Center for Archival Collections

Reference Services | Manuscripts by Subject | CAC Homepage

Gerald R. Rees Papers: Transcripts - MS 1007

Gerald ReesĀ Correspondence - January 1945

January 2, 1945

[V-mail]
Jan. 2, 1945

Dear Mom,

This letter was actually written days ago, but mailing things here isn't just a matter of stepping out the door and dropping them in a box-by the time this was ready to mail there were new restrictions on things to say and I tore it up in disgust. At the same time I was opening your-and Eleanor & Johnny's-box amid a crowd of envious onlookers, I was getting ready to attend a short training period at a special school, of which more some other time. I'm living like a civilian again; there weren't accommodations for a few of us at the school, so we're staying at a hotel now occupied and operated by the American Red Cross. Clean sheets every night, a lounge with radio and piano and generally pretty luxurious living. We are on a British schedule which to an American seems to travel at a ridiculously leisurely pace. Class starts at 9 A.M. with time out for tea and toast at 10:30, and hour for lunch, time out again for tea at 3:30 and finished for the day at 5 P.M. The rest of the time is completely free. Last night I saw a rather good play, except that is was supposed to be a modern, slangy American dialogue and the British accents of the actors killed it. Incidentally, maids come around between acts to serve tea. This tea habit is strange at first sight, but a refreshing and sensible one. Since there is no central heating most Britishers go around half frozen and really need their tea. I have waited on a street car, or tram as they call it, for several minutes while the conductor pulled out a thermos and had his cup of tea.

Lately I have had opportunity to visit [blacked out] a very ordinary large seaport town. I can appreciate Aunt Florence's difficulties in locating any "cousins" since both Morgan and Rees are very common names. I'd like to see more of the Welsh countryside-remember "How Green Was My Valley"? The people are friendly and interesting to talk to. Not many in [blacked out] speak Welsh, but their English ain't as she is spoke in the U.S.A.

I'll be glad to get back soon to see if there's any mail from home. Wish I could begin to tell you how good it was to get those Christmas boxes. I'll send a note to E. & J. and you can forward it to them.

Love,
Ger

P.S. Where is Edith Klopfenstein?

January 7, 1945

[V-mail]
England, Jan 7, 1944 [i.e. 1945]

Dear Mom,

I'm back "home" again and found a bonanza of 7 or 8 letters waiting for me, including your Christmas Day V-letter. I was sorry the cable telling of the arrival of your boxes didn't get there on time. The tone of your pre-Christmas letters indicates that you have visions of me slogging through snow-filled trenches in France-nothing could be further from the truth. I don't mean to cause such anxiety when in fact we are probably as well off as one could ask except for being so far from home. Tomorrow night I'll try to start answering these accumulated letters.

Love,
Ger

January 10, 1945

[V-mail]
England, Jan 10, 1944 [i.e. 1945]

Dear Mom,

I have given up bargaining with the inevitable and have come down with a good rousing cold. It's impossible to avoid in this climate and there isn't much remedy, especially with British ideas of heating systems. Today I was Charge of Quarters and brought my radio into the orderly room (Battery Headquarters) and was able to spend a fairly peaceful day listening to the kind of music I wanted to. There are no "soap operas" over here and a good selection of classical music. That radio has been worth its weight in gold. I had begun to think some of your mail was lost, but it turned up today along with several Christmas cards, which lost none of their welcome by being late. Your V-Mail comes in good order, but the others I keep and put in order as they come so I can keep events in their right chronological order. A letter from Johnny indicates that they are pretty sick of Boise already. Awaiting news of Vernon, etc.

