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Northeastern France

September 16, 1944

I am at present billeted in an Old Chateau, that belonged to an old French Nobel, but is at present being occupied by yours truly and a few others. I am sleeping in what apparently is the old dining salon, or main room of the castle. It is the biggest room in the place and about the size and shape of the gymnasium at Romney High School. The wall has panels with oil paintings of military men running back to before the conquering of France by Caesar. The room is heated by a fire place that is colossal. It is about 10 feet high, 12 feet wide, and 6 feet deep. We can build a big fire in the fireplace and almost have room enough in the fireplace to stand if you are really cold.

It really is a beautiful room, with hard wood floors, and would be a swell place for a dance if we only had the women and the time.

A few days back I was billeted in a house where they had real beds with real sheets. I slept 24 hours a day when I could. I don't know when I have enjoyed anything quite so much. I am dreading the coming winters, we are far enough north that it is difficult to expect much day light and personally I have little hope of finishing off this war before cold weather.

This part of France is not hurting for food at all. It is possible to buy all the milk and eggs you want. Southern part is suffering for some of these needs, and around the big cities they are hurting, but back here in the mountains they have plenty of everything that you can raise. It is a good thing because we certainly enjoy the eggs and the milk.

September 26, 1944

I think every letter I have mentioned how I am continually impressed by the beauty of this country. I have seen beautiful spots before, but never before have I seen such unending beauty. First everything is so green, and one would expect when he goes into one of these dense forests to find the undergrowth choked for lack of sun, but the green continues to the ground even in the thick woods. As I sit here typing I see the tall straight pines around me extending up into the air nearly 75 feet with branches starting right at the ground green all the way up and the ground a rich carpet of green grass.

Another marvel is the way the people handle their cattle, just turn them loose and the pasture and cultivated grounds are side by side on the plateau. To think that here all they do is put one child or woman out to watch them off the cultivated farm. It rains continually and yet there they stand guarding their cows, instead of putting up fences to keep them off. It amazes me to think here in the Alps you can climb straight up a cliff for maybe a thousand feet, and come to a flat plateau of maybe forty or fifty acres, that is as level as a barn floor, about half in pasture, and half under cultivation without any fence. Can you imagine or get the picture to drive up a steep winding mountain road to suddenly come around the last curve at the top of the hill, and see the road straight for miles running between fields of green grass, vegetables, perhaps a stones throw wide extending from the road to the foot of the containing rise on either side, where they abruptly end in a steeply rising heavily wooded mountain, covered by majestic evergreens and the entire scene mellowed by a mist that momentarily changes to a light rain or a black fog. Actually you are in the clouds.

Then the herds of white cattle, and a peasant girl of maybe twenty tending them, and she has sheltered herself with a unique costume born of necessity. The clothing are probably home spun, and you would expect them to hang like rags, but not on a French girl. Her head will be entirely covered by a piece of cloth to protect it from rain. She may have on an old overcoat, salvaged from some German worn by him before throwing it away, but usually bare-legged except for a pair of high black boots which I expect came from the Prussian army. She stands and guards for the entire day except for the period when she milks them.

We live nicely off these products we can purchase, also some lovely Swiss cheese we were able to purchase recently.

October 5, 1944

My job now calls for a lot of liaison calls on the French Officers and the easiest way to get their good will is to start the conversation by offering a cigarette. You can sell a pack of cigarettes here for $2.00 now and a pack of smoking tobacco, small package for $1.00. I did buy off those that don't smoke all the time, but not at those prices. We appreciate smoking materials, fruit cakes, candies, canned sea foods, mayonnaise, and most anything that you could enclose would taste good.

I have been living in an orphanage for the past few days, and they have a black sheep, and a white one as pets. We always give the children anything that we have left over from a meal, and the other day we had a lot of meat and vegetable stew left over. Two of the little boys from the home were carrying it down from the kitchen and decided to let the pet sheep eat some of it. The sheep seemed to enjoy it when the lady who runs the home came out and discovered what was going on, and she made quite a fuss. Even though I did not know every word of French she said, I understood what she meant from the whipping they got. Of course we all got quite a laugh out of it, and she made the kids eat the stew from lunch anyway.

