Dear Mom, Pop and family,
Now that I am actually here I see that the chances of my returning to all of you are quite slim, therefore I want to write this letter now while I am yet able.
I want you to know how much I love each of you. You mean everything to me and it is the realisation of your love that gives me the courage to continue. Mom and Pop - we have caused you innumerable hardships and sacrifices - sacrifices which you both made readily and gladly that we might get more from life.
I have always determined to show my appreciation to you by enabling you both to have more of the pleasures of life - but this war has prevented my doing so for the past three years. If you receive this letter I shall be unable to fulfil my desires, for I have requested that this letter be forwarded only in the event I do not return.
You have had many times more your share of illness and deaths in the family - still you have continued to exemplify what true parents should. I am sorry to add to your grief - but at all times realise that my thoughts are of you constantly and that I feel that in some small way I am helping to bring this wasteful war to a conclusion.
We of the United States have something to fight for - never more fully have I realised that. There just is no other country with comparable wealth, advancement or standard of living. The USA is worth a sacrifice!
Remember always that I love you each most fervently and I am proud of you. Consider, Mary, my wife, as having taken my place in the family circle and watch over each other.
Love to my family
· Lundberg was killed in action two-and-a-half weeks after D-day, aged 25.
Major Rodney Maude In command of 246 Field Company, Royal Engineers. Landed on Sword Beach on D-day
My dear Mum
You certainly won't get this letter until after the event, as it were, but I hope it won't be delayed too long. I am writing this on board the ship in which we go across. At the moment, of course, we are at anchor off the coast of England, surrounded by a great many other ships and craft.
We embarked yesterday afternoon. We had lunch in camp and then got into buses and drove - very slowly - down to the harbour. The men were all very cheerful, cracking jokes and cheering every girl we passed on the way. You would never have dreamed, except from the amount of equipment we were carrying, that we were not going on another exercise. I must say I didn't feel any different myself.
I have known for over a year of course that we would eventually go off on this, or something similar, and I used to dread the last preparations and the final parting from friends and England, but in actual fact (fortunately) I haven't minded at all, now that it is really happening. We all feel very confident and optimistic about the result of the landings, and we all think it is going to be a walkover - at first, anyway. Also, it simply doesn't occur to anyone as a possibility that anything unpleasant can possibly happen - to other people, yes, but not to oneself, so naturally nobody worries about it. And also we are all intensely interested to see how this thing which we have been planning so long and training for so long does work out in practice. I hope you have been getting some of my letters, but I am afraid they haven't been very good ones recently for obvious reasons - and there probably won't be any more for some time as I shall be rather busy for a few days! Anyway, please don't worry, I am sure to be all right and no news is good news. All my love to you, and don't worry.
Josef B German staff sergeant
Now finally the hour has come. How did you react to the news about the invasion? Although it had to happen and was foreseeable, it impressed me a lot. Of course it is not a trifle. For sure these hours the hugest battle is taking place that the world has ever seen. Hopefully fortune is with us now. Now history is being made. All the words are really just air. It's all about acting. Especially now I feel so unimportant and small. The days to come are certainly going to put an end to the suspense.
Today I wanted to go to see Faust but I could not concentrate enough for that due to these events, and moreover in the end they performed a different play. The greatness of poetry really vanishes in front of the happening of today. It's tingling in my blood, and I am really very curious. Everything is just so irrelevant compared with what is happening; or rather, the great embraces all the trifles.
Lieutenant John Pelly Midshipman on destroyer HMS Eglington
Not a minute to spare except you can probably guess how life is with us these days - damn busy and tired, but very well. Don't worry.
