May 4, 1945
This is Richard's first correspondance home after being
liberated. It's a formatted postcard with check boxes to
indicate his status. Other than the check boxes he was only
allowed to sign, date and address it.
(Click on image to see a
May 6, 1945
So much has been happening that it would take a book to tell it
all. We had been marching ever since the Russians got too close
to the camp I was in and we never had a chance to write. On May
2nd we had a most wonderful surprise when a British jeep drove
up to the barn we were living in and we found we were freed! We
are now on our way back, in western Germany yet, but I hope to
be in the states soon. It sure is wonderful to be eating food
again. We sure had some hungry days during the past 3 months. I
just finished a meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, carrots,
gravy and white bread. We will have lunch in a little while and
supper at 8. I am going to take a hot shower, the first one for
over a month.
May 7, 1945
I just finished a good breakfast a few minutes ago and am
relaxing in the sunshine now. It's a beautiful morning, the
first for quite a while. The camp was somewhere between Stettin
anc Danzig, We crossed the Oder river at Swinemunde and then
walked to a camp a few miles north of Hannover, by the way, we
started out Feb. 6. We were only at the new camp a week (arrived
there Mar. 29), when the western front drew near so we were
marched east again back across the Elbe river.
We started that march April 7. When we were liberated, we were
about 10 miles southeast of Lubeck. At present I am a few miles
from Osnabruk, which incidentally was the town we bombed on our
May 8, 1945
Today is a holiday in England celebrating the end of the war. I
wonder if it is in the states too. I thought when we were
liberated that I might be in the states for the celebration but
things ended quicker than I expected. Germany is surely a badly
beaten and disorganized country. You just can't imagine it. I
have really missed newspapers and radio the past year. I have
seen 2 movies already and a couple good news reels. I have been
figuring up the last couple days how much money I have and it
really counts up. At the end of this month the army will owe me
$1,307.60 back pay and plus what I have in the bank I will have
quite a roll. Don't know what to do with it yet.
We were shot down over Belgium and when I hit the ground, some
civilians got me and gave me clothes and were going to get me
out of the country but I got picked up by the Germans and was
held in prison for 5 1/2 weeks. It's sure good to be eating 3
meals a day again.
May 9, 1945
I am still here at the same place as yesterday. Just finished a
swell dinner of roast beef, gravy, brussel sprouts, and mashed
potatoes and a dessert of stewed pears in some kind of milk
sauce. I had seconds on meat and gravy and 4 helpings of
dessert. I am sitting in the day room now recuperating. Pies,
cakes, candy, etc. are something we all missed very much the
past few months, and they were always the main topic of
conversation when we were half starving during our marching
around Germany. We are in British hands. We were liberated by
them. I don't know when will be turned over to an American
outfit, but I suppose when we leave here we will go to one. We
don't know anything definite. We hear that we will fly all the
way home, then we hear we will go by boat, and it goes on like
that, also in regard to leaving here. We almost left this
morning but now I think we are here for all day but really
believe we will go tomorrow.
This camp is in a town named Emsdetten and is quite near
Osnabruk and Munster. I have surely made a complete tour of
Germany in the past year and a half, flew all over it and walked
all over it, rode by train from Brussels to Frankfurt then clear
across beyond Stellin. Then by truck from Lauenberg on the Elbe
river to here. The trip by foot was the hardest of all though.
We covered somewhere around 700 to 900 kilometers from Feb. 6 to
May 2, when we were liberated. A kilometer is 5/8 mile. I just
got a new pair of GI shoes before we left and they sure held up
good. I think I'll bring them home and put them in a glass case.
May 10, 1945
We left the last place at 10 today and went to an airdrome by
truck about 15 miles. We hopped on a British Lancaster bomber at
2 PM and landed here at Brussels at 3. It was swell to be up in
a plane again but the only disappointment was that I wanted to
get one last look at Germany by air but these Lancs don't have
windows so it was like riding in a boxcar. My visit to this city
is much different than it was a year ago. Then I was quite a
notorious jailbird and was kept under lock and key in the famous
St. Gilles prison here. Now I am free to walk the streets of
town and buy in the shops, even ice cream we can get here. I
haven't had any though.
We leave here tomorrow and go by train, we hear, to Le Havre or
Cherbourg where we wait for a boat to the US. I only hope we
don't have to wait too long.
The people here sure seem happy. They all wave to us, etc., and
the Belgian flag is on practically every building, no more nazi
flags as it was when I was here last. The only flags I saw in
Germany as we were traveling back after being liberated was the
old white flag of surrender. There was one on just about every
house, in the country and city.
