World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I


World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

A collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I


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Diary of Lt. Bruce K. Bockstanz 
 Stalag Luft I Prisoner of War

Diary from 3/8/45 thru 6/24/45

Original letters and documents are in regular typeface.
 Bruce’s comments that were added 1998 are in italics

3/8/45 - Have been existing on rutabagas and coarse German bread. Had 1/2 Red Cross

3/9  -   Horse steak tonight. Received oleo and barley.

3/10 -  Red Cross parcel rumor. Received soup powder and cheese.

3/11 -  Sugar issue.

3/12 -  Food getting low. Have butter, salt & dried vegetables. Had lights for an hour.

3/13 -  Last red cross parcel.

3/14 -  Received typhus shots.

3/15 -  Received sugar.

3/17 -  More spuds. Supper of spuds and bread.

3/18 -  More spuds. No lights last night. Rec’d sugar & rutabagas. Had lights tonight.

3/19 -  Rec’d potatoes, butter & vinegar. West front is moving.

3/20 - Hot showers today. “ paunch” is definitely gone. Have been getting a shower every two weeks. Spuds & grass (‘grass’ was our name for dried vegetables).

3/21 -  Rec’d. Grass, spuds and butter. Koblenz has fallen.

3/22 -  Rec’d. Sugar. Little variety in meals.

3/23 -  Some 35 new kriegies today. Shot down on big Berlin raid of 3/10. Warm day. Had potato pancakes.

3/24 -  Rec’d butter, cheese and salt. Patton has crossed the Rhine.

3/25 - Good weather. Air invasion of Holland by British. Rec’d sugar horsemeat and grass. Paratroops landing by Americans. Patton crossed Rhine in another place.

3/26 - Rec’d tea, coffee and barley. Burning coke in stove.   Stympf has constructed a rotary blower to provide a better draft. Rumor of 1/4 of a Red Cross parcel per man for Easter.

3/27 - The biggest and most wonderful day to ever hit Stalag Luft I. Good news followed good news. Red Cross parcels - following a two month subsistence on jerry rations alone, the first issue of red cross food parcels came through at the rate of 1/4 parcel per man. Seven carloads (2,000 per carload) have definitely arrived. Ten carloads on way from Lubbock. Another 1/4 issue tomorrow of invalid  parcels. If the ten carloads arrive, we get a full issue for week and a full issue for next ten days. If more come in, they will be given out at the rate of one per man per week. (There are approximately 9,000 kriegies in camp.)

Personal parcels - a large batch and three lads from our room hit! Bill Tate (Mushmouth or Mush for short), who has not received a letter as yet, got a mammoth food parcel featuring a two pound head of “edam cheese”. Also dried apricots, 1/2 lb. cocoa, bitter chocolate, onion flakes, butterscotch puddings, rice, ginger bread mix, 3 boxes of bullion cubes, fudge bar, vitamin pills, shorts and other clothes. Most of the food, he contributed to the “combine” for all our enjoyment.

Dave Schnaars (Schnaaaaars) also hit with a fine package featuring a huge (1/2 gal.) Box of powdered eggs. Also klim (milk spelled backwards), coffee, hot chocolate, butterscotch, chocolate & vanilla pudding, 3 1/2 d-bars, chicken and beef bullion, assorted soup mixes, life savers, a variety kit and gum.

Ralph Renard (Bluto) came through with a cigarette parcel

A good rumor has it that there are more personal parcels to be distributed tonight. Maybe I’ll hit!

And the news was sensational all day. Fact- Street fighting in Frankfurt, 45 miles from Vienna. Rumor- street fighting in Linburg, 28 from a Patton-Hodges link-up. Breakthrough at Kustrin. 45 miles from Vienna.

To celebrate this eventful day, we declared a one square d-bar dividend. That first taste of chocolate, after all this time, was really fine. Tonight ‘Pancho’ McNichols is losing his mind while preparing a sensational meal as a further celebration.

The immediate future looks rosy!

3/28 - Had chicken soup, creamed mashed potatoes and horsemeat. Snack of gingerbread cupcakes. Full Red Cross issue this week and hereafter.

