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Southern France

August 20, 1944

My efforts to learn more French in the last few days have been through some lessons from a Baron's daughter. She is a funny little girl.

August 24, 1944

We have been pretty busy, but I hope that it means the war is nearing a close. I am a little pessimistic about an early finish, although I don't see where Germany can think she has a chance, and believe she will quit, but not this year.

Southern France is a beautiful country. The mountains remind me considerably of West Virginia. You can drive for miles in a canyon very similar to Mechanicsburg Gap. The forest is composed of pines, corks and chestnut. There are of course other types in small quantities. The cork trees are very interesting, they grow to be about 500 years old and they cut the cork off of them every ten years. The cork is fairly expensive, and the estates make fairly good living from the sale of cork. The chestnut that is the fruits are not as good as we have there at home, they are larger and can't be eaten raw. The people here are much cleaner than the Italian people, but the French Officers say they are not as nice as the people further north, because they have so much Italian blood in them. They hate the Germans and some of the things that I have seen them do to the Germans would make your hair crawl.

It is so hot here that it is impossible to sleep at nights. I try not to complain about the heat though, because it is so unpleasant in the winter.

Today I got a hair cut in a barber shop, and while I was waiting my turn a little girl, which I learned later was his child, came in. I gave her a stick of chewing gum, she took it and left right away, all the girls are like that, give them anything and they won't stay and talk, right home they go.

We are having hot bread tonight that a French woman baked for us, and it sure looks good.

It is impossible to buy eggs in France like we did in Africa and Italy. The people do not look to be as bad off as I expected, but they don't seem to have too much. I hope that we take care of the civilian supply better here than we did in Italy. Of course the operation of the Army comes first, and must, but it is difficult to get along with a starving population.

If the home front will only put out their share of the work and materials of all kind, we are sure to handle the rest over here.

August 29, 1944

We have been having a wonderful time celebrating the fall of Marseille. Last night we attended parties at three different houses, and today again we have several invitations. The honeymoon will soon be over and we will have to go back to work, but in the meantime we are enjoying it.

I notice Frances says Bill Mauldin cartoons appear in one of her daily papers. I think he is the best cartoonist of the war, of course I know him may be the reason.

I met a man the other day that you may know; the name was Raymond, and he writes articles for the Saturday Evening Post. He was trying to hitch-hike into Toulon. I took him as far as our C.P., and fed him, but the Colonel said it would be impossible for me to take him all the way. He said that we were the most forward element of American soldiers, and that he would mention us in his article. He took our pictures and addresses, in fact he took so many it would fill a book and I know he won't publish all of them.

Several days later I had a rather interesting experience. Four of us Officers and eleven men from our outfit were wandering around in the mountains north of Toulon, trying to get observation, when two of the Officers, and nine of the men came onto a company of German infantry rather suddenly. They had been hiding in the woods and watching us and wondering how many there were. Our unit took all of them prisoner, and we marched them back to prison camp.

It was rather interesting the way the argument was, the German Colonel was holding his gun on our Lt., and our Lt. was holding his gun on the German Colonel, each saying you are out- numbered and surrounded, put down your gun and I won't hurt you. But our Lt. outstared the German Colonel and we, the other Captain and myself were a little ways off, and did not know anything about it, but we were called on to help march the prisoners back to camp. It was really a collection of rank we took, and they also had some of our American prisoners that they had taken earlier in the day, one of them wounded. When we marched them through the town the civilians wanted to tear them apart. They offered the guards wine and the girls wanted to hang on our necks, but they would not even give the Germans a drink of water. I thought the Germans acted very human, but I was damn glad I was guarding them instead of them guarding me.

The French seem mighty glad to see us, but frankly say that we have been slow in starting; however, they seem to think we are going like a house afire now.

I seem to have fairly good luck at meeting important people. Today I met a French Count, who was a member of the French Parliament before this war. He was also a Captain in the infantry during the last war. He has turned his castle into a refugee camp for his friends and relatives in Marseille and he invited some of us to have a drink of wine and conversation; he speaks American, but some of his refugees speak only French.

I had a wonderful time, but sure wish it was over and we were headed home.

September 2, 1944

The war has been moving along nicely, and I have not been working nearly so hard as I had before. I don't think that we can quite coast to the finish, but the rest of it is going to be more pleasant. For one thing the civilians now are definitely friendly, and you don't have to wonder if they are just licking your boots because you are top dog. The French civilians who were friendly with the Germans while the men are not marked so definitely, they are shunned by the other civilians, and you get told quickly if you speak with one.

The head shavings are quite an affair, usually executed unofficially by French soldiers in the public square, and attended by the entire population. The finished product is the most peculiar looking thing you ever saw.

Another trip through the mountains of France today, and the scenery as I have said before is simply beautiful. It reminded me of the mountains of California, in the section I drove today. It was more wooded and a little more dense than those of West Virginia. The road looked in places as though it had been hewn from solid rocks.

I had the pleasure of meeting some more important people today and extremely friendly. He was head of the establishment and is ex-senator of the French Government. He has as refugees in his castle a family who is or was the representative for the Cooks tours. The man was an infantry Captain in the last war, and his sister married an American. Their address I have and is in Hollywood, California. He asked me if I would get in touch with his family and let them know that he was all right and find out how they were as there has been no civilian correspondence for two years.

Apparently there are no peanuts or word for them in French; the Count did not know what they were even when I showed him some.

September 6, 1944

I am sending you some perfume which was given me be a Frenchman who claims to be the leading perfume manufacturer in France. He has store in Marseille that extends from street to street, and is several floors high and devoted entirely to the retail sale of perfume. He says he has 17 factories in France and many others in the Orient.

His wife is a red-headed woman of possibly 35, and who is very attractive. We were quartered near them for one day some time ago and they invited the Officers of the battalion to their house for a party, and all enjoyed it very much. They served quite a few drinks, food is scarce and served very little of that. The drinks that they served were the best that could be obtained in all of France. There have been a lot of parties lately, we even gave one, and really we over did it inviting people so there would be enough to dance with. Everybody invited some one else and we had more than we could get in the dance hall at a time, but the refreshments held out all right and there was plenty for all. However the fun must end some time, and I fear we will soon be back to work, that thug Hitler doesn't know when he is licked so guess we will have to show him.

September 9, 1944

I am stuck at every turn by the beauty of France, and her tragedy; it is a country of love and beauty, that knows how to enjoy life, surrounded by people who are jealous of her joy, and not knowing how to enjoy life seem bent on preventing France from enjoying life by the frequent attempts to take from her the little that she has.

Last night I went to town, and had a steak dinner. It was delicious. The first course was soup, the next fried mushrooms and steak, and then we had cheese. The cheese was grand, and fruits. The wine selection was superb, and right now we are passing through the heart of the best wine country in France.

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