WWII Letters from the Men & Women In Service


Hoffman, Lt. Kenneth, letter dated December 1944

Little Gasoline Flare In Pillbox Is One of Life’s Greatest Comforts

In a remarkable letter to a member of The Globe-Post staff, Lieut. Kenneth Hoffman gives a vivid word-picture of how a GI feels and thinks as he awaits out the night in an advanced command post, guarding against a possible German attack, and how the men actually long for daybreak and resumption of the battle, to get away from the discomforts of the night.

The letter follows:

Before I came overseas this last time, I used to be kind of curious as to just how combat really was. I had spent a long time in the Army but it was all a period of training, it was the little things that I always wondered about, such as how you eat, if you ever sleep, what happens during the long hours of the night—little things like that, that are so hard to simulate in training.

Over here I learned all about it and pretty quickly too. I’d like to tell you of one of those long nights I was so curious to find out about.

We had moved up to our present position late in the afternoon. We were ordered to hold some high ground that dominated a German held town, to hold this ground until another unit could move thru us to make an attack on the town. We had been on the move continuously for many days previously and everyone kept going on sheer guts alone. Then, too, we had moved up to the position on tanks and the wind and rain drove clear through you, sitting up there on the backs of those persuaders.

The position had been organized just as dusk fell and everyone settled back to await the long night. We were fortunate enough to have a pillbox located in the center of our position, so I used it as my command post, and also as sort of a shelter for the men of the platoon who were not on guard. As complete darkness fell, several of us sat huddled in the dark dampness of our shelter, thankful for the protection that we had against the rain which continued to beat down outside.

A runner came up from the company with word that a tank had brought up a case of rations and some water.

It was difficult to pick out men to make that long trip back to the company CP and carry that weight all the way forward. Each of us was having enough trouble carrying our own weight much less another hundred pounds, but it had to be done and the men started off. The thought of getting something to eat made you feel a little better and you sort of forgot your discomfort for a few minutes.

After what seemed to be hours, men with the rations returned. The rain was running down their faces and they moved as ghosts under their heavy loads. I checked the rations to see if there was enough to go around. Everything was OK but in the dark one of the men had taken a can of gasoline intended for one of the tanks instead of water. That meant we would have to use the water in one of the small streams running close by. We opened the ration box and started to dole out the meager cans. One of the boys got the idea to pour a little gasoline in a can to give a little heat and light. It wouldn’t have to be much and we could give the rest of the can to the tanker in the morning. With raincoats covering the embrasures in the pillbox, we lit the gas.

As it flared up everyone stood there as though in a daze, staring at the flame. It seemed like you couldn’t take your eyes away from the fire. We were in a spell that was broken only by the sudden crack of our artillery sending over their regards to Adolph’s men.

As the night wore on we nibbled on our rations and listened to the wind and rain howl outside. No one thought much of going to sleep. The runner had come up a short time before with word that we wouldn’t get any blankets up tonight. Tanks were the only thing that could reach us and they didn’t want them moving around any more than necessary. Neither did the men in the line. Tanks always draw fire and we would just as soon sweat it out in the rain without cover as be shelled by that nerve racking Heinie artillery all night.

Men come and go during the night, as one set of guards relieves another. Hardly a word is spoken as the men move about. The men going to the outpost dread the thoughts of hours of standing in the wind and rain and they show it in their faces as they don their raincoats and disappear into the darkness. The men coming in out of the darkness grin to themselves at the pleasure of being in out of the wind for a little while anyway.

As time passes, several of the men stretch out on the cold cement. One or two of them manage to fall asleep and their gentle snoring breaks the silence of the night. They don’t sleep long, however. The coldness soon creeps into their bones and they have to get up to keep from getting cramps in their muscles.

All attention is focused on the little fire in the center of the room; some of us glance away occasionally to see what time it is, but each time the clock seems to be the same as the time we looked at it before. Everyone prays that the night will pass faster, yet you really don’t know why you want the night over, because in the morning the Heinies will know where you are and they will throw their mortars and artillery to try to move you back and then it will be a different kind of hell to face.

Some time during the morning the runner brings up a couple of replacements that have come up from battalion. The men look fresh but scared; they have that look of apprehension in their eyes that all new men have. You talk to the, ask them how long they have been in the Army, when they came overseas, and a few other stock questions. You try to tell them that there is nothing to combat that they didn’t experience in maneuvers, and that fighting isn’t half as bad as it is made out in the papers.

They tell us what they are doing in the States, how the people are making plans for the D-day celebrations; of the liquor that is being hoarded for drinking on that day that this end of the war comes to a close. Someone interrupts with a grunt of disgust. It is a little unfair for the men who are yet to die to hear of the celebrations that are being planned in which we will take no part.

You tell the replacements to get some rest and that you will take them to their squads in the morning and again silence falls on the little group.

After the millionth look at your watch, you notice that it will soon be daylight. The runner has just returned with the news that the plans have been changed and that we will attack the town at first light. You get your squad leaders together and brief them as to the plan. Soon the night is over and in the dim grayness of morning you leave the shelter of the pillbox to board the tanks once again.

As you stand there waiting to mount, you wonder where you will be spending this night and if it will be as comfortable as the last. Soon the tank motors start and you climb aboard; a new day has come and with it the opportunity to put the Heinies on the run once more.

Source: LeMars Globe-Post, January 8, 1945 [Plymouth County]

Holland, Cpl. Carl Holland, letter dated August 5, 1945

Cpl. Carl Holland Writes
From the Ruykyus Isls.

Ruykyus Islands,
August 5, 1945.
Dear Friends:
Just a few lines to let you know about where I am, but I could tell you much quicker where I have'nt (sic) been than where I have. Very few places I have'nt been over here, and for sure, not much over two more logical places I can go, is my guess, (ha).

I like the island fine, really think it is the best island I have been on. The climate is grand, very cool at night and always a good breeze from the ocean. In the heat of the day it's very hot except when cloudy. We do get storms here