3/29 - Rec’d. 1/4 issue of parcels, Bluto baked cake and pie for Easter.

3/30 - Big c-ration and grated cheese dish.

3/31 - Had oats and barley with prunes, milk, sugar & butter. Also raisin cookies.

Easter Sunday - 4/1/45 - A day rivaling Christmas in all respects. Aided by personal parcels from Tate and schnaars plus the stores saved from the first week’s issue of complete Red Cross parcels, Bluto and Pancho went wild in preparation for the day’s feed. Banner meals all day. We awoke to find Easter baskets filled with m & m’s.

At morning roll call, our bugler played “Easter Parade” . Really sounded fine in the clear morning air.

Breakfast began with a super-rich prune whip, followed by eggs, spam sausage, apricot tart, jam, butter and coffee with cream and sugar. The tarts came in individual Easter baskets, which also served as place cards. Bill Tate led us in grace before this delectable meal

Brakendorf, compound news officer, place the following on the board: Happy Easter; April, ‘V’ month. Maybe he’s right!

Later, the news came up announcing, “76,000 Red Cross parcels on hand (official). Will be given out at the rate of one per man, per week. 1,100 letters in camp - will be distributed on Tuesday. 1,000 personal parcels in camp to be given out Wednesday and Thursday. 1,000,000 Red Cross parcels in Lubbock and 3,000,000 in Sweden.

The news was even more cheering when considered in light of the situation that existed less than a week ago. We had been living (existing only) on German rations for two months and had given up on ever seeing Red Cross parcels, mail or personal parcels again.

The war news continued good, as allied armies swept further westward approaching Kassel & Hanover thereby closing the gap to Berlin to 176 miles. Rumor - Germany wants to annexed by the USA!

Lunch consisted of chicken noodle soup, toasted cheese sandwiches and a double layer cake, appropriately decorated with an Easter bunny.

A fine Easter service was conducted by Padre Clark and Padre Mitchell. The latter’s sermon was the type that one will long remember. He stressed the responsibility that rests with men like ourselves in the construction of a better world. I took advantage of the communion service.

Upon returning to our room, we received one of Bluto’s “toll house” cookies with individual initials. Owing to the popularity of “B’s”, I settled for a “K”. The long awaited supper found us still going strong. Featured attraction was a half can of spam with a thick crust of cheese and oatmeal. Creamy mashed potatoes with pate gravy filled out the main course. A desert of chocolate-vanilla pie and a cup of cocoa topped off the meal.

The evening snack consisted of the largest piece of butterscotch pie ever made - about 25 sq. Inches!

Altogether a fine day.

4/3 - Woke up feeling the effects of yesterday’s over-indulgence. Spent most of the day working it off.

4/4 - Max Schmeling showed up in camp dressed in very natty civilian clothes. Several of the boys had him autograph pictures, which a very handy press agent passed out. He acted very friendly. Said that we’d be going home soon and that he wished that he were going with us. I recall that several P.O.W.’s were very upset with the autograph seekers, saying that they were trafficking with the enemy.

Dick (Poo) Winston received a book from home: Sumerset Maughem’s ‘the razor’s edge’. I received a letter, my 18th, from one Lorraine Yalade. Never met her. She introduced herself as a friend of mother’s. As I reflect, from the perspective of 1996, on this terse acknowledgment of a letter from someone who went out of her way to show support ,I’m sure that I was disappointed. Letters were so scarce and meant so much that I wanted each to be from someone near and dear. People did write.  After returning home, I received around 200 letters that had been on their long journey through censors - ours and theirs.

Bill (Mushmouth) Tate received his first letter. Speaking of scarce!

4/4 – Pancho Mc Nichols received word that he is the father of a girl. Carter received a parcel with beaucoup candy a cooking pan of Bisquick, crust, salt celery-onion flakes and gum.

4/5 - Pancho’s birthday.  Bluto, our new permanent cook, produced a banner menu, featuring toasted cheese sandwiches, spam-corned beef meatloaf complete with onions, cheese-saturated scalloped and a chocolate-prune cake. Snack was a peanut butter roll. We won a ball game from block 1, 2-1. Picked up a waterman pen for 3 d-bars. I must have really wanted the pen to give up chocolate!

