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First Letter from Germany

Thursday, March 22, 1945............................ My dearest Jo, Mother and Dad, and Billy Boy........ This will have to be a joint letter because of the blue envelope. I have so much to write about tonight, for a change, that I hardly know where to begin, and I must say that I am practically brimming over from my trip. It is good to get away on new experiences every once in a way. Today I have had an education, thrilling, experience, and refreshing adventure. It was my good fortune to accompany the major on a jeep journey which covered much of the Army front and including an excursion into the "holy German soil". We took off in a whirl of dancing, grayish-brown Alsacian dust which rose from the roads and drifted over the winding Saar Valley like an early morning fog. The sun was warm and friendly as we zipped up and over the rolling hills of this quaint land. We came into towns which had been taken only yesterday and still held scattered groups of Nazi left-overs waiting to be captured, but we didn't have the time nor the space for prisoners, so we cocked our rifles and went on along. Let someone else bring them in. There are too many to bother about now, and most of them are harmless and happy to be out of it all. We crossed the Saar into Germany at Saarbrucken, the great old industrial city which is the hub of the Saar Basin. My first view of Saarbrucken took me back to the ruins of Normandy. If the greatest city of the Saar Basin is any indication of the condition of the Heine cities, then we have only heaps of rubble to look at during the coming months. Hardly a building remains untouched by the big sticks of war. Most of the edifaces are only shells, only the four walls facing each other desolately, mournfully, and significantly. Many streets are blocked off, for there is no route past the mass of debris. What once served as a great railway station sprawls out over a block or two, like a giant Humpty-Dumpty. The place is truly a mess, and how it can be rebuilt in even a few years is a mystery to me. Herded along the river bank at the entrance to Saarbrucken were thousands of polygot people. We could not imagine what it all meant until later. Then, we saw them marching up the street, these Poles, Russians, Hungarians, Italians, Roumanians, Slovaks, and members of every race in Europe. These had been the slave laborers of the Nazis, gathered from the conquered territories of the Continent. What a sorry looking lot! The procession was endless. The marchers were of all ages, both sexes. They walked, staggered, rode nags, drove in wagons, rode bicycles. Costumes of many countries were represented. Some carried flags, and prominent among these was the huge red banner which bore the hammer and sickle of Russia. Some were wounded. We almost hit a young fellow on a bike who was trying desperately to balance himself and carry his belongings on the handlebar with his one good arm. It is a picture I shall never forget, this stream of frayed humanity picking the way to whatever lies ahead. Over in front of a wrecked brewery, men wearing grey-green uniforms were drunk and drinking. The whole place was being looted from bottom to top. It must have been like this during the French Revolution, on a larger scale. Anyway, people were grabbing everything they could lay their hands on and were dragging whatever they could find to whatever place they called home. G.I.s in opera hats and carrying canes were ransacking the stores and doing all right from what I could judge. G.I.s were riding bicycles, motorcycles, and even late model autos. There was no order, but there had been little time for it. Yesterday, Saarbrucken belonged to the enemy. And then there are the caves. The city nestles down along a narrow valley which is surrounded by steep hills, and in these hills the Germans had ingeniously constructed huge caves in which the people lived and worked. About every half a block was an entrance to one of the caves. These underground hideouts are tremendous places, impossible to imagine. But the caves did not save the city for the Germans, who know now that we come as "conquerors, not as friends". I also visited Sarreguemines, a rather large city on the French side of the river and Kleinbittersdorf, which lies in Germany. There was celebration in Alsace today with the announcement that all the province is now free. The last Germans made a hurried exit yesterday. Today the flag of France hung from the windows all along the roads. In this town, our G.I. band paraded at 6 o'clock tonight, followed by a group of children carrying and waving their miniature Tri-Colors. Even the lady in whose house we stay celebrated. She gave us two bottles of cider. All is going well as usual with me except that I have an excessive amount of work to do, with the result that my eyes are being strained. Unless I get additional help, I think I'll ask for another assignment. I almost forgot to tell you that Marlene Dietrick is here for a series of shows. She put on one show today (which I didn't see) and dined with the general. Tomorrow she is to stage two more shows, and I expect to see one of them. I understand she refused to appear unless "proper" accomodations were provided. Such accomodations "must" include a first class hotel with running water, and hot water must be provided upon demand. She must have a permanent building, not tent, a wood floor, etc. and etc. For my part, I would have told her to run and jump into the Channel. I hope this letter has entertained and enlightened you more than my former ones. I do miss all of you very much and wish I could be there with you right now. I can scarcely wait to see what that little Billy Boy looks like, and whom he looks like. Jo, your ideas on most things are constructive and sensible. I hope I get home soon to help you carry them out. I can do a great deal more than I could in pre-Pearl Harbor days. I can hardly wait until we take our vacation together. I shall spend the rest of my life making you happy. I hope this trouble of yours is nothing serious. If so, I must know about it at once. Take good care of yourself, and don't lift anything that is heavy. That is an order from a sergeant, so take heed. Tell mother and dad how much I enjoy their letters, too, and that I appreciate all they are doing for our son. The hour groweth so late that I find myself nodding toward that khaki sack in which I place my weary head at night. So goodnight. Lovingly, Walter

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