When we were liberated, we were certainly surprised as we
expected shooting, tanks, and other signs of war if we were ever
freed. Instead a British jeep came driving quietly up the road
and told us we were free. In a short time our German guards were
disarmed and marched away. There was no fight left in any of the
Germans we saw around there. It seems they have all had enough.
May 12, 1945
I am in American hands now and eating in a good old GI mess hall
again, and coffee instead of 'tay'. We had chicken for dinner
today. I ate the entire landing gear of a chicken, thigh, and
drumsticks. My first chicken since a year last April. We got a
new issue of clothes yesterday. It feels good to keep clean and
to dress in GI clothes. We have radio music all day, plenty of
reading and game rooms, movies, and such things for
entertainment. We can't eat too much candy yet or drink
carbonated or alcoholic beverages because they are afraid of bad
effects due to the condition of our stomachs. We have been
figuring up our points but I can't quite scare up enough for a
discharge. I am in another Belgian town now. We left Brussels
May 15, 1945
I am one more step on my way toward home. We arrived here last
night at a camp not too far from Le Havre. I don't know how long
we will be here, any time up to 2 weeks I guess. We get
processed here, checking over our records, etc. We even had to
fill out a paper today stating where we intend to spend our
May 17, 1945
I am still taking life easy and sweating out processing. I think
we will start in a day or two. We are eating good yet. They give
us plenty of eggs and meat, no spices yet or food that is hard
to digest, til our stomachs get in better condition. There is
also egg nog, soup, etc. to be had at the Red Gross between
meals and I have my share. By the time I get home I should have
picked up quite a bit of weight. I got weighed after about 8
days of good eating, with just my dog tags on, and I weighed 149
lbs., which surprised me. I wish I could have weighed myself
when we were liberated but didn't have a chance.
Sat. May 19, 1945
The camp I am in is at St. Valery, France, just a few miles west
of Dieppe, lie are having swell weather and the fields and trees
are green and pretty. I enjoyed the train ride to here very much
as the scenery was beautiful. I haven't found any place yet
though that compares to our part of the country.
May 23, 1945
I am still here, 9 days today, but I really believe we will get
out and on the way to the boat in 3 or 4 days. They really keep
the ex-pw's moving through here but we just have to wait our
turn no matter how impatient we get. We have plenty
entertainment, movies, USO shows, etc., also sports, although I
have been to lazy to exert myself. I have been spending most of
my time reading, sleeping, and eating. We get chicken quite
often, can't have pie, cake or candy yet though. Robert Hansen,
our ball gunner is here but so far I haven't run into any more
of my crew members. I am very anxious to get back to the states
so I can find out about them. I am sure at least 3 of them
evaded capture when we went down, and got back to the states,
and I know 6 of us were captured.
May 25, 1945
We just got back from getting our clothes issued us. Maybe we'll
get out of here soon now, I hope. We got shirt, pants, tie,
underwear, sox, hankies, and a new type jacket they are wearing
over here instead of a blouse. I hear the air corps has a kind
of their own, maybe we'll get one in the states, or maybe it's
all rumor. We get all kinds of rumors. We also got ribbons for
air medal ETO and whatever also was due any of us, no wings or
stripes. I'll have to get some in the States.
The section I'm in moves to the processing area tomorrow so it
shouldn't be long til we are ready to go, if they have boats for
us. We got our clothes and ribbons already. I don't know just
what else is included in the processing. I know when we get to
the camp at Le Havre where we wait for the boat we get our
foreign money changed to American money. That will sure be a
treat. So far I have had 3 partial payments, 2 dollars worth of
German money and 2 separate payments of Belgian Francs, $20
worth each time. There's nothing to spend it for though but
anyway it's a pleasure to be able to carry money again. We get 7
packs of cigarettes a week free, also gum, soap, etc.
I have given up hopes of getting home very soon. It looks like
we will wait til troops, etc. going to the Pacific theatre are
moved from Europe. After all that is more important I guess.
Although we ex-PW's are impatient to get home, if we just think
back a few weeks to the life we were living, we should be very
happy and contented; after all staying here is a good way to
make more money, overseas pay will continue til we hit the US.
May 30, 1945
I got weighed in Namur, Belgium the 11 of May and weighed 149
nude. Yesterday we got processed, which included a physical.