4/6 - Lost a ball game to block 1, 6-5. Bill and Sully hit on cigarette parcels.

4/7 - Won from block 7, 2-0. Fine,  sunny day.   50,000 letters in camp.  More personal parcels in camp tomorrow.

4/8 - British, Americans and French are sweeping eastward. We have a fine news map on which the fronts are kept up-to-date. We all ‘sweat out’ each new advance.

4/9 - Took a game from the red’s team in this block. This puts us in the ‘A’ league.

4/11 - Received a fine letter from Frank Sebbard, my very good friend from Oberlin. He gave me some very comforting news about mother’s reaction to the MIA notice. He said that she took it admirably. That is the most comforting news that I have had. Also received a Christmas card from Mac (Mary Helen Mc Neill) . T. W. Bonds received a clothing parcel. We broke in the set of dominos that were included. Ben Carter also received a parcel of clothes. Joe Brennan received a cigar parcel. I smoked mine with no ill effect. Reminds me of the first that I smoked on a New Year’s Eve several years ago with Dick Bodycombe and Bill Schmidt.

4/12 - League opened today as we dropped a game to our biggest rivals, block 6, 6-3. Got another letter from Mary Helen Mc Neill, the 4th. Also one from Nancy Schmidt. She tells me that Bill is at Lincoln (as of 12/15/44). Probably there for assignment to an RT.. Wonder if he’ll get over to the ETO? (He went to the Pacific Theater). Allies have been going eastward rapidly for the last few days. Berlin announced that Magdeburg had been reached, only 75 miles from Berlin. Weimar reached and Coburg approached. Russians cleaning up around Vienna. Canadians doing likewise in Holland.

4/13 - Heard the very shocking news that President Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage yesterday. The USA and the world will miss his guiding hand during the trying days to come. He was a great man. May we always remember him and his great accomplishments. Had a tooth filled this morning.

4/14 - Received a couple of more letters. One from home included the first message written by dad. They heard from Ruth Ferguson and received Xmas greetings from five of the crew’s families. John got his “railroad tracks”. Baby has three teeth. Dad just got back from Chicago (Dec. 19th). Also one from Shirley Clark. On Dec. 8, Dick Bodycombe was on his way overseas. Bill (Schmidt) just about to go to RTO. Mary Mac plans to be married in February.

4/17 - The day that I picked for the end of the war in Europe. Last November. At least my guess is the closest of anyone’s. (Everyone else in the room thought that the war would be over much sooner) Russians are definitely moving again. All star game between this compound and west compound ended in a 1-1 tie. Sweetnam and Sullivan was our battery. We’ve been having at least one of Bluto’s pastries each day. Chocolate, prunes, raisins making his pies, tarts and cakes.

A cold got me down and the doctor ordered me to bed. Cough, fever and headache. Got to stay in bed for roll call. Boys serving meal in bed.

4/18 - Block lost another game to block 5. Still in bed.

4/19 - Letter from Mary Helen Mc Neill dated Jan. 8. She’s in NY city. Schnaars, Newton and Germano received book parcels. Ray, “Sam” Mc Cormick’s birthday. Large feed. Also mom’s birthday miss her more than ever today. Sent her a letter.

4/23 - Finally hit a food parcel. Very well packed with a good variety of food. Russians are closing in on Berlin. North, NW and south of the city. At one point, Russians and Americans are less than 18 miles apart. Very vague news from all fronts. We have been hearing heavy gunfire during long periods. Lots of German air activity, mostly JU-88’s. Flying boats coming over on the deck. Evidently evacuating Stralsund. Ball team won its first game from block 1, 3-1. I’m still in the sack with a mild case of bronchitis.

4/24 - Went outside today for the first time in a week. Talked with Joe Bernstein.

4/25 - German radio and newspapers still urging people to fight on with fanatic resistance. Urging guerrilla activity behind the lines. However, Germans seem to be ignoring this advise as indicated by Allied reports and POW totals.

