Posted by: notsofancynancy | October 3, 2013

World War II, chapter 84, The “Nunnery”

World War II

Chapter 84

The Nunnery

The "Nunnery" at Meria Laach

The “Nunnery” at Meria Laach Courtesy of Wikipedia

It has been a month and a half since VE-Day and Dad still has no concrete orders to go home but he sure is busy driving all over Germany and Belgium. At least he can talk about it now that the censoring has been lifted.  There is some really great information in the letters now.

28 May, Germany

My Darlings, Well honey I didn’t write last night. Was in Belgium as a matter of fact I just got back from there. Was in a rest camp last night. Boy what a place. The town we were in had a big Red Cross and they had a dance. Need I say more. Boy that’s the first dance I had been to since we left England. I didn’t forget all I knew but I was sure rugged at it. Had a good time even if I couldn’t talk to them. They dance almost like we do only have a little more jump to it. After I got to bed last night I was still jumping. The dance was over at eleven and was I worn out drove all day and then that. Well was lots worse today. Drove back and here we are (NO MAIL) Gosh honey I should be in bed. So perhaps this won’t be so bad. Guess I kinda got balled up on my dates –huh- no Apr. 31. Better luck next time. Didn’t look it up and after all 31 comes after 30 so I put that. By Gosh I am going to finish this tomorrow. I’m tired now.

29 May, written on same page

Here it is tomorrow and I’m about to finish all this. Boy did it rain a while ago. Was up working on my truck and it started raining and I quit. Well it stopped almost now. Have another trip tomorrow. Don’t know where. Turned down one to Holland. Would have left this morning at 4. And by Gosh I didn’t get up until 8. And sure hated that. I imagine tomorrow night will be the same only then I’ll be on guard. Say on those last pictures that middle one sure is a dinger. I like it best of any yet. In fact if you have any enlarged have that one. Don’t send it to me now though. Just save it. I’ll come and get it sometime. Boy here I’ve been two days trying to write a letter to you but all I can say is I love you. I love you my Darlings I love you so much honey I love you my darlings I love you honey I love you I love you Mommie. All my love Darlings, Lefty

31 May, Recklinghausen, Germany

My Darlings, Gee honey here it is 4:30 and I’m writing you again. Should be sleeping cause I’m awful sleepy. But am on guard and have to have something to do. And can’t think of anything better. I was down through Cologne & Aachen again yesterday.  It wasn’t a bad ride but sure did beat me out. The roads have been bombed and shelled so much they just aren’t roads in some places. Just filled craters. And boy are they rough. Its only about 115 miles down there and boy it’s a five hour drive.

This is a great clue to how challenging the drive was and one of the few things I remember Dad saying about the war.  How rough the roads were and how beat up they got driving. I don’t think I realized that it was because there were so many bomb craters though.

 I haven’t gotten any mail since I got all of those letters from you. I wish they would come more regular and not so bunched up. Don’t help my morale on the days I don’t get any and boy do I need helping then. Oh! Well they are coming. It wasn’t so bad today. Didn’t rain to[sic] much and did that after I got home . So can’t complain. Boy this country and Calif must be about  alike it rains enough. I saw something today. A Highland Band skirts and all. They weren’t half bad either. Some look funny in those skirts. But I guess they are about the roughest toughest fighters England had.  Boy I’ll bet Dolores isn’t going to like moving back into those barracks. Man that won’t be quite so nice. At least I don’t think so. It sure doesn’t seem that Mary Lynn is old enough to be rolling over or almost crawling as you say. Guess she is though. Man I’m getting old fast. Uncle Sam you better send me home or send me a cane. I had an MP escort into Dusseldorf today. Guess 40 is fast in a 25 mile zone. They didn’t say anything just drove in front of us for quite a ways. And then they turned and we didn’t. Sure had me worried for while though. Thought he was leading me straight into Summary Court. Had a good Captain though and he was backing me so I didn’t care much. Sure took it easy coming back alone. I had a physical yesterday. They asked me about 4 questions checked my lungs & heart and said A-1 so you see where  I stand.  No honey I was only kidding I have enough points to come home on. I did have a physical though. Didn’t amount to anything though. I guess I’m about ran down Mommie. Its [sic] all to [sic] early in the morning to really think very hard. So I’ll have to quit. I love you my darlings. I love you so much. I love you I love you Mommie I love you so much. All my Love Darlings, Lefty

I have always wondered how Dad got into the Army. He was colorblind and walked with a limp from an injury he sustained when he was a kid. One of his legs was significantly shorter than the other. Maybe back then those things did not matter or Dad knew how to hide them well.