With my pants and shoes on the man said I weighed 167, but I
thought he made a mistake so last evening I went back and got
weighed again and believe it or not I weighed 161 without my
clothes on. That is a new high for me. I guess we are through
processing except for getting paid and getting our shipping
tickets. They say we have to take $50. I'd rather not as I have
$50 at present which will more than do me til I get to Fort
Lewis. That is where I will get my furlough from. We are
segregating already according to our reception centers. I
haven't seen anyone I know in this bunch but there are a lot of
Seattleites. I want to stay at Fort Lewis long enough to get my
teeth fixed as I have some bad ones. Unless I have it done here,
but it looks doubtful.
June 3, 1945
I found that one can have dental work done here so I finally
overcame my fear of the drill and went to see the dentist
yesterday. I planned on going day before yesterday but talked
myself out of it.
That was the first time I've had work done on my teeth since
July, 1943 in Sioux City. I had 5 that needed filling and
fortunately none to be pulled. One I was sure would have to be
as it was practically all cavity although it never did ache, but
he filled it. It sure hurt when be drilled it though. He filled
3 of them and told me to come back Monday for the other 2 so I
will keep my courage up and go tomorrow. They shouldn't be too
painful as I never knew I had then (cavities).
Now there will be nothing to hold me up at Fort Lewis except
probably checking up on my service record and getting paid. I
have approximately $1,200 coming.
I got to see Alex Templeton the other day. He put on shows here
for several days. I have been reading every day about the Jap.
balloon menace on the coast. I sure hope none land around
I had ice cream a couple days ago, which was the first since
Easter Sunday, 1944, three days before we were shot down. It
sure was a treat.
In my 4 months to the day when [before] we were
shot down, I used my 48 hr. leave we had every two weeks, by
visiting various noted places in London and Norwich. I visited
"Old London", that is the medieval part of the city. I
was interested in what damage the Germans had done in that part
of the city. Of the famous old buildings only St. Pauls
Cathedral had a slight damage on the roof. Only large office
buildings seem to have suffered the most. All rubbish had been
cleared away. For that reason it is hard for me to give a true
picture of the destruction that had been done. I only visited
St. Pauls Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. I was surprised to
learn that those Cathedrals were used for burial places for
famous people. The guide that took me through the Cathedral took
me through the Crypt and showed me the place where the caskets
were lowered down from the upper floor into the Crypt. That
floor consisted of stone slabs inscribed with the name and
obituary of the person resting below it. Of the hundreds of
famous men that had been placed in the Crypt by the government,
for the notable deeds they had done, the only one I can remember
is Admiral Nelson. The hearse that carried his body was kept in
the same room not far from where the hero rested.
The windshield around the Pilot's compartment when we first
started combat flying was made of what is known as plexiglass,
highly transparent, but a long ways off from being bullet proof,
as it was the most important place on the ship, because the two
pilots occupied that station. Later in the war that glass was
replaced by bulletproof glass. I can not say how thick the glass
was, probably an inch and a half thick. It was transparent as
ordinary glass. As plexiglass was soft, which we learned going
through a cloud, where some ice formed on the propeller. A piece
about an inch in diameter left the propeller and left a hole
without shattering the entire glass nor even any portion of it.
It was a great satisfaction to all pilots when the plexiglass
was discarded and the bulletproof glass took its place. I cannot
say how large a bullet it could turn, but will say this. The
first mission we flew with a bulletproof windshield, a piece of
Flak struck it, right in front of the pilot's face. It took a
little chip out of it, but never penetrated it.
At times when we neared our target, Flak as a rule was very
accurate and plentiful. At times it sounded as hail on a tin
roof, and punched a lot of holes, not only by Flak, but also by
fighters. In spite of that, our ship flew 20 missions before it
finally was shot down, without any of our crew hit except on
that fatal day. Two men were wounded. The projectile that
brought us down was a 20 millimeter cannon bullet.
We all had many a near miss. Once the anti-aircraft fire was so
accurate that the 88 millimeter projectiles were so numerous and
so near us, exploding all around us, the noise had the
resemblance of thunder, believe it or not. It sure scared us.
But none of our crew got hit although the bomber did. We had to
go home on three engines. An oil line was broken.
There is no defense against Flak except using evasive action,
meaning zig-zag flying. The mission in which I participated, we
never lost more than 3 ships. However our group, on one mission,
lost 13 ships out of possibly 20. The group was attacked by
fighter planes as soon as Belgium was reached and they followed
them deep into Germany and back near the enemy coast.