4/30 - Russians have taken Stetine and are within 40 miles of here. Dug trenches with klim cans, etc. Germans destroying things all day. Loud explosions. Flying boats still evacuating Stralsund.  Fighters overhead all day. Last personal parcels distributed. Sul & Rollo got cigarettes. Herb Jackson and Joe Bernstein got food parcels.

At 2230 hours, German guards left the towers. At 2300, nazi party gave up control of the radio.

5/1 –At 0100, American MP’s took over towers and began patrolling fences. The Germans pulled out of the camp and the area last night. Camp under Col. Zemke. One German officer and five enlisted men are all that are left.

BBC is on regularly now. Russians are nearing Rostock. (Rostock is west of here). Barth shops closed awaiting Russians. No resistance. 38,000 Red Cross parcels are in our hands. Starving (?) Civilians stole 7,000 parcels from storage at the flak school. Many fainted from hunger while attempting to get the parcels. Col. Spicer returned to compound and received a rousing reception

BBC on in evenings. Heard Johnny Mercer and the ‘Hit Parade’. While listening to the latter program, announcement was made that the Russians had arrived at the gates of Stalag Luft I! Three Russians supposedly arrived at the gate in a staff car. Time 2200. At 2235, hit parade again interrupted as German radio announced the death of Hitler. Speculation on the cause of death (suicide, assassination or stroke?) Goebbels also presumed dead., as is Goering. Admiral Doenitz is head of German state.

“Don’t Fence Me In” is no. 1 on the hit parade!

2300 news - The Baltic port of Stralsund was entered today (by the Russians). Station went off the air with the star spangled banner.  Many link-ups between the Eastern and Western Allies.

5/2 - Stars and Stripes is flying side by side with the Union Jack and the Hammer & Sickle on pole that formerly flew the swastika. A fine sight.

Confusion as Russian units arrive in force. Russian col. Ordered a demonstration. Tore down fences and towers. Ordered by Russians to march to Rostock. Order later

Went into Barth. Russians pouring through town. Friendly when they found that we were Americans. Hostile to the Germans, but not as blood-thirsty as we had been led to believe. Germans thoroughly frightened. Many Russians of Mongol descent. Horse drawn wagons and equipment. Gave and received cigarettes. Cathedral littered with rubbish. Looks as though the Germans used it as a billet for women’s auxiliary.

Went to flak school. Outdoor equipment and part of building destroyed. It had been a beautiful set-up. A series of three storied brick buildings with all the equipment necessary for a school of this type. Fine living quarters. Large stores of equipment. Picked up some knapsacks, magazines, books, helmets, gloves wings, etc. Rooms full of pictures, maps, office machines, desks, etc.

Some of the lads got ski poles and flying boots. Went to the Red Cross warehouses. Picked up bed clothes, khaki shirts and kitchen equipment

Waiting for evacuation. Several of our boys are missing. Five killed, one by a mine. Others probably by the Russians. Russians are a wild bunch, fresh from the front lines. Not as blood thirsty as we were led to believe. Civilians frightened. Russians well stocked with vodka and other liquor. Supposedly, a five gallon jug is standard equipment in their trucks. Many trucks are  American (Studebaker). German cars all over. Driven by Russians and Americans.

Regulations are tightened. Restricted to the peninsula. Ordered to stay here and not try to get to American lines. However, many have left and others keep leaving under the mistaken impression that they will beat us home. Official announcement made that we will be flown out.

Five women and children committed suicide near camp. Buried by Padre Mitchell. More Americans killed while wandering in forbidden places.

Russian fighters in area. Concentration camps have been uncovered in this area. They were underground. Prisoners of all nationalities, Germans and numerous Jews. These people have been prisoners for up to nine years. One entrance to confinement. Roof about 3 feet high. Prisoners shackled. No windows. Lived in filth and were terribly crowded. According to eye-witness reports, all were diseased with typhus and dysentery.. No hair or teeth. Most did not know where they came from or even who they were. Flesh had disappeared from body. Faces looked like skulls with onion skin stretched over them. Blood practically gone. Instead a fluid that somehow carried oxygen through the system/ few expected to live. They are feeding them with milk and ground crackers. Solid food would probably kill them. There are supposed to be a good many of these prisoners in this area.