Love,
Ger

January 14, 1945

[V-mail]
England, Jan 14, 1945

Dear Mom,

Sunday once more, after a rather strenuous week of climbing up the downs (sounds funny, doesn't it?) and of shameful neglect of letter writing. As you may have noticed, the longer I stay in one spot, the fewer my letters become; not because this place has lost any of its charm for me, but I hate to repeat things. Daily schedules are always the same-up at 6 A.M., drilling and classes, sometimes a day in the field with packaged rations at noon. The weather is finally acting as one would expect in January, although nothing like the cold you've been having. The other day we used the little stove from e. & J. and it's a Godsend for cold days in the field. If you know where they can be had please send some more of those fuel tablets for the stove, and some boullion cubes and stuff. An occasional evening at the Red Cross canteen or the cinema, or more likely busy here scrubbing clothes or getting ready for some fool inspection, finishes the day. We keep good track of the news with maps and hourly radio reports-so long as my radio will hold out-and of course that's the main topic of interest besides mail from home. As usual, V-mail is outstripping the others by quite a while. Yours of January 3rd passed four others which haven't yet come. I'm glad these multiple-page things are getting there in some semblance of order, since that's the handiest way to write a longer letter.

A strange and spontaneous sort of movent has started in the rooms at our end of the hall. some of the fellows, especially men with families, began to realize that they were getting the habit of swearing too much. so several of the rooms, including ours, have a can up on the shelf into which everyone puts a penny each time he takes the Lord's name in vain. Each Sunday the money is put in the offering plate at some local church. I've never seen that attitude in the army before, and it shows you the high caliber of many of the fellows in my section.

Have you noticed any newspaper items about the B.G.U. basketball team or other doings? Have you seen Hoffy lately? Thanks to Mrs. Gunn, the mailman,, and the others who still remember that I exist. You don't mention the Goodale house, so there must not be any new developments there. It must wait, as all of our "post-war planning" for a while.

Love,
Ger

January 1945

[V-Mail - First page missing]

Tuesday we saw something I've read about and always wanted to see-Mmd. Tussaud's wax works. There are life size figures of all the well-known characters of history; I've sent the catalogue so you can see who's there. The poses and coloring are so real that people talk in hushed voices as if they expect the figures to over hear them. There are wax figures of policemen (bobbies) and attendants as well as real ones, and I very nearly asked a wax bobby a question. We also went to St. Paul's cathedral and climbed up in the huge dome, which is one of the most impressive structures in London. In the afternoon we went to an excellent musical comedy, and at night I heard a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. It is much on the order of our Peristyle, except that there are three tiers of boxes and a balcony above the main level. It's all red plush and as you'd expect the main concert hall of London to be. The music was all that I could have desired, and I was certainly glad to have had the chance to go. The concert was over just in time to get to the station to get the last train coming back. These British trains are amazingly punctual, too. There aren't any conductors to call "all aboard" either; when the time comes the train just rolls out of the station, even if people are not completely on the car. Subways are the same; I expect to see some one killed by these coaches moving without warning, but they are used to it, I guess.

The trip back from Massilon must have been nerve-wracking for you, and I'm sure glad that the Auto Club was there to lend a hand.

Everyone here is excited about the Russian drive now; their gains seem almost incredible compared to the yard-by-yard advance in the west. Needless to say in my present position, I'm very fond of the Russians.

I won't even promise to write again soon, because you know my promises aren't good, but I'm thinking of you always.

Love,
Ger

[V-Mail - pages missing - letter 28]

We can usually get necessities at our unit post exchange, but the things I mentioned aren't available. I'm still working on that peg thing and might get it some day. Thanks for sending Bill Kirk's address and say hello to O.B. if he should call again. A lot of the fellows I was in A.S.T.P. with are in this part of the world now, and from what I hear from them, I had about the luckiest break of any of them. Do you ever see Hoffy?

Made my first attempt at driving on these narrow English streets the other night and had no casualties although it's hard to stay on the left side. A news broadcast from Germany just now came over the radio--it was really funny. Although Stalin announced the fall of Warsaw this afternoon, the Germans don't even mention it, and spoke only of "our troops disengaging themselves to the West" after courageous fighting. The Russian steamroller is tremendous; today's news is the best in months. The regular bugler here has been sick, so I've been bugling for a few days, and seem to have at least some remnants of my embrochure left. Just wait till I can get on that baritone again! Whatever school I pick is going to have a good band set-up, if nothing else.

