V-mail letter dated 6 June 1944


V-mail letter dated 6 June 1944

I’m feeling myself pulled into history with this fascinating unraveling of my Dad’s letters from the war. What I discovered on the back of the photo above was his handwriting from a later time describing his involvement:

Drafted in 1942 – Oct’45. Landed Omaha Beach D + 6 days. There were 5 official battles in WWII – I got 5 battle stars. Ended war as 1st Sgnt of outfit.

So, after conferring with Richard’s Dad, I learned that “D + 6” means that he landed at Omaha Beach six days after D Day. This helps explain the contents of the letter that follows and tells me that the next few letters I read will be before his company actually crosses the channel.

I’m also including this account from Wikipedia of the landing at Omaha Beach on D Day as a reference and gratitude that my Dad was not one of the first guys to land there, or he may not have been around to write these letters (and bring me into the world!!). I feel great reverence for those brave soldiers who gave their lives that day:

“Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha Beach. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day. The defenses were unexpectedly strong, and inflicted heavy casualties on landing US troops. Under heavy fire, the engineers struggled to clear the beach obstacles; later landings bunched up around the few channels that were cleared. Weakened by the casualties taken just in landing, the surviving assault troops could not clear the heavily defended exits off the beach. This caused further problems and consequent delays for later landings. Small penetrations were eventually achieved by groups of survivors making improvised assaults, scaling the bluffs between the most heavily defended points. By the end of the day, two small isolated footholds had been won, which were subsequently exploited against weaker defenses further inland, thus achieving the original D-Day objectives over the following days.”


V-Mail dated 6 June 1944
 Letter #8

Hello, honey
 I imagine this is a day that will go down in history – but you probably know more about it – and sooner than we did. (One whole sentence has been crossed out – here is my best guess of what this says as I can almost make out some of the words ” We were expected to ship out by the activity most of the night and this morning, but didn’t hear anything definite”) …. until about 10:00 AM when we were out on the parade grounds having another – guess what – formal inspection! When Karen someday asks me what did I do in the war, I’ll say “Well, Cutie, I carted my barracks bag around, mostly – and laid out my stuff to be inspected.” Of course, we also had another hike today. Pretty rugged. Fast. Soaking wet with perspiration when we got back – and it’s not warm out. When the hell do they have summer over here? Tonight we listened to a loud speaker account of what’s going on. Sounds a bit gigantic, doesn’t it? Feelings here (as at home, I suppose) are mixed. Cheering – at first – then realization that it’s a lot of hell for a lot of guys – but relief that we’re still waiting in chow lines, and griping about dozens of insignificant things rather than wading ashore. As somebody said – ” a G.I. is a guy – every guy – in the Army who says, ‘GI wanna go home'”. Hey – you know what would taste good? Those choc covered marshmallow cookies! Ain’t I crazy? but I love you – Rollie




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    Posted at 17:04h, 23 June Reply

    The censors may have erased that paragraph, not he. It may have revealed too much “insider details”. I think everybody’s mail got read before going back home.

  • Patti Magon
    Posted at 20:05h, 23 June Reply

    These letters are so interesting. I love hearing about history from an actual source. God bless your dad for serving our country in such adverse circumstances.

  • Paula Nelson
    Posted at 03:35h, 24 June Reply

    I have so enjoyed reading about your dad. What a treasure you have, and how lucky you are to know him in such an intimate way. Your story brings up many thoughts about my dad, which I’d like to tell you about.

    My father was in D-Day too. His ship landed troops on Omaha Beach on D+1. Russy was in the Navy on LST 325, (LST means Landing Ship Tanks) ferrying troops and equipment across the Channel from England to France and back from about ’43 till the war was over. His ship has been refurbished and is now an Historic Landmark, and is moored in various US ports as a museum.

    Russy was drafted in Nov/Dec of 1943, a couple of months after I was born. He had tried to enlist in the National Guard before the war – everyone saw the war was imminent – but was rejected because he was too old — he was born in 1910. By ’43 Russy was 33 years old, and had 2 kids, but the war was going badly and they were taking anyone they could get. He went into the Navy, reluctantly, and he didn’t come back until I was 2 years old. He was the oldest man on his ship, except for the Captain, and everyone called him “Pops”.

    My father’s friends often referred to him as “Rascal”, rather than Russell, for good reason. His war injury was a broken nose he got in a fight in an English pub during a blackout. He said someone punched him through the blackout curtain, but I always thought he left something out of that story. He often went AWOL in France, and probably England, and he was great friends with owners of pubs and bistros on both sides of the Channel. He could get good Scotch even when the officers couldn’t get beer, and he earned some points with his superiors that way. Children and dogs liked him, and I suspect he left some broken-hearted girls behind.

    As you might imagine, my mother was not pleased with this. She almost never heard from him. She worked nights in the main Post Office in Manhattan, to be home with my brother and me during the day. We lived first in Brooklyn, then in Queens, with her mother – a newspaper reporter on the Daily Mirror – and her elderly grandmother. So there were 4 generations of us, scrimping by, and little word from Russy, who was defending our country, in his rascally way.

    Of course I don’t have any of his letters, because I don’t think he wrote many, if any. He was dyslexic, but no one knew about that then; He could barely write and never got past 9th grade. Kept getting kicked out of school. Being left-handed, his teachers tied his left had behind him to make him right handed. Didn’t work.

    Getting back to D-Day. Because Russy was drafted and sent overseas so quickly, he never was taught to fire a gun. So he was really scared the day before the invasion, when he saw the sea covered with ships from horizon to horizon – an overwhelming sight, horrifying, but beautiful in its majesty. Not a religious man, he was so frightened by the sight, he attended the Jewish service, the Protestant service and the Catholic service, just in case.

    About the invasion itself, he never said much. His ship went in the next day at high tide so they could drop the ramp to let the boys off, and he was glad not to be going ashore. The ship was beached there until the next tide. I think it must have been a shallow beach because there was a photo of it, high and dry, in a newspaper clipping he kept.

    When I asked Russy what it was like on the beach, he would only say it was awful to see such things.

    When he came home, and opened the door, my mother say him from the top of the stairs, and sai

  • Paula Nelson
    Posted at 03:46h, 24 June Reply

    When he came home unannounced, my mother said, from the top of the stairs, “Oh, you came back.”

    So you see, the war shaped my life. And the lives and families of all the good men and women who served our country. It was hard, even devastating, for everyone, and some took it better than others. I am glad that you are honoring your father, as I honor my father (rascal that he was), because they gave us so much. I cannot imagine what our lives, and our country, would have been without them.

    • maelife
      Posted at 12:45h, 24 June Reply

      Paula, this brings tears to my eyes. My father’s entire life was shaped by his years in the war. I think the betrayal he felt when he came home and she was in love with someone else when he had been faithful to her and held her love so close throughout the war, also carved the profile of the man I came to know. My one Aunt who is still alive said that this was quite common for soldiers coming home. Reading his letters and knowing how it played out makes it all the more poignant.

      My commitment is to post one letter per day and we’ll see how it all unfolds. Thank you for your interest.
      Mary Anne

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