This horrible situation is clear proof of Nazi inhumanity and utter depravity. Had I heard this from anyone other than an eye witness, who in the past heard the German side of the story, I would have been inclined to write it off as propaganda. But this can’t be denied. Most of us felt sorry for the German civilians, but they must have known of this treatment of prisoners. They couldn’t have lived so close and not been aware of it. And yet these people cheered Hitler and his Nazi party and supported them, knowing that they were responsible for the systematic destruction of human beings that was going on under their noses. This also explains what we thought was useless brutality on the part of the Russians.

A Russian bi-plane landed at the airfield today. Field completely cleared.

Heard Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Anita O’Dea and Danny Kay over radio.,

Germans surrendered unconditionally their entire force in northwest Europe (Holland, Denmark, Schleswig-Holstein and Helgoland). Heard ceremony as Germans signed agreement with field, Marshall Montgomery. Agreement effective at 0800 Saturday, may 5. All air, sea and land action was to cease then. At 0750, a FW-190 was shot down. We heard the news from a rebroadcast of an eye-witness report.

5/5 - Major General Borisoff is in charge of this area. He is a hero of the battle of Stalingrad. Generals Artisotof,  Sakovich and Borisoff were in camp talking to Col. Zemke, they are trying to get us out.

An American jeep rolled into camp today, bearing a Col., Capt. And PFC from the Rostov area. One has a brother in camp. Came to visit him. Says plans are being made to come in and get us. Possibly tomorrow. Says that we will go to France from here. PFC made big hit with Kriegies.

Col. Wilson talked to us. Said that Major Neelander an W/C Sparks have returned after contacting allies and making preparations for us to fly out. A Col. Moss, USAAF man, arrived to make further arrangements.

An American major is going to take off in a JU-88 tomorrow and fly to where our ‘deliverers’ are. He will furnish runway specifications, etc.

Russians asked for 500 mechanics to repair boats in Barth harbor.

Made a big batch of fudge. We have a huge stove in a pasteboard house right outside our window. Also a field kitchen.

Little fresh news on our eventual evacuation. Many more are going off on their own. Chuck Quinby, Schnaars and Marmaduke left. Reedy, Ernie Bockstanz, Fermano, Keylock and Brennan spent night in town. Col. Zemke made order to stay on the peninsula, very strict. Russians providing us with white bread, flour and fresh beef.

Saw Russian film on the Yalta conference. Very good record of the ceremony. Pres. Roosevelt had aged 10 years since last summer and looked very pale and frail. His death must not have come as such a surprise to those that have seen him recently. The Russians made very much of him in the film, and those that we see here let us know how sad they think his death. Also saw a musical comedy with a war background. It was definitely not an academy award production.

Heard Padre Mitchell give what we all hope is his last sermon at Stalag Luft I. It was up to his very high standard. At the close of the service, Col. Malstrum presented him with a plaque from the Americans here in camp with the expressed appreciation for his work here. Later in the day, I called on him personally and got his address. He’s a New Zealander.

5/7 - Still the order is ‘stand fast’. No one knows when we will get out. No air activity at the airport.

Saw another Russian war film. This on the siege of Sevastopol. A Russian USO unit put on a show for us.

Read the May 2 edition of the ‘stars and stripes’. First time in ten months. “Hitler Dead”, “Munich Entered”, “POWs instates no longer can use the straight arm salute”. Ex-Kriegies from Germany will take over the POW camps in states. Tigers in second place, behind Chicago. Admiral Doenitz has supposedly surrendered unconditionally to Allies.

Showers are running continuously. At 0205 this morning, Admiral Doenitz surrendered unconditionally to the three allies. At 1500 GMT tomorrow, the formal announcement of the defeat of Germany will be given from London, Moscow and Washington. The king will broadcast in the evening. It is V-E Day tomorrow, May 8.

A BBC report tonight said that Barth, Germany’s Stalag Luft I has been liberated from the Germans and that the next of kin are being notified. A British Col. Arrive in camp today. Told us that preparations are underway to get us out of here.

5/8 - Played basketball and softball today. Today was V-E Day. Much celebration in London, New York, etc. Heard description of the signing of peace treaties. Medical Corp major in camp. Sent a letter home with him. No further news on our leaving. We’re making preparations for a long stay.

