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25 December 1944
Christmas Day in Belgium
My Adorable Darling,
Sweetheart, I love you and miss you like mad on this Christmas Day. We had a very elegant Christmas [D]ay dinner—turkey and all the trimmings. Despite the fact that we had moved so rapidly, it’s truly remarkable that we have the chow that we do.
Well, here’s the long letter that I promised you. By now you have read the headlines in all the papers and have learned of the great enemy counter-offensive which I’m sure will be crushed completely before long.
I had heard on the radio, etc. that they were making gains in Belgium, but I never realized that they had gained the actual proportions that they did, so before we knew it we were on our way to Belgium to stop the bastards, er, pardon me. Let me tell you that never in all my life did I see such a concentration of U.S. personnel and material coming to help the threatened area. It was amazing and thrilling all at the same time.
We arrived in this Belgian town and I got most of the outfit set up in homes of civilians. You should have seen these Belgian people—they were panic-stricken. They were under the impression that we were retreating American troops and so they immediately started to pack their bundles and evacuate the town. They told me that the Nazis warned them that if any Belgian boys or men were found when they returned, they would cut off the hands of all civilians found. It was a truly tragic sight to see the young kids taking off to the forests and their mothers crying and waving them good-bye. I mean it when I say that the United States doesn’t know what it means to despise and hate the Germans.
This letter may be incoherent but you’ll have to forgive the ramblings, darling.
Yes, we had all kinds of experiences. Here’s one that was a pain in the neck. I got a place for Haygood, Shelton & myself in a house since Doc had to remain at a First Aid station that we set up. We also billeted some of the men in a large barn adjoining the house. Shelton and I were talking sometime later when a soldier came up to us and told us that the house in which we were staying was on fire. It seems that some of the soldiers had been smoking and had dropped their butts in hay of the barn starting the fire! Already I envisioned total loss of my sleeping bag and contents –a mighty loss in these parts. We dashed over immediately and found the barn blazing and home burning but all our equipment had been removed and all the furniture had been removed.
Using my very commanding [F]rench , I got all the civilians to form a bucket brigade to fight the fire—the barn was totally burned down but the home was scorched pretty bad. I’m trying to get some compensation for her from the civil affairs.
Imagine the moral integrity of the people around here who steal some of the possessions of a stricken person. The woman later told me that many of her possessions which were carried out of the burning house were stolen by some of the civilian on-lookers. The Nazi occupation has truly distorted the morals and ethics of the people. We got a GI vehicle and moved her possessions to a nearby house. I was sorry to see this incident occur to this woman. She went out of her way to find me [a] place to put up the men. One old couple was afraid of soldiers
any kind. When they said that they had no room, she answered, “Very well then, let the Boche come!” They immediately produced two rooms.
Truly dear, I’ve had a chance to get a slant on peoples and peoples’ thoughts that I never had before. Modestly, I say, darling, that my French is approaching a state of fluency!
So being burned out of one house we got rooms in the house that we set up [as] headquarters. Everything went fine until the evening when I was told that there was [sic] a lot of people huddling in the cold celler [sic], among them being a sick little boy.
I went down to the celler [sic] and found a bunch of people huddled together with knapsacks, etc. who were planning to spend the night there. These people have an uncanny fear of planes and shells which almost approaches a psychosis. These people made up their minds that they were going to remain in the celler [sic] and “hell or high water” would not budge them. Well, if they didn’t want to move, we decided to fix up a stove for them and hook up an electric light. We fixed up a light but we couldn’t get the stove to work. In fact, it backfired and filled the tiny cellar room with smoke. The sick baby coughed and wheezed and we had to take him out of the room. “Doc” Luddecke came down later, looked at the boy and said, “Get him upstairs to a warm room.”
They all said, “We’re afraid of the bombs, etc.” I told them very sternly, “You’ll have to go upstairs.” The lady of the house put the baby to bed in a warm room and I dispatched the others to their homes. They probably bitched at me but [D]oc admitted that had I left them in the cellar for the night, all would have been ill the next morning.
The next morning I dropped in the room across the hall where the sick baby lived. Here I was introduced to Joseph aged 4 and Mimi aged 2 who remained with their mother and grandmother when their father left to join the Belgian underground, were the Belgian army to go underground. By the way, dearest, Joseph is the boy at the left & Mimi is the girl at the right. Joseph is a doll & doesn’t have any [?] blond curls. Mimi is one of the most attractive babies I have ever seen. She has reddish blond hair and black, dancing eyes. I told her mother that I was going to take Mimi with me when I left.
Joseph was much improved when I saw him the next day and recovering from the effects of pneumonia which he had. Doc had a difficult time giving Joseph his medicine and Joseph would only accept the medicine when I gave it to him. Yet, I had to bribe him by giving him a teaspoonful of medicine & a teaspoonful of grapefruit juice. As long as we’re around the kids get grapefruit juice regularly.
I got the mother to write a letter to Elaine in French which I think Elaine should enjoy as well as get an insight on the struggle of the people. I think it is a very fine letter.
I know that you will fall in love with these kids, too. They are so darling. They fight quite a bit and their mother refers to them as the “German and the American.”
The Nazis counted on bad weather for their drive but the weather cleared up lately and our air corps have been pounding the “hell out of them.” Golly, I never thought I’d ever see as many planes that have been flying overhead. They make a thrilling sight.
The men are behaving themselves very well and treat the civilians beautifully—I called them together and gave them a talking to and they have responded well.
Today I notice that the panic among the people has decreased—they feel more secure with the Americans around.
I was visiting Doc yesterday when a truck pulled up and the driver said, “Where do you want this dead Kraut?” It seems that the Jerry pilot was shot down by one of our planes and when the Kraut bailed out—his chute failed to open—he only bounced once. Darling, I’ve developed such an intense hatred for the Nazis—I dispise [sic] them with venom. They are dressing enemy soldiers in American uniforms and American tanks to try to penetrate our lines. They are pulling such stinking rotten kind[s] of warfare!—the lowest type. In one way I’m glad since they are revealing what they are and America will know how to handle the occupation properly—with machine guns.
I’m not bitter, sweetheart, just a realist!
Yesterday I was called to meet some war correspondents from France & Brazil. The Col. (Perez) gave the correspondents from Brazil the situation and I briefed the correspondent from France. The war correspondent made me feel very important when he said in [F]rench, “The people of France want to know . . . .”
When we concluded the interview he literally kissed me on both cheeks.
I have really enjoyed my experiences so far and time passes quickly when you’re busy, but still not to [sic] busy to idolize my precious darling. Ok. I want to crush you in my arms and bruise your lips!
I got a laugh out of Doc today, too. All the civilians are exploiting Doc’s presence by coming to him with all their aches and pains. Doc enjoys it and we have fun talking about it.
Sweetheart, I’m getting sleepy so I’ll say good-night, sweet dreams, and a very happy birthday, bubsie.
I love you, Vic