Coblenz, Germany, Courtesy of Marvin Cain's family

Coblenz, Germany, Courtesy of Marvin Cain’s family

2 June, Coblenz, Germany

We’re not in Coblenz but I don’t know where in the hell we are so I’ll say that cause it can’t be over 20 miles away. Anyway we’re in the Coblenz area.  And the 15th Army. And that is the occupation Army. What a life to look forward to. We are here in the mountains in some Nunnery and although its [sic] good for what it means. I sure don’t think its [sic] made for G.I’s. But I didn’t pick it and hope I’m not here long. Here’s the dope. I wrote a couple days ago but since I received two letters and the package. The candy and cookies were really good honey. See I didn’t marry you for the money after all. I knew you could cook. They were really good honey. But I guess you shouldn’t have sent the magazine and funnies because I’ve been reading them and haven’t written. Boy I’m going to be far behind if we ever get anymore mail. The mail didn’t go out yesterday so I didn’t write then. I guess I’m just lazy. Sure can’t say over worked. Only driven about 2,000 miles in the past couple weeks. Not bad. I have a chance of going back [to] Recklinghausen  so I think I’ll take it. It will get me out of these mountains for awhile. Only been here for 5 hours and need to go. I’m glad  you had Mary Lynn baptized. I probably won’t be home before a couple of months and I’m awful bashful anyway. I am glad you did. Oh yes we are near a big lake and could go swimming only an English Bomber was shot down and landed in it and had 4,000 pounds of bombs on it. Besides that it might be mined. Beside that it [is] too damn cold. What a country.  Its [sic] pretty to look at though and I imagine before long some GI will be in it. I love to swim. I love you my darling. I love you so much honey. I love you I love you I love you Mommie. I love you Mary Lynn. All my love Darlings, Lefty (thanks for the package)

Mary Lynn gets Baptized

Mary Lynn gets Baptized

I was able to hunt down the “Nunnery” (convent) and found its real spelling is Maria Laach and there is an Abby there.  I read that instead of trying to lock the place down and keep the Germans and others from damaging it they opened it up to the soldiers. Now a month after D-day and the American’s are now there. Don’t you wonder how these soldiers acted while they were there?  And what did Dad mean by “I sure don’t think its [sic] made for G.I’s?”

Dad Writes

Dad Writes

4 June, Meria Leach [Laach] (Name is printed add photo of ltr 1945 Meria Leach)

My Darlings. Well finally some mail I got your card you sent May 26. It was good. Also got another lesson back. Good also. Got 100 on this one. On the top was written Excellent Paper. Man I’m coming up in this learning. Have No 5 going in now. And I have part of 6 done. Going to have more time now. Making us work more on the trucks and I have mine in pretty good shape so I’ll slip off and read. I hope. Its [sic] good if they don’t catch you. And we have it pretty good here. Have to go back to the Company the 19 and that won’t be so bad. Sure haven’t been doing much. I didn’t go back to Recklinghausen. I had to get up at 3 that morning and go on guard and go to town at 6 after a load of Kraut women we have on K.P. and doing the cooking here. That was Clark’s detail  but he was in bed and I was up because I was on guard so I went. Only about 20 minutes. I didn’t have my truck unloaded either so didn’t care about driving someone elses [sic] that far. Mine is a cab job and his is a soft top and didn’t have the curtain’s on and I stood guard it was plenty chilly. This mountain air is that way. They had a thanksgiving service here V-E day  but I was doing something and missed it. Boy I guess it must have been quite a day out there anyway. Church is the best place to take your troubles away. I’ll bet the folks will miss Mary Lynn when we leave. I know we always missed the kids around home when they had been there for awhile. Boy she has been there a long time too.  We had lettuce for supper. Tasted pretty good. I don’t imagine will have any fresh vegt. over here. Too many people need them worse than we. We are eating ok. I love you my Darling, I love you so much honey. I love you Butch I love you so much I love you I love you I love you Mommie. All my Love Darlings, Lefty

I had not noticed but now that I look back the only time Dad talked about fresh vegetables was when they bought them from the French and Dad and Bob made that delicious rabbit stew.