5/9 - Parties of 250 men are now visiting town, airfield, etc. Kriegies sailing in the inlet. Received some beef. Pigs in camp.

Col. Spicer now in charge of camp administration.. Reportedly promised lugers and daggers for all - if the Russians can get them. Gen. Borisoff spoke to the camp, asking us to join him in celebrating V-E Day. He promised that we would be out in four days. Will try to get us beer and wine.

Flares being shot each evening. Make a fine fireworks display. Today is the one that the Russians are celebrating as the official end of the war. Papers are being signed in Berlin. Goering captured by Americans. He says that Hitler condemned him to death in March.

Our group has made a fine officers’ club out of an empty building. Had entertainment all evening. Cols. Wilson, Spicer and Gabreski were there.

5/9 - 5/11 - Plans going forward for evacuation. On 10th, went to flak school. Well cleaned out of everything worthwhile. Joe gave me a pair of boots. On 11th, went to town with Winston. Traded coffee for a Hitler youth dagger. Got a spring bed at the Flak school. Also a tank driver’s helmet

Col Zemke announced that GP. Commander Wier had made arrangements for the planes to come in tomorrow or Sunday.

5/12 - Leaving soon. Planes should be here by 1300 hours. ‘Stars and Stripes’, ‘Life’, ‘Newsweek’ and comic magazines are in the officers’ club. We’re promised several hundred cases of fruit juice. Still have lots of food on hand, so we are eating the best of it now. At 1400, two B-17s came into the airfield at Barth! Probably contained control tower operators. More should follow soon. Sick and wounded are at airport, ready to go. A C-47 gooney bird came in. Squadrons of six B-17s coming in great sight! About 50 planes altogether. Took out the sick and wounded and most of the British personnel. Will be back in the morning for the rest of us. British went home. We are going to France first.

5/13 - Fortresses began arriving at about 0730 (Russian time). Turning in clothes, food and equipment. Guess we’re going!

Took boots, knapsack and red cross kit and marched to the airfield. Civilians looked sorry to see us go. Russians gave us a smiling send-off. B-17s coming in rapidly. Would land, load and take off without shutting off the engines. Got on a plane from the 305th BG. Rode in nose. Bridges all destroyed. Rostock and Wismer in fairly good shape. Rhine area was in a shambles. Cities leveled. Flew around Aachen. Churches, hospitals and all other buildings destroyed. All around the Rhine, fields pock-marked with craters, trenches and gun positions. Vehicle tracks everywhere.

Landed at Colmar, about 60 miles NE of Paris. Red cross gals gave us donuts and lemonade! Taken by truck to a camp east of Rheims, where the peace treaty was signed. Ate a GI meal and the food was great. Slept in tents on GI cots.

5/14 - With Newt and Brennan received red cross parcel for liberated POWs. Had a shower and received a complete change of clothes. Another fine meal. We’re actually eating white bread!

We flew to Le Harve in C-47s. Taken to a camp 45 miles north known as “Lucky Strike”. Received a friendly greeting from the French along the way. Seemed good to see so many friendly people. Threw cigarettes from the truck. Saw much bomb damage. It was good to see hundreds of German POWs in work details, jumping when given an order. No sign of egotism. The shoe is on the other foot, at last. Should be here about a week. Red Cross recreation center on field. Sent cablegram and V-mail home.

We’re separated in groups by state, supposedly to facilitate the granting of leaves when we get home, most of the paper work should be done on this side of the Atlantic. Am catching up on news of the world for the past 10 months by reading past issues of Time, Yank, and the Stars and Stripes.

Sent a ‘liberation’ telegram home. Also a V-mail letter. Saw part of a movie and went to a so show.

5/15-5/21 - have been getting nowhere in struggle to get on a ship for home. Situation is greatly confused. They have too many men and not enough organization. Have gone into a town named vaults three of the last four nights. It is a famous resort spot for Parisians, but the Germans destroyed the casino and most of the houses when they left. We found a nice hotel. It’s called ‘Le Clos Normand’ and run by a woman named Madame Piau. Newt, Brennan and I have stayed here the nights that we spent in town. The beds are the softest that I’ve ever slept in. She has a good stock of cognac, cider and Calvados. Her son, Jean Pierre Piau, showed us through the elaborate German defenses at Veulettes. They had gun positions everywhere, especially on the two cliffs that flank the valley.