Tracy A Sugarman US navy lieutenant, reached Utah beach on D-day at 3.30pm. He spent the next six months based there on an offshore liberty ship
My own darling Janie,
Golly, honey - how I've missed you today. All of a sudden there comes this two-day break with almost nothing to do but unlax and stretch out. A week ago today was D-day - and these past seven days have been filled with sights and sounds I'll probably recall always. Most of it was pretty exciting, a lot of it pretty nasty, none of it enjoyable. For the greatest part we haven't been close enough to catch the impact of the business being done. The glimpses we've had have been enough. Through it all and leading up to our coming there must have been - looking back now - a certain growing tension in all of us. There was nothing spectacular or dramatic about it that I can recall. You were hardly aware of it. But there must have been a great deal of self-searching. For myself I found I was completely set for anything. There was a completeness and reason in my living up to that point that was answer in itself. I thought a lot about you, Janie dear - and I was as grateful to you and for you that it seemed to encompass my entire feelings. Above all else I prayed that I live to make you happy. That alone was yet to be done. I wanted to live, darling - living has always been like a new toy for me - and I wanted to live for you and with you. The promise of our tomorrows stretched ahead and were delicious just to contemplate. For these things I love you, darling - every hope and prayer for the future is ours - every agony and desperation of the now is for us. Twice as hard, twice as easy, a million times as wonderful as anything that's ever been on this earth. Hold tight to our faith, Janie puss - call on our love - live for us. Honey, I love you somethin wonnerful - all I want is a chance to show it. G'night my angel wife. Your Sugy is an impatient baby - 'n how about you? Stay well, pooch - for me 'n for us .
I love you, darlin',
Always your Teddy
W Cutler Able seaman on HMS Largo, to his fiancee
Connie My Dearest,
Hello darling, here I am with a few more lines hoping they find you in the best of health, as it leaves me at present. Before I start my letter I just want to say I love you so very much. Well today I think I can make this letter a little more interesting than usual, as we have been given permission to let you know something of what is happening.
Well, here I am just off the coast of Normandy taking part in the invasion of Europe. We are doing remarkable well, especially when you take into consideration the opposition we are up against. When we set sail the weather was very poor, in fact it was a little too rough for comfort, but needless to say everything got across OK. There was an incident of note and that was we narrowly escaped being hit by a torpedo. The tin-fish was launched from shore and it was by some chance and good fortune sighted. We went full astern and the torpedo slipped harmlessly across our bows, missing us by 10ft - it might just as well have been 10 miles. That was the only incident of note, so we did well. I can honestly say it was a marvellous achievement to get the whole of the force across, which by the way is the 3 Division, with no losses. Of course, I don't want you to think it was just like eating pie, because it was far from that. Well the troops were landed and then there was one continued stream of reinforcements and stores pouring in.
We saw a sight during the first evening that was unbelievable. The airborne came over and it is utterly impossible for me to describe our feelings when we saw them. From one horizon to the other that is as far as the eye can see, the sky was blacked out by transports and gliders, there were hundreds besides the fighter cover that accompanied them. Never had anyone seen anything like it.
A few prisoners have been taken and among them were a couple of women snipers, Frenchwomen. I don't think they will trouble anyone again.
Leopold L, German sergeant
As you know, the battle in the west has now started, and I am sure you can imagine that we are committing ourselves to it, and how little time is left for writing. This is about everything, about the existence or decline of our beloved fatherland. How every single one of us soldiers gets through this doesn't matter much, the main thing is and will be that we can soon win a just and long-lasting peace. Of course, we are also just humans with wishes and requests to providence, that one would like to see fulfilled. Although we have learned to often forego everything during the war that relates to us as persons and to our futures, we catch ourselves again and again still having wishes that may, of course, together with life, be extinguished into an eternal nothingness by the explosion of the next shell, but uphold our faith and our perseverance. We have begun the greatest passage of arms and nobody knows what will be by the time our letters arrive.
Captain CT Cross A platoon commander in the 6 Airborne Division. Landed in Normandy by glider
At present I'm lying in the sun in a very pleasant orchard in N France and a force of about 500 Fortresses has just gone overhead. Most encouraging. Apart from an occasional noisy gun or mortar pooping off nearby, and an even more rare burst of counter-fire, it is almost as peaceful as the orchard at home.
I have just changed my underclothes and washed my feet for the first time since I left England. And today we bought a few bottles of wine and intend, if all is quiet, to have a little dinner party this evening because when we are busy we get a bit split up and the officers don't get much chance to see one another. Five of us, though, are "mucking in" this evening and we have some potatoes and a rabbit to thicken up the stew, and some onions, with which to flavour same. What we would really like is some bread - getting awfully tired of these biscuits, but the army bakers are not here yet - the local French don't have any to spare.
