NOAA History Banner
gold bar divider
home - takes you to index page
about the site
contacts
noaa - takes you to the noaa home page
search this site
white divider

arrow A Nation at War
arrow WWII
arrow Personal Accounts



Page: left arrow 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 click for next page

France

November 23, 1944

Today we had turkey, a lot of turkey, I ate and ate and did enjoy all of it I wanted for once. We had cranberries, potatoes, peas, bread, butter and hard candy. It was all grand.

After dinner the daughter of the French home I was in gave me some French lessons, and her ten year old sister helped some. The first girl I mentioned said her husband has been a German prisoner for four years, and that she is used to being alone. I will never get used to it, so don't you ever feel that way toward me. I don't think they should have kept him prisoner after the French had surrendered, and she was living in occupied Germany.

December 4, 1944

I believe Air mail is going just a little faster than V letters but I write V mail because it is simpler for me to get the material. No matter where I am it is nearly always possible to borrow a V blank which most every one will have, than it is to get to my Air Mail stationery.

I think it might be interesting to tell you something about how my personal stuff is handled. Baggage allowance exist, but they are not too strictly complied with the real limitation in how much will the trailer haul. To begin with there are three trailers, one of which is officially the Officers’ luggage trailer, and the other two are intended for other purposes and catch the overflow from the Officers’ trailer. Only the Officers’ trailer is parked in the vicinity of the Officer's area, and the other two are parked naturally in their own area, consequently they are not exactly accessible. We carry in the Officers’ trailer that stuff which we are presumably going to need every night, or at least frequently, and in the other trailers long time items, such as summer clothing in the winter, and winter clothing for the summer time, your glad rags which you have too much money tied up in to throw away, and still seldom need, but hope like hell that you will need.

In the first trailer is a bedroom, canvas, G. I., waterproof, inside that I have my own sleeping bag and two government issued blankets. The bedroom has pockets for small things that can bend, or won't break, and then we store shoes, tent poles, tents, undies, towels and the briefest essentials in them. Then we all carry a canvas musette bag on us all the time, of small essentials.

In addition to all the above, things are suppose to be so arranged that one Orderly can roll and load on the trailer all the equipment of 12 officers in about an hour, but those times I am usually some other place and don't help if its a rush job. My tin suitcase rusted to pieces and I have two small tin boxes for the inaccessible trailers, and seldom can get to them.

All the edible Christmas presents, by common agreement are put in a common box, known as the grab box, or pantry. It rides on the accessible trailer and is used to provide midnight snacks.

We just passed through an area where they used to manufacture Rayon, and it was possible to buy these big handkerchiefs for a girl’s head. I went into the store intending to buy you one, but the clerk said $20.00 for the one that I picked out for you so I didn't get it, but it was really pretty. If it had been real silk I would have gotten it anyway, but not rayon.

December 6, 1944

Things are going about the same as always here. I caught the night shift again, but will get some sleep after awhile.

On December 1st I was promoted to Major; it came much sooner than I expected. We will celebrate these promotions when I arrive home and hope its sooner than I think now.

I know that we are eating much better, we get fresh meat real often. Had beefsteak and chicken both last week, and usually get fresh meat at least once a week.

Say did you see anything in the Glendale papers about our Unit getting decorated? It was released to the press, and most of the other boys have gotten clippings back from their local papers, but if you want to write to the Glendale paper and ask for the clipping, if it was there, you MIGHT find out something.

December 10, 1944

Once upon a time during the second world war, when the Germans were finally driven out of the area formerly known as France. There were among the victorious Liberating forces some American soldiers, one of them our hero. He was very interested in the people and the country through which he moved. He had been studying French in order to converse with the natives, being a friendly fellow. When to his surprise he spoke to a native in his best French, and she did not reply. Then he said in English "Please Madam, will you do my laundry; see I have soap, money, and chocolates, all for you if you will just wash my clothes." A vague stare, and again the incomprehensible reply. This was too much, was it possible that we had sneaked into Germany while I was asleep in the truck. Quickly our hero fled to the intelligence department to check on the situation, the map, and the name of the village. No we were in France. I get our best interpreter who speaks both French, German, and English and try again. Success at last - they speak German. The day is saved, and the clothes are washed, but I won't learn German; that is the last straw.

