1 January, 1945
Somewhere in France
Little did I realize a year ago that I would be celebrating the New Yearís Day in France or Christmas in England, but Uncle Sam has his little surprises. By the time you receive this letter you should have received the V-mail I wrote while on the boat coming across the English Channel. I carried that letter around in my pocket for two days before getting a chance to mail it. What a life.
I think Iíve told you about my quarters while I was in England so Iíll write a few lines about the trip over here and life in general. We didnít stay in England long enough to have our baggage catch up with us so we had to be issued new bedding rolls and be thankful for that much. All the "little comforts of home" are still in my footlocker and other bedding roll which are probably stored in England - my knife (Dad made), camera, razor blades, extra clothing, etc. were in my baggage left behind. Iíll get it sometime but for now I have to be content with what few things I have in my Muskette bag (pack) and ml little hand bag. My entire clothing outfit consists of a pair of O.D. trousers and shirt, 6 pair socks, 3 cotton suits underwear and 1 wool, 1 pair shoes and leggins, field jacket, gloves, scarf and overcoat and hat. To top all this, I have my green blouse and trousers and shirt - which I cannot use because thereís no place to go where I need to dress up. However, I have requisitioned some new clothing and hope to get it someday. But enough of that.
We left our camp in England after having been alerted only a very few hours and took a train ride to the coast where we met the boat. At the time we thought the English trains were uncomfortable but latter discovered how lucky we were to be able to ride on them. After living in cold and taking a not-too warmish train ride in England, we were mighty thankful when we finally went aboard the ship headed this direction. There the food and quarters were good and we enjoyed the short trip.
Once we landed in France we realized more so just what was ahead of us. After landing on a dock we marched what was supposed to be three miles but what seemed ten, and all the way uphill, to a transient camp run by the army, to spend the remainder of the night trying to keep warm in a wall-type tent, like you used in Panama, Dad. The next day we boarded the train, like the slow train through Arkansas, for the interior. Lucky as I was there were only 35 others in the box car with me - you know, the 40et8 type of World War I - so we werenít to crowded. That night we were piled like cordwood on the floor, each trying to find a comfortable position and succeeding only in making someone else uncomfortable. That train seemed to stop at every little road crossing and village; the train commander couldnít tell the engineer a thing to keep the train going - all we could do
was wait and hope we arrived someplace, sometime - and we finally did. We passed through LeHavre and Paris and passed areas which had nearly been flattened by the war. The production area of these places, especially LeHavre were fairly well cleaned out by bombing as were many of the bridges we crossed on - but in most places it is difficult to say what buildings have or have not been subjected to war, so I guess the French havenít lost much in the way of so-called buildings after all.
The camp where we are quartered now is almost luxurious compared to other places. I live in what might be called a chateau, but what was at one home the home of a rich family. There is one large building used for enlisted menís barracks and another for company offices sand supply rooms downstairs, officerís quarters upstairs. I have a S.E. corner room with three others which overlooks the courtyard and a small canal about 200 feet away. One thing I am really thankful for is the fireplace. - which I wasnít lucky enough to have in England. Some rooms have sinks with running water (which freezes up occasionally) so we are really fortunate. Our bunks arenít the best - but we are happy to have them in preference to the ground or box car floors. Incidentally, the inside dimensions of those cars are L-23 Ď9", W-7í7", H-6í5", so you can imagine how little room we really had.
But now we are here and quite a ways from the front - a long time away the rate weíve been going. Iím still in an officerí pool; awaiting assignment so I havenít any idea what kind of assignment Iíll get.
Oh, yes, I nearly forgot. This companyís officersí mess is in a hotel in a small village near here. We eat regulation army chow but pay 10 francs (20 cents) per day for extra service -table cloth, table waiters, etc. so the total is about 95 cents. The food is good so Iím satisfied for awhile. This evening we are having turkey for supper. Some treat.
Well, Iíll close for now so Iíll have more to write later, which Iíll do soon. Happy New Year to all of you; and give my regards to all my friends. Write soon.