Randy Mitton showed up. He’s been interned in Switzerland since April and is loaded with watches, cameras, lighters, etc. He looks fine (Randy was a navigator with whom I trained). Also saw other navigator friends Ed Kasner, Keith Ace and heard that Arnovitch was a POW. Crumpler was grounded in England. They had news of other mutual friends.

This morning Jean Pierre Piau showed us through the elaborate German defenses at Veulettes. They had gun emplacements everywhere, especially on the two cliffs that flank the valley.

5/21- 6/1/45 - Tomorrow I go to the ship ‘Lucretia Mott’ and begin the trip home. It’s been a long, hard struggle to reach this stage. I get a laugh when I recall the letter that I wrote home on may 14, that I’d be home as soon as the letter.

I haven’t spent all this time in camp lucky strike, thank god. I made two trips to Paris and one each to Rouen and Le Harve. I was much impressed with Paris and consider it the finest all-around city that I’ve seen. It is well stocked with scenery and, of course, entertainment. I went in the first time with Newt. We stayed at one of the Red Cross hotels, the independence club. It’s located on the Place de la Concorde. It was the living quarters of high ranking German naval officers. Next door is the American Embassy.

We went on a tour of the city and saw its many landmarks. We climbed the Eiffel Tower, visited Napoleon’s Tomb and took in the Follies Bergere.

The Red Cross food was fine and served by French waiters. The wine was plentiful and good. One thing that you can’t help noticing about Paris is the number of its girls. All of them are beauties, too. Seems as though all the good looking girls in France migrate to Paris, for it's hard to find them elsewhere.

The next time that I returned to Paris, it was with Herb Jackson. We saw all the sights again and dated a couple of army nurses. Also we stood in line at the factory outlet and bought some Chanel perfume and powder. Couldn’t get Chanel no. 5. Had a lot of fun trying to speak French with the natives.

Rouen had little to offer except a good mess and PX. The waterfront area of both Rouen and Le Harve are leveled. Only a few wall and church towers remain standing. There is something sordidly fascinating about the piles of rubble that once were stores, homes and monuments. The harbor are of Le Harve was guarded by a complex system of pill boxes and guns. Many of them had been destroyed by our bombardment. Also destroyed were the huge steel and concrete docks and buildings which formerly served the luxury liners that plied the Atlantic.

Back at lucky strike, we received a complete set of officer’s clothing as a gift of the government. The Red Cross served egg nog, sandwiches, hot chocolate and coffee by the gallons. USO shows and recent movies played before capacity crowds.

I met many old friends. Paul Nulton of the crew showed up in good shape. Joe Bernstein, Herb Jackson and Joe Duplechain are l here. Jones and Finnegan have passed through. Christian is supposedly o.k., but Schwaiger was ill the last time that Nulton saw him. Haven’t heard from Quinby or the lads with whom he started walking.

Drexel Lang, the boy with whom I went from Heliotrope to Koblenz, showed up. We recalled our adventures of last July.

Jim Dew of Oberlin was captured with his infantry outfit last December. We had a good talk about Oberlinites.

6/14- 6/24 - Switched ships at the last moment and came on to another liberty ship, "The Marshall Elliot".  Quarters are quite nice and the food is excellent. Came out to the ship on an lst. We are traveling ‘out of convoy’ and with full lights. Newt is still with me. We will go to Ft. Sheridan, Chicago after we hit the states. Learned that our port of destination is Norfolk, Virginia. I’m going to do my best to see John and Barb while there. The ETA is the 27th.

The passage has been quite smooth so far. There are nightly movies and lots of literature. They test fired the guns and made an impressive display of ack-ack.

We are really sweating out the last few days. It’s hard to realize that we’re finally going home. I find myself daydreaming constantly, thinking of the people back home and the places that I’ll be seeing soon.

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