It seemed like it would be a good idea to start an investigation to see why the people are that way. Some school children were tried next, usually children understand a foreigner quicker than older folk. I bribed them with candies and they were willing to stand around, but they could not understand, and would speak only German. I found out for over four years it has been forbidden to speak French in this area. The native language is neither French nor German, but some outlandish dialect of their own which is a sort of low German with a few French words thrown in. The official language was French before the war, then German during the war. Now take your boy of ten, its easy to make them forget their own language, especially when French was forbidden. Now that we are here the German language is forbidden, and they have to change their school systems again. I saw a Doctor changing the sign on his office door. He had two beautiful metal signs, one in German and the other in French, probably had both been made exactly alike except for language.

Considerable interest was stirred up by a quartet of female laborers who are working around the village. They are doing common labor on the roads and streets like you would find the county prisoners doing back home. Since they are young, good-looking and female they draw quite an audience around the construction. Any construction job draws a crowd, but over here it takes girls to bring out the on-lookers. Naturally we were curious to know what it is about, and the foreman, or guard spoke French so enquiries were made. It seems that when the Germans were here they conscripted a labor battalion of women, so now they have made them into a four girl labor battalion to rebuild the streets of the town. One of the boys tried to get pictures of them working but they would not let him take the picture.

I had occasion to look over the official records of a local engineer office, and I was rather amused to note that business had gone on as usual right through the war with the simple change in language twice, once when the German's came and once when they were out. It is a strange war, I am often puzzled myself to know what it is all about, and only hope that I can soon come home where things are simple.

I have noticed where you were worried about my suffering from cold and other discomforts, frankly for me I have not been, nor do I expect to be subjected to any greater personal discomfort this winter than if I were home. Quit your worrying. Of course things are a lot different, I'm lucky to get a bath a month, and those personal things, but we have plenty of warm clothing and food, and usually have warm dry quarters. That was not the case last winter, nor the winter before. It is not the case for a lot of troops this winter, but I expect it to continue to be the case for this unit. For one thing we have learned a lot about how to take care of ourselves, for another we are working with the French, and to a certain extent they regard us as guests, and give us the best.

I really don't expect to be home during this school year, but I feel and think we can hope that I will come home next summer; of course none of us know.

December 15, 1944

The Battalion has another mascot, a little dog that we call Private Snops. We call him Snops because we want him to be absolutely cosmopolitan. You see Snops is the name of a German beverage which is quite the favorite with the boys. I don't think the Germans spell it that way, but that is the way it sounds as near as I can guess it. He is a rather cute little black puppy with white markings. His Mother is an Arab dog which we brought from North Africa, and his father is unknown, but believed to be an Italian.

Private Snops was born in France along with three sisters during a little affair that we were having with the Germans. So Private Snops, born in France, with an Arab mother, and Italian father, is mascot for an American Battalion and a very cosmopolitan dog he is, with his German name.

Private Snops is about 6 inches long, about 3 inches high, and has a head about the size of two fingers doubled up. He can curl up comfortably in the palm of my hand and go to sleep as nice as you please. When we are traveling he usually rides in somebodies shirt pocket, with his head sticking out between the two top buttons of your jacket, just as warm and snug as can be.

We have built him a little red house which is much too big for him, but he will grow into it. It is a nice little house that looks just like the dog houses that you see back home. Private Snops had always been in the habit of sleeping with the First Sergeant, and it took day and night to get him used to his new home, and we seldom let him out in the wide, wide world, but it became essential that he have the equivalent of a doggie tree. We made a tiny box and filled with sand for him, and he started using that right away. In fact we are quite proud of his intelligence, and are thinking of seriously of making him Private First Class.

I know that you would fall in love with Private Snops if you could see him. All the girls go crazy over him. That may be why all the boys like to carry him around in their pocket. I had him in my pocket one day when an old lady happened to spy his head sticking out, and she talked to him for quite a while in German. I don't think he understands German, only French and English. Of course that is hard to say because he seldom does anything you tell him, not even come when you call.

His favorite game is jumping on some sleeping shoulder and biting their nose and ears, he also likes to be treated rough himself. He will race by you for hours if you will just knock his feet out from under him as he comes by so he will roll over. He seems to think it is some game like skipping rope or something.

I will have to close this story for the present on a sad note, Private Snops got fed twice by mistake, and the meal was salty ham, and drank a lot of water, so is not feeling so good now. We all hope he will be feeling better soon.

December 26, 1944

I want to tell you how I spent the holidays, first I have been a busy man. Of course we got a turkey ration, Uncle Sam sees to that as he takes pretty good care of his fighting troops. We have a mess hall, and kitchen combined in an old theater, in this set up here. On Christmas Eve Ann, who I believe I mentioned once before, came around to call on us. In case you have forgotten Ann is one of the few Red Cross girls who actually comes up front. She is a singer who specialized in cute little torch songs, and called for supper then sang to us for a couple hours.