My platoon is on very good form and we all get on very well together. The five new blokes I had shortly before we left are pretty good, and with one exception fitted in well. The exception is now no longer with us; Jerry saw to that. But he has not dealt with us too severely - touch wood.
Being now at liberty to talk slightly about D-day, here you are, for what it's worth. The whole business was a bit nerve-racking though, because we were not told exactly when D-day was to be, and then, when we were told, the whole thing was put off for a day, just when we were about keyed up to go.
The glider flight was bloody! It was, of course, longer than most I've done before because of the business of getting into formation, collecting fighter escort, and so on. After about hr I began to be sick, and continued until we were over the channel where the air was much calmer. The channel was a wonderful sight - especially the traffic at this end - Piccadilly Circus wasn't in it. We were not over the coast this side long enough for me to be sick again and we were pretty busy thinking about landing. The landing was ghastly. Mine was the first glider down, though. We were not quite in the right place and the damn thing bucketed along a very upsy-downsy field for a bit and then broke across the middle - we just chopped through those anti-landing poles (like the ones I used to cut myself!) as we went along. However, the two halves of the glider fetched up very close together, and we quickly got out ourselves and our equipment and lay down under the thing, because other gliders were coming in all round and Jerries were shooting things at them and at us so it wasn't very healthy to wander about. Our immediate opposition - a machine gun in a little trench - was very effectively silenced by another glider which fetched up plumb in the trench and a couple of Huns - quite terrified - came out with their hands up!
Having discovered that we were all there and bound up a few scratches we then set off to the scene of the battle. I shall not tell you about that, except that, apart from a bar of chocolate and half the contents of my whisky flask I had no time to eat or drink for a very uncomfortably long while. I didn't notice it much at the time - too much else to do - but it seems incredible now. From my last meal in England to my first cup of char and hard ration in France was very nearly 48 hours! But I've been making up for it since!
Somebody once said that war was composed of intense boredom relieved by periods of acute fear. That is it, in a nutshell. The boys used to hate digging themselves trenches on Salisbury Plain, but you should just see how fast they do it now! And we've had a good many to dig in various different places since we came here. My hands are not as beautiful as they were! It is now time for the party, and Jerry seems to be giving little trouble this evening. So that's all for a while.
Love to you all,
US Capt George Montgomery of the 82nd Airborne, to his fiancee
Arline, my dearest
Today is our 20th day in action, yet it seems like years. What has happened to me and my battalion would be scoffed at, even in a 10c novel, as being impossible. Why the few of us left alive - are alive - is something to figure out in church. I've seen as many of my very best friends killed beside me. I just can't believe it is all really happening. I never in my wildest dreams knew such terror could grip your very soul. The business of landing deep in enemy territory and trying to hold a position assaulted and shelled from four sides until friendly troops break through is something I hope they never ask me to do again.
The night we jumped, D-day-six hours, was the pay-off night. The Jerries knew our plans down to the last detail and were waiting for us with everything they had. My chute was on fire from tracer bullets when I landed - right in front of a machine-gun emplacement. I cut out of my harness and crawled for a couple of hours with bullets whistling past my ears coming from seemingly every direction. I can't tell you what else went on - but the story gets good from here. I hope it won't be too long before I can tell you personally all that has happened. Anyway - God alone brought me safely through this far - of that I'm sure.
My darling, I love you more than life itself - I've realised that many times these last three weeks when I thought I was going to be killed and always the regret of missing seeing and marrying you was topmost in my mind at the time. I think I can say my love for you has been pretty well tested.
Goodbye for a while,
Captain Manley Power captain of the 26th destroyer flotilla, to WG Brittain
How goes the world with you? Have you made a triumphant entry into Rome yet mounted on a subservient pongo? Things seem to have gone with a swing your end.
Here we have had the fun of the world. I've just got back never having had a dull moment for 19 days. It was a remarkably well-thought-out and well-run show - orders good and clear - no difficulties at all. Even the Herrenvolk [Germans] forgot to make any.
It was rather an eerie performance on D-day. For some reason or other I had to go on ahead of one gang to shoot at a battery. We were a bit scared and felt very lonely closing the "Fortress Wall" alone ... There was no shooting at all until touchdown and then not very much, though the beaches got fairly heavily shelled at a later stage.