Marvin Cains Picture of men leaving to go home

Marvin Cain’s Picture of men leaving to go home

7 June, Meria Laach, Germany [Dad has now changed the spelling of Meria Laach]

My Darlings, Well honey its [sic[ 10:30 I’m tired and have to go on guard at 6 in the morning. Haven’t done much today but yesterday was a killer. I did Germany west of the Rhine.  You see Clark  and I left a couple nights ago and went up to Frankfurt and picked up 111,000 newspapers and had to deliver them to the Military Gov. In towns in the Division area. And believe me that was a job. We left Frankfurt yesterday morn at 7:00 and drove until 10:30 last night and we didn’t waste any time. We used two tanks of gasoline and that’s 80 gallons. So you see we didn’t let any grass grow under our feet. We only got rid of 99,000 then we quit. They took the rest out in a command car this morning. I broke a spring in the clutch and drove about the last 150 miles without using one. Boy what a time we had. In Koblenz I backed up to a building and got too close and couldn’t get the truck out of reverse.  And couldn’t move it to get it. So we proceeded to get the Ax out and knock down part of the building so we could move it. If we wanted [it] to start, [we] had  to turn the motor off and put it in gear and start the motor that way. What a time were we ever tired last night. We sure saw some nice country though and crossed the Moselle River on a ferry. I think it was the Moselle. I’ve done about everything now. From hauling dead to newspapers. We sure have a variety over here.  Want a drink of wine. We got 4 qts apiece yesterday and I’ve been setting here drinking it and have almost gotten a buzz on. I got two letters from you today one from Mom and one from the church. Yesterday I got one from Harold and Rosa. Dad got my guns. We’ll go hunting now honey. Boy we’ll have one for Mary Lynn too. I love you my Darling I love you so much honey. I love you I love you I love you my Darling. All my love, Lefty

I think this statement is all too telling: “From hauling dead to newspapers. We sure have a variety over here.” That is the statement that haunts me. How many dead did they have to haul? I know there were a lot of casualties in this war but I don’t think I ever thought about how they got our fallen soldiers home. Someone had to transport them and it was up to the Quartermasters to get them home.  What I hear in that statement it must have been a quite easy some days and horrifying on others.

9 June, Meria Laach, Germany

My Darlings, Here we go again. The beer didn’t cause so much trouble this morning the Lt. came in took about two good whiffs and says I guess we better leave this door open for awhile.  Then shot the bull for about an hour. He is a pretty good Joe. Wish he was in the Company. I guess we wasted a couple gallons at least of the 16 gallon keg we had.  Its [sic] all gone now except just a little. Have to tip the keg to get any out. Oh well we’ll get another one soon. Still have about 6 qts of wine and some champagne left. Man we have had more to drink around here lately. I guess the Company has too cause they seem to be having their troubles too. They have to be in bed at eleven and lights out now. Too many turning up at sick call with black eyes. Its [sic] hard on trucks too. (Believe me)

Wait! Is this a hint that Dad did some damage to a truck while drinking? But seriously I can understand the black eyes. It is now one month after VE-Day and these guys have no word on when they will be going home. You add some beer to that frustration and you have a company of drunken mad soldiers. That could not have been pretty.

Gosh honey I’ve had hopes of getting started home this month but I’m not sure. The quota just doesn’t seem to be coming down. Perhaps next month. Who Knows?? Sure wish they would get back from the Company with the Mail. And I’m hoping I have some. I’m about out of something to write. Bob sure has been sweating out his points. He only has 80 but with the two battle stars we are to get makes 90. You see we have 3 now and are suppose [sic] to get 5. If  S.H.A.E.F. [Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force] agrees. And I think they will. In time they will lower the points so he’ll get home anyway. Only this way it will be sooner and that’s good. Clark only has about 58 with the two extra stars. He has had quite a time too. His dad died and now they are having quite a time at home. He seems to be going to stay in the Army though. Says he is. By God I’m not. I’m just hoping I stay up here until they call that quota to go home. If I get back to the Co. I’ll tangle asses with someone. And probably still be a Pvt. Well Darling I love you. I love you so much honey. I love you sweetheart. I love you I love you I love you my darlings. I love you Mommie. All my love, Lefty

2nd Platoon Leader Lieutenant Warren C. Smith

2nd Platoon Leader Lieutenant Warren C. Smith

It was very hard for me to figure out exactly what the S.H.A.E.F. did but the following was taken from The National Archives.

During 1944-1945 operated SHAEF Missions that were established in liberated nations to represent the Supreme Allied Commander and to maintain contact with these countries without interfering with military operations. These missions were located in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway. As combined organizations they were disbanded in July 1945 with the termination of SHAEF, but as national missions some of them continued as late as 1947.