We had the usual pre-Christmas spirits but I was not feeling well so did not indulge. I went to bed quite late after some games and a evening of watching others celebrate and slept till noon the next day.

We had turkey, dressing and cranberries besides all the usual lovely things that go with a Christmas dinner, and parties that night. I did not leave Officers’ quarters all day and had a wonderful time.

December 27, 1944

I like it here in France and as contented as I could possibly be anywhere away from home, and I hope to stay here until I come home.

Poor Snop is sick. He has a cold. He has been gaining and now weighs almost 3 pounds.

It is shocking in a way to think of the poor country children there not having their candy this Christmas. Especially since I feel sure there is plenty over the country. The boys in my section put up a Christmas tree for the kids in the house where they are billeted. They scoured the country for some little trinkets and toys to put under the tree, but were not able to find anything, so they filled three small stockings with G.I. candy. The kids were very pleased, and it was all the Christmas they had. The children are learning to speak French again very well, but some of the older folks have lots of trouble changing from one language to another.

Usually it is wrong to send a soldier something that he does not specifically request, and some times its wrong to send it even then. One of our G. I's., heard a rumor that we were not going to be issued overshoes. He wrote to his Dad to send him a pair, and he sent the boy his only overshoes because he was unable to buy them. In the meantime the Army issued such as Shoe Packs, which is a new device that is much more suitable than overshoes. Now the boy is sending the overshoes back and probably next spring his Dad will get them, and in the mean time what will his Dad do, catch cold and so on. It all goes to show Uncle Sam gives us what we should have, and they should not have anything else.

I heard today officially that I am entitled to wear the "Croix de Guerre" with the Gold Star, because of decoration of the entire Battalion by the French Army when we were in Italy.

January 1, 1945

The weather now is certainly no boon to health either there or here, but frankly you are having more snow than we are, but I hope it is not as cold there.

January 8, 1945

The papers exaggerate until you can get no true picture. When they say things are good, just think they probably are not too good, and when they say things are bad they are not too bad. Actually I don't notice any great difference, total casualties are about the same either way.

January 12, 1945

I was thinking of things that happen, little inconsequential things. One time in Italy I was billeted in a house, along with part of my section. The family that lived in the house were right nice people, I believe I told you something about them before. Anyhow they had invited us up to their part of the house for a sort of a party. There were strict orders out that every man had to wear his helmet, and naturally I was enforcing the order, so a lot of German planes came over, and everybody went out on the porch to watch. They started strafing and bombing, and I noticed that some of my men did not have their helmets, neither did I, nor the Colonel. I went and got the Colonels and mine, and told the men to go get their helmets. Lena, one of the older girls hearing me tell the men to wear their helmets, and seeing me put mine on said "What about me?" Well what about it, I had not given her a thought. I could not provide her with a helmet, and why should I. The men are my responsibility, they had helmets and civilians just have to take it. But I felt kind of ungallant. What would you have done?

The New Year has started well, I spent the New Years day, by first taking the best bath I could get with the facilities available. Next I called on some Doctor friend who had received a quart of whiskey from home. It was shipped to him by a friend in a hospital who had put it in a medicine bottle, and marked it medicine. We topped off the day with a big turkey dinner. You see I faired pretty good.

You must be having a very severe winter back home. It is cold here too. The snow never melts, and the temperature is holding around 10 above zero, but I have a nice warm billet.

January 15, 1945

Patricia's watch is a genuine Swiss movement, built in Switzerland and I bought it direct from the factory, I'll have to wait to give details on that after I get home, naturally I can not give them now.

Things have been so dull lately that I can hardly think of anything worth while to write about. I have a slight head cold I tried to sleep off, but guess it isn't too bad after all. I think it is the weather more than anything else. I hate the long dark evenings. By the time you get this it will be starting to stay light a little longer, and that will be a big help. Maybe we will be able to come home to a beautiful spring. Let us not raise false hopes.

January 20, 1945

Enclosed you will find the citation, mentioned in my correspondence which you asked me to send you. What I am sending is actually the first sheet of the mimeographed copy that was released to the press. The succeeding sheets carried the roster of the battalion at the time covered by the citation. I understand that the Office of Awards and Citations, (America) has ruled that this citation entitles all members of the battalion to wear the Croix de Guerre, after the citation has been passed by Congress. Of course as you know all foreign citations must be approved by congress.