I had a look at the beach defences later and found the Hun had been completely foxed by the landing taking place so near low water. The beach obstacles, which were fairly numerous, were all in plain view and his pillboxes were so constructed that they could only shoot effectively along the high water mark - the arcs of fire rendered craft beaching far out, out of range.
Rather dull after that - the landing went on steadily. We did occasional shoots as called for and spent the rest of the time helping the landing craft - taking off their wounded, breaking them up, telling them where to go. They'd all forgotten their orders by then!
We had a really nasty north-easter for three days. Destroyers and some cruisers shipping seas at anchor, dropping all over the place. Beach littered with wrecks. The Mulberries and gooseberries [artificial harbours and scuttled ships] worked like a dream and are a really remarkable contribution to efficiency. Of all ridiculous things they forgot to send any oilers and we had to scratch round as best we might for fuel. The latter end of the time mining was becoming a serious nuisance and looks like continuing so. They seem to be unsweepable; but go off quite a lot as one moves about.
If you have time and opportunity I should much appreciate a homeward shipment of Algerian or Italian wine. Preferably red. A large cask would suit. Let me know what it costs and where to pay it in. Any other product of captured territory would be equally welcome. The situation regarding alcohol in this country is one of Hitler's major triumphs.
My regards to all. Hoping to see WGB close up on 30th.
PS As you can see from this turgid screed I am a gent of leisure in harbour.
Major Gerald Ritchie 8th (Yorkshire) parachute regiment, to his sister
My dear Muriel
Thank you so much for your letter received some time ago when I was in hospital. As you see, I am now out, thank goodness, and am more or less all right again. I have still a bit of a hole in my arm but nothing to speak of. I must say I was terribly lucky as the bit of shrapnel missed everything important. It went in about four inches below my shoulder, rather on the inside of my arm, and stopped just below the surface on the outside of the arm towards the back of it. As you say, it was a party which I wouldn't have missed for anything, but even though I wasn't in it for 48 hours, and for my lot the first part, was, from all accounts, a picnic, compared with the time they had after I left. It all seems rather like a particularly bad dream looking back on it.
We emplaned late in the evening of the Monday and it all seemed very unreal. It was difficult to imagine that by dawn on the next day, we should have been tipped out of an aeroplane over France and should have landed in a place where there were quite a number of evil-minded Boche, whose one object would be to liquidate us before we could do the same to them.
It all seemed so like an ordinary exercise, and this illusion (very fortunately) went on for me right up to the moment I landed with a bump in a field.
The doors of the aircraft were opened while we were still over the sea and being No1 to jump in my aircraft, I had a grand view as the coast of France appeared below us.
I could see no sign of life below us, thanks to the RAF, and although I believe a few shots were fired at us, I never saw any. I remember my signaller, who jumped No2, saying, "Gawd! Look at those bomb craters!" However, we were soon over those.
A few moments more and the red light came on and then the green, and out I went, my mind a complete blank as usual when I jump. I can remember very little of my descent, it didn't take long anyway. I did rather a poor landing, my own fault entirely, and bruised my knees which made crawling most painful, and I had a certain amount to do during that day! Anyway, I scrambled to my feet and unhitched myself from my parachute and took a look around.
I knew I was more or less in the right place as others were coming down in the vicinity, but I was not exactly sure where. There was a horse grazing in the field where I was, who didn't seem to like my presence much, so I went off in the direction where I thought our rendezvous was.
There were some machine-guns firing at the planes over to the east and quite a lot of flak and stuff to the south, but no sign of any enemy in our vicinity or in the direction I was going. There were numerous others about from our battalion and in a little while I met one of my platoon commanders and then the colonel and then another captain and we checked our position and arrived at our objective, a quarry, without any untoward incident.
At this quarry was a cottage, and when we arrived, the French family came out and we shook hands all round and wished each other "Bon jour", most inappropriately! As it was then 2am and the "jour" was not at all "bon". A few hours after the sea launching, the commandos got up to us and came across our bridges, again most cheering, and things were a bit hectic just then. I remember that one lot had a piper with them, which was the first thing we heard of them, and a very pleasant sound it was, and I have taken a better view of bagpipes ever since!