9 June, Germany

My Darlings, Here I am again honey. Gosh it seems I never get to write to you before 10 and it is almost eleven now. I went for a walk tonight walked about 5 miles. Sure is nice country to see around here reminds one of Calif. And it wasn’t bad walking cool and nice. It doesn’t get dark here until eleven so we haven’t anything much to do anyway. Eleven is nothing to get dark though. I’ve seen it light at two. One night on the boat coming over it was light at 2, dark at three and light again at 4. We got quite a bang out of that. In England we had to blackout the windows to go to sleep. That was rough. Just before we came over here we made use of those light hours. We were working from light to dark waterproofing our trucks. And when we did come over drove right up to the beach and drove off in only about 2 ½ feet of water that was only about 6 feet wide. We didn’t mind a bit though. Didn’t want to get wet anyway. Well by Gosh I got started on how dark it got and didn’t get I guess [???] I better get down to the news. What news? They just came in with a keg of beer and now have to figure out how to get it up to the third story. And those are high stairs too. Besides that we only have half of the spicket [sic] to put in it. Guess we’ll just have to drink wine and champagne tonight (all we have on hand) Its [sic] bed time honey so I better stop and go to bed. I love you my Darling. I love you so much honey. I love you I love you my darlings. I love you sweetheart. I love you. All my love, Lefty

That must have been a crazy time for our soldiers. Getting adjusted to the time difference as well as it being light at different hours seems like a dream for those of us in the States. This is the only time my father mentions the boat going over.  The 35th Quartermaster sailed on the SS Thomas H. Berry departing the states on the 12 May 1944 and arrived in Bristol, England on 6 July 1944. My father and his division have been overseas one month short of a year. His daughter is now four months old and he has only seen pictures of her. How long until his number comes up and he gets that magical ticket home?

Harmon D. Clark, Robert “Bob” Winter, Marvin Cain, Warren C. Smith

© 2013 notsofancynancy

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Responses

  1. So interesting to get names of places now. It must have been a long hard wait to go home.

    • It really must have been hard on all of the men waiting to be sent home but you can really “feel” how it felt through Dad’s words.

  2. It’s so interesting to see places I know with your dad’s eyes. Thanks for sharing his letters with me.

    • That is so awesome! I wish I could see those places through your eyes! lol If you have present day pictures of these places I would LOVE to have some IF I can get this published.

      Only two chapters left I can’t believe it is almost over. It has taken me almost two years to get here from the time I got the letters until now. It has been comments like yours that has gotten me this far. Thank you for your support.

  3. I was visiting friends last week–acquaintances from Air Force duty in Germany. “Wally,” my friend’s wife is German, grew up near Frankfurt in the late 50’s –early 60’s. She related a story about playing in the woods near Moerfelden (a suburb) and finding buried rations hidden by American GI’s. According to her, the rations were still in good shape. Also, she showed me her grandfather’s military passport–he was a German soldier. Thought you might find these things interesting.

    • Wow! That is very interesting. I am working on a re-write getting Dad’s story ready to send to a publisher and I was just reading about MRE’s. He is eating a candy bar that should take you all day to eat. I find it fascinating she found them buried. And awesome about the passport. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. It was interesting reading about Coblenz – my cousin lives there today. We visited once when I was a teenager and it is the most beautiful part of Germany, of coarse I am sure your dad thought otherwise since I believe it was one of the areas that were bombed extensively.

    • Wow thanks for the interesting comment. Interesting how paths cross, eh?

      • It sure is, wish your father could have seen it post war Germany – it is a very beautiful area.

      • I am not sure he would have wanted to, too many bad memories. But maybe it would have healed old wounds.

      • I am sure. We can never understand what they went through.

      • So true, we will never know.

  5. Better late than never once again… 🙂

    If you haven’t looked into this, The Quartermasters were charged with transporting the dead; specifically, there was a Graves Registration Company. They had a manual on such duties (FM 10-63). I am unclear on how Lefty’s unit got involved or the extent but likely, there were just too many fallen in number to be retrieved and transported just via the GRC personnel. However, it is also known that African-American soldiers were left to actually pick up (handle) the located remains.

    Hopefully, Lefty’s horror was limited to transporting them to a site specified by the GRC.

    Here are a couple of links:

    https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTLE69ph82779DG6hVHqLmkhQsChF9FI6xXzbUklR-yZXKkj0fITOFKsw

    • Thanks! I will check it out! Happy New Year!

  6. Nancy, here is more detailed info:

    http://www.med-dept.com/grs.php


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