Copy of the Citation - The 1st Field Artillery Observation Battalion received the following citation from the French Expeditionary Corps: July 22, 1944, Corps Expeditionnaire France, General Juin, Commandant of the Corps Expeditionnaire Francais cites: By Order of the Army Corps, The 1st Field Artillery Observation Battalion, U. S. Army. Outstanding Unit of Observation and Ranging. Under the command of Colonel G. D. Ellerson, F. A. for relentless pursuing of the enemy through the winter campaign on heights covered with snow and rain at Monna Casale and Monna Acquafondata; their sound and flash posts furnished throughout the day and night, the essential information for counterbattery work.

Since the 11th May 1944, they have furnished to the Artillery of the Corps Expeditionnaire Francais an exact topography, locations by sound and flash of numerous enemy material and movements, with an admirable spirit and much hard work, in spite of losses of personnel and equipment.

This Citation bestows the privilege of the Croix de Guerre with Gold Star.

January 23, 1945

Enclosed you will find a press release which was given to each of us by our commander for mailing to our local papers. I filled in my name in the blank space. It actually is not news, at least not recent news, it appeared originally in a Burlington, Ala., newspaper.

ENEMY ARTILLERY IS KNOCKED OUT BY ACCURATE OBSERVATION, SIXTH ARMY GROUP, France--Special to the Press--David M. Whipp, Major is a member of the First Field Artillery Observation Battalion in this area, an outfit that has proven its efficiency in battles.

Artillery barrage preparations that opened the French First Army's drive along the Swiss border to the Rhine smashed and neutralized enemy artillery and fortifications in the Belfort Gap region.

The planning that directed that barrage and the location of the German guns that were smashed before they could hinder the drive was just a part of the day's work for the battalion, which is working with the French First Army in France.

Using "sound and flash" methods, the soldiers of this battalion located enemy batteries accurately and quickly. When it was time for the drive to start, American and French artillerymen, working side-by-side, quickly smashed the enemy's big guns.

"One story of how effective our location was is that an enemy battery fired a couple of rounds to show an inspecting German staff how good they were," Major Ewel J. Morris, Jr., Sylacauga, Ala., battalion commander, explained, "but no sooner did they fire than we replied. Our location had been perfect and the Yank shells landed right on the target and wiped out the battery and the visitors."

The battalion commander went on to explain that their job is to "gather information to neutralize enemy artillery activity during the critical phase of operations, and to supply survey for artillery."

The battalion has been in the line continuously, except for periods of moving to new positions, since December 1942, reportedly longer than any other American unit since 1865.

January 28, 1945

Last night we had baked ham for supper. For some reason they don't seem to ever bake the ham long enough, and it was very tough. However I guess I should not complain, we understand that civilians can't ever get ham, tough or otherwise. I hope that things are not as bad for you as we are led to believe, however I do know that you are short of cigarettes, I wonder why?

The dentist in our unit now went to school with Jim Easton; give me the news of him so I can tell the dentist here as he has asked so many questions about Jim.

I suppose one should not be jealous, but it seems to me that the Air Corps has its nerve, only asking its men to fly a certain specified number of missions. As though one could measure the amount that his share of the war effort amounted to. The ground forces are expected to fight until its over, why not the Air Force? And where in H--- do they expect to get their replacements from, with the man power situation the way it is. Of course if I was in the Air Corps I might see it differently, but certainly it seems strange to us here.

January 30, 1945

The weather here is very changeable, it drops down to zero with a foot or more of snow, and then the temperature comes up again, and it all melts. Either way we cuss and blame the weather. I only hope that it starts warming until the snow all melts, and the ground drys out. I dread to think what a freeze and fresh snow would do.

The Officers are all getting in their second childhood. We quarrel like kids over nothing at all, and all of us vow we will not quarrel again. At least we are all efficient in our jobs, and have the best outfit overseas. We do need a separation from each other, but that will come eventually I guess. Seven days together gets very tiring.

I had the pictures that you liked so well around Christmas taken at Montbellard.

Talking of sheets, I bet they feel funny. I hear some people are still using them, I hope to come home and find they are still in use, I never did like blankets instead of sheets.

February 1, 1945

I received your letter including the correct annual statement, and it is surprising how much expenditures have increased over the year before. Of course things are higher, and Patricia is getting larger and her things cost more, but it’s a lot higher.

I did not see Bob Hope in Sicily. He did play near our outfit and a lot of people went, but I had to work that day. The boys in general I talked to did not like him. I was in a hotel in a rear area, as a courier when the armistice with Italy was announced and Al Jolson was there, and he sang a song, but that is the only big name I have seen over seas, and that was not a scheduled performance.