Love,
Ger

January 26, 1945

[V-mail]
England, Jan 26, 1945

Dear Mom,

Once more I must apologise for not writing for several days. I've already explained the reasons (excuses) in a letter to Pop, and I really am sorry about it. Did I tell you the Blade clippings arrived in good time--you don't have to send them airmail anyhow, even old papers from home look mighty good to me. Don't understand why Vernon hasn't written to you for so long. He certainly can't be waiting in San Diego all this time.

We're having a little fun with my room-mate who cuts hair for most of our battery. His forehead is gradually getting higher and approaching the back of his neck, so someone hung a big sign on our door with a painted barber-pole and the caption "Baldy's Barber Shop" and a lot of other tomfoolery. Our radio plus barbering makes our room a busy place. It seems that every news broadcast we get is putting the Russians several miles closer to Berlin. England is getting its worst cold spell in many years now, with a little snow, too. If you haven't yet sent the stuff I asked for (heat-tabs, shaving cream, handkerchiefs) see if you can find some neats-foot oil for water-proofing leather. I wish I still had the over-shoes they gave us last winter.

Mail is coming in very well. All yours including that of Jan. 13 has arrived so far.

Love,
Ger

Jan 26, 1945

Dear Mom,

The enclosed Kodachromes were taken one Sunday afternoon at Camp Bowie. Besides being very close friends of mine, I think the pictures are good from a photographic standpoint; the coloring is so very natural and clear. Many times when I write about things I've been doing, I say "we went" or "we did" and you may be curious to know who "we" are. First in my list of companions and tops in the whole battery as an all-around square shooter is Staff Sgt. Walter House. He is the chief of our survey section and his leadership and good sense have made for a spirit of cooperation and good fellowship in our section which is the best in the battalion. He and I have wandered about the country-side looking at old churches and building and have a lot of common interests. First started friendship at Camp Bowie when we discovered a mutual liking for English literature, Latin, and Broadway plays. He can quote pages of Cicero and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Also has a peculiar habit of talking French in his sleep. And knows army survey from A to Z which is unfortunately not true of his immediate superiors.

The other member of "we" is Phil Koehring, recently a freshman at M.I.T., of wealthy parents, from Milwaukee, and at first glance insufferably conceited. But closer acquaintance reveals a heart of gold, and an amazing store of knowledge. He took the enclosed pictures with an elegant miniature camera. He has since snapped a few pictures here in English which we'll probably get back from the printers some years from now. Phil helped rig up my radio, and is the authority on math and physics around here.

The picture of John Dyck is a typical Sunday activity in camp--washing clothes in the old fire-bucket. He's an old highway survey man from Colorado, and has an agreeable temperament that makes him everyone's friend.

Save the pictures--hope they are of some interest to you.

Love,
Ger

January 28, 1945

[V-mail]
England, Jan 28, 1945

Dear Mom,

Nothing eventful happened today; I went on guard at noon but have my radio rigged up with batteries now so I brought it with me. There was an Andre Kostolonitz program at just the time we used to get it at home, and brought memories of how we used to spend Sunday afternoon. Then the B.B.C. orchestra played the Nutcracker Suite" and other good ones in a concert similar to the Philharmonic broadcast. At seven o'clock Jack Benny and then news that the Russians had captured Memel and were storming Koenisberg--how those Reds are traveling!

The papers are making quite a fuss over Britain's cold wave although it's still nothing to the one you're having. Big Ben couldn't strike because the clapper was frozen. We are slipping and sliding a little on the streets but nothing serious. I see that the fuel and transportation problem is looking bad at home; hope you have the coal bin well filled. Had a letter from Eleanor and she seems pleased about their house. Don't pay any attention to that crackpot "G.I. Joe" who complained about getting too many letters with not enough in them. He doesn't realize, as most of us do, how lucky we are to be getting mail at all--it means a lot.

Love
Ger

MS 1007 - Gerald Rees Papers | List of Transcripts
Manuscripts by Subject | U.S. in Wartime