a character, Sgt Barber – the company barmer [sic] which remins [sic] me that I need a haircut.
Well gang – and Lois (I guess this hasn’t exactly been a letter to just you) this is all for tonight – I got my first package the otherday [sic] – every thing waspefect [sic] – the candy tasted so good on the move out here – and thanks alot. I am using the laces – they are much better and candles are tops! Am waiting for the next one new! Write often and pray that we will all be seeing each other soon. Over here we thank god for Victory [this word, the last, was written by hand]
Love – Arthur