February 7, 1945

I started to write Daddy a letter, and when I realized it I had started a letter off to you instead. I wonder when I get back to the states if I will find myself shaking hands with my mother-in-law, winding up the cat, throwing the clock out of the window, thanking you for the beer you bought me up town, and telling Papa Bean he baked a delicious cake, then proceeding to dig a fox hole in the garden and plan to sleep there.

Last night I had a rather amusing time with the Dentist. We had taken over a house, which of course was strange to him; that was evidently the European idea of modernistic. Any how it was equipped with the latest thing in up to date black out curtains that have a remote control on the inside. In other words you can raise or lower the outside shutter from the inside without opening the window and locks against a straight upward pull, but can easily be pulled straight out to obtain slack to lower the curtains while I light the lights, the first one he struggled and worked, and finally pulled side ways and hard sideways jerk and the strap and all came out of the wall. Finally he got them all lowered and I could not get the lights on, so we went to bed in the dark. The Tooth Mechanic is a simple soul, who was not familiar with modern conveniences nor very mechanically inclined and I was rather amused at his efforts so allowed him to struggle with them for a while.

February 10, 1945

The native Alsacean costume is rather pretty. It reminds me of something that I have seen in history books. They don't wear them except to church, but you never see a woman go to church in anything else. I don't know whether I can describe them to you in a way that will make you see them or not. They wear black head gear, I would not call them hats, which looks something like a combination shawl and nurses hat, such as they wear in the Catholic hospitals. These head ornaments have stiff wings that project on either side, about a foot beyond their head. The dress itself is basically black with rectangular red areas, but the whole thing will be decorated with bright colors of orange or most any other color so long as it is bright. They are very attractive, especially on the young girls. The men do seem to have a special costume, but then I am used to seeing civilians in rags and tatters.

Nobody knows how long it will be. But this we know it won’t be forever, and every day brings us closer together. It will be easier to wait knowing it can't be as long as it has been. Personally I cannot see the end yet; but at least we can hope that it will be soon. We have reached the inner core, and every step is harder than the last, but we will eventually get there.

I noticed in today’s paper, where a chappie who had been over seas 4 years, and got married in England when he first came over, had been separated from his wife 2 1/2 years, and finally got his furlough approved. Then they sent him to the states, so that he did not even get to see his wife on his furlough. Tough break, and plenty of people dying to get that furlough, if I couldn't get anything better. But I sure would hate to leave again. At times I'm afraid that I would not be able to leave, at the end of 30 days.

I was very much surprised yesterday when the Major walked up and called me to attention, and started reading to me, and low and behold I have been awarded the Legion of Merit medal. That is the most coveted medal in the army in my opinion. (copy of the Citations are on the next page, between 57 & 58).

March 8, 1945

A while back I had a few days at a rest camp, I can not tell you when, or where, or for how long I was there, but frankly I was little disappointed. It was new rest camp, and there was very little established yet in the way of entertainment for the Officers, or the men. In the end I had a fairly good time, although the stay was entirely to short. We were the first allotment for this particular rest camp. Everybody spoke French, waiters at the hotel, clerks in the stores, girls at the American Red Cross Club and the ones running the Officers club, and the ones running the Post Exchange could speak no English. At each place there were G. I., interpreters to be used at the business part of our being there. My French has improved immensely, and several officers went with me so that I could do their interpreting for them.

Most of the soldiers at camps like these don't want rest, they want excitement, and entertainment. Dates were made for the officers at their club dances. While at the club I met a French social worker with the rank of Major, she was a motherly old soul and had charge of all the French girls in the sector who work at the hospitals. We sat and talked most of the evening.

The hotel where we stayed had civilian help except for the interpreters, but all the guests were American Officers. The table service was luscious, table cloths, real dishes and silverware, but the food was the same old G. I. chow. All the waitresses were girls dressed in blue dresses, white aprons and each one was compelled to wear stockings.

We had hot water mornings for bath at 6, then breakfast at 7, and I got up every morning to enjoy that hot bath, that is my favorite luxury. I was located near the top floor with the General and other high rank, and when some one couldn't work the self operating elevator we had to walk up and down.


March 9, 1945

I saw a trellis for hop vines the other day, and it was the first time that I knew what they were. They are peculiarly constructed things, built by using about 20 foot poles for supports and stringing wire from the top of the poles in kind of a new [editor’s note: ?]. There are no vines on the trellis now, and I don't know what they look like but they must be rapid-growing like beans. And now I remember when we were in England it was quite a chore getting people from the city to come out into the country to gather the hops.

- Top of Page -




Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

Privacy Policy | Disclaimer