The leaves are just starting to turn in the beautiful fall colors. I would have expected it much earlier from the weather.

October 15, 1944

We have a little dog that we have had for two years. She has her first batch of puppies, four of them and they are so cute. The local newspaper gave us a half page splash on it which was funny and full of quite a few good laughs.

I wish that we could be coming home, even for only a while, but it looks like I won't make it as I believe this war here will last until next summer now.

October 24, 1944

The trouble over here one will go to get a nice bath is always a marvel to me, but it is a never ending struggle. Last Saturday, I got a truck load of dirty boys, and we made a trip to Luxeuel les Bains, which is about an hour’s ride from here to get a bath. We had to skip dinner to get there by the time the bath house opened. Then we had to stand in line out in the rain for an hour to get in the building, and stand in line inside for an hour to get our turn at the tubs. We were only allowed twenty minutes in the tub. I let the boys have an hour down town to see what the town looks like, and brought them home in time for supper at 5 o'clock. Half a day for one truck load of boys to take a bath, but believe me all the boys enjoyed it and so did I. It was my first tub bath since we took Rome.

Speaking of baths, the Colonel has a rubber bath tub that his wife sent him, and every now and then he has the orderlies fill it with hot water and he gets in. He is taking a bath now in front of the fire here. Watching him reminds me of one time last summer a year ago in Italy when the Colonel was sitting in the tub stark naked, and an air-raid started. All the rest of us dived into fox holes, and the Colonel reached over and got his helmet and clapped it on his head and went on with his bath. I can see him yet sitting there in his rubber bath tub that looked for all the world like a Baby's basinet stripped stark naked except for his helmet sitting on his head.

Coming back to Luxeul Les Bains, it is a town blessed with a hot mineral springs and is a resort in normal times frequented by people with real or imagined illness who think that the water will some how cure them. The bath house is a large three story building covering about an acre. The ground floor has a large swimming pool, with hot water and a lot of ornamental sunning rooms, with sculpture and fountains and other things that go to make a place look palatial. The construction is modern but the mode is ancient. The floors are tile, and the walls are tile mosaics, and all edges and corners are rounded like a hospital to make for easy cleaning, and the place has a hospital look. The entire upper two floors are taken up with bath tubs, which are enormous. It has a chromium hand rail so that an old man can get in and out with out breaking his neck, and lots of gadgets to adjust the heat of the water. They even have a clock with which to time yourself, normally used to time a medical bath, but now used to make sure you don't stay in for more than the authorized twenty minutes.

The water is real clear with just a trace of blue, and the hot water comes direct from the spring, while the cold water comes through a cooling tower. They don't care how much you use, and it runs so fast that you can fill the tub while you untie your shoes. Each corridor has a girl in attendance who cleans the tub after each customer, and generally makes herself useful. It is run by civilians, and they charge you 20 cents a bath.

Yesterday we were honored by the presence of Ann Goplerude of Iowa, and is a girl who could be making a million in Hollywood, but spending her time entertaining service people. She ate dinner at our Officer's mess and then sang for the boys in the afternoon. We found a farmer who had a piano and she played and sang, while we sat around on the floor and listened. She has a loud throaty voice that is well suited to torch songs, and a large number of boogey woogey type of songs which the boys seem to like especially well. She is a blond number with an extremely friendly smile for every one, and such lovely white teeth to show when she does smile.

We had a church service this evening and baptized two of the boys. Both affairs took up the entire afternoon, but I did enjoy all of it.


October 28, 1944

Today I received my first Christmas package, from you. All of us got a package today, and I expect we will have a party tonight.

I hope the Russians keep on rushing, and how do you like the development in the Pacific? Maybe we won't have to go over there after all.


November 17, 1944

I sent a few Xmas presents to every one although the items run high, but maybe for here not so bad either. We are eating mighty well now, we had rabbit for dinner yesterday, and fried chicken today.

Some times I get so lonesome that I think I'll die, and to think I have to be 2000 miles from you to say such, but keep your chin up we will be home in 1945, I feel sure.

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