A lot of it I've given rather sketchily, and I could never hope to give you the atmosphere, as it were; it is really quite indescribable. The extraordinary smell of broken buildings and explosives; the countryside, very like the Cotswolds really, littered with gliders and parachutes; gliders everywhere, in hedges and fences, some broken so much that it looked that no one could have survived and yet in very few cases was anyone hurt on landing. It was really an amazing but very unpleasant and tragic two days. The second-in-command of my company never appeared at all and was found four days later, he had been killed soon after landing; and my best friend in the battalion never turned up at all, nor anyone from his plane, so what happened to him I don't know.
After I left they had rather a sticky time and most of the officers were either killed or wounded, more the latter than the former fortunately. Our colonel was killed, the announcement was in today's Telegraph.
Lieutenant H T Bone of the 2nd Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, to his mother
Apart from our ordinary equipment, we were loaded down with heavy packs, a pick or shovel each, 24 hours' rations, ammunition and maps. Under our armpits were the large bulges of the inflated Mae-Wests [lifejackets]. In the mess decks we blacked our faces with black Palm Olive cream and listened to the naval orders over the loud hailer. Most of us had taken communion on the Sunday, but the ship's padre had a few words to say to us. Then the actual loading into craft - the swinging on davits - the boat lowering and finally, "Away boats".
Promptly at H-hour, I began listening on my wireless sets for the first news. It was a very dull morning and the land was obscured by mist and smoke so that except for the flotilla leader and the CO, no one actually saw the land till the metal doors opened in front and the ramp was down, but very soon after H-hour, crystal clear over my sets, came messages from the assaulting companies: "Heavy opposition, pushing on" and "Heavy casualties, pushing on", from each of the two assaulting companies. By now we could hear the tach-a-tach-a-tach of enemy machine guns and the strident explosions of enemy mortars on the beach and its approaches.
Now was the moment - we clutched our weapons and wireless sets, all carefully waterproofed. Suddenly there was a jarring bump on the left and looking up from our boards we saw some of the beach obstacles about two feet above our left gunwale with a large mine on top of it, just as photographs had shown us; the mine just the same as those we had practised disarming. Again a bump on the right, but still we had not grounded.
The colonel and the flotilla leader were piloting us in, and for a few brief minutes nothing happened except the music of the guns and the whang of occasional bullets overhead, with the sporadic explosions of mortar bombs and the background of our own heavy gun fire. The doors opened as we grounded and the colonel was out. The sea was choppy and the boat swung a good bit as one by one we followed him. Several fell in and got soaked through. I was lucky. I stopped for a few seconds to help my men with their heavy wireless sets and to ensure they kept them dry.
As we staggered ashore, we dispersed and lay down above the water's edge. Stuff was falling pretty close to us and although I did not see it happen, quite a number of the people from my own boat were hit. Instinctively, where we lay we hacked holes with our shovels. I began to recognise wounded men of the assault companies. Some were dead, others struggling to crawl out of the water because the tide was rising very rapidly. We could not help them since our job was to push on, but I saw one of my signal corporals with a wound in his leg and I took his codes with me promising to send a man back for his set before he was evacuated.
Getting just off the beach among some ruined buildings we began to collect the HQ. The other boat party was mostly missing, also three-quarters of my sets. The colonel was getting a grip on the battle and I was sent back on the beach to collect the rest of us. I did not feel afraid, but rather elated and full of beans. There was some horrible sights there and not a few men calling out for help. I wanted to pull a body out of the waves, but he looked to be dead and I had no time or duty there - the beach medical people would gradually get round to them all.
Under the sides of a tank that had been hit I saw a bunch of my people and I bawled at them to get up and get moving since they were doing no good there and could quite safely get along to HQ. I felt a little callous when I found that nearly all of them had been hit and some were dead. But sorting them out I made up half of a wireless team and then went in search of some more.
Further on were the adjutant and the padre with their party, also taking cover. I told them where we were and took them back with me. By persuading a couple of blokes with shrapnel in their legs and feet that they were good for a few hours yet, I got my wireless lifted and we got back to HQ. It was just moving off further inland. Later I discovered that Jimmy Laurie and Major Barber, one of my signallers and numerous others, had been killed on the beach landing at the same time as myself, and I felt I had been very fortunate.
The next battle I saw only from the back, but its aftermath gave me my first real taste of fear. We had moved forward into one already taken enemy position to mount an attack on a stronger one beyond it. This was rash since Jerry had his mortars laid on the last position. It was a small thick wood by the side of a road, and he fairly laced into us. I cannot tell you how many were wounded and killed there, but I lost some more signallers and a whole crowd round me got hit. We could not get away, neither could we dig. The ground was hard and tangled with roots, the bombs were bursting literally everywhere all the time. I laid on my face for a few moments, then seeing the provost sergeant hit five yards away I pushed over to him and shoved my field dressing on the back of his neck. He had a piece through his shoulder, but it was not serious, and we got him out of it. (Curious how everyone turns yellow when hit.)
We all had to get out of it and we did. The attack went in from the rear instead and was successful, lots of Jerry prisoners being captured, but Dicky was killed and Hurch wounded, as well as a good many others. After this, having reached our objectives, all but one, we began to collect ourselves. People get lost all over the place in battle, some deliberately, most quite by accident. We were pulled back a bit and made to dig in for the night, but we got very little sleep, and next day moved on and dug in again and so on - the rest since then I cannot yet tell you, but D-day was not the end, nor is the end yet. Thank God Clive, Tony and Ronnie and Bill are still alive and well. For the rest, it is a tale of new faces. PS Don't let this story depress you because we are in great form now. · The letters published today are under copyright and reprinted by permission: 2nd Lt Jack Lundberg and Captain George Montgomery, taken from War Letters, Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll (Scribner 2001). Major Rodney Maude: Warren Tute collection, D-day Museum, Portsmouth. Josef B, Leopold L: Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Bibliothek Für Zeitgeschichte, Stuttgart. It was a condition of publication that their second names were not used.
This is a letter written on August 10, 1945, by William J. "Bill" Nass (1924-1986), a 21-year-old soldier stationed in Shanghai, China. He wrote this letter home to his parents in Seattle immediately after the Hollywood film he was watching, The Clock, was stopped and the announcement was made that World War II had ended. As it turned out, the announcement was a few days premature and Nass held the letter until Japan's surrender was verified, writing "This was written during the first announcement we got. It was false! Waited for the real thing before mailing it." The letter is unique because Nass was actually writing it while his fellow soldiers were, in their joy, yelling and screaming and throwing chairs. The letter was submitted by Kathryn Nass Ciskowski, daughter of William J. Nass.
Aug. 10 !!!
Oh Thank God!!
I still can’t believe it – and won’t be able to until I hit 20th Ave. again! I was sitting in the show seeing “The Clock” when it hit us. They announced it. I thought the place was coming down! Chairs thrown and all. Right now I can hardly hear myself! It’s all fireworks, hollering and firing guns. Lead flying all over. Tears just run down my face. I just have to write -- I won’t see any sleep tonight! They’re all getting drunk. I couldn’t do that. That’s not my way of celebrating. I just want to thank God.
I can’t even imagine the doings in the states but I’ll bet they’re something! So doggone unexpected! Every one figures it would go til the end of ’46! Never on Aug. 10, 1945. Oh ma and pa -- I’m going nuts! Of course it will be 6 months til I get home -- but now at least I know I will get Home! Maybe for Xmas again huh?
Waiting for Truman to speak in 10 minutes. I was going to send some presents home but will bring them myself!
Am I dreaming? For the last 2 and a half years -- the day that I dreamed of but never dared for -- here today!! I’m so darned nervous. Worse than on furlough. No more furloughs!
No one ever dreamed of it -- so soon. Japs had more sense than we thought or else the bomb was so terrible.
What yelling, screaming, singing -- flares and sky rockets shooting.
Oh how the worlds prayers have been answered! Think of all the lives saved from the invasion of Japan!!
I’ll wear my new shoes home!!
Oh golly they’re banging the doors to the mess hall down -- I’ll write more tomorrow -- if I wake up and find out its real --
Til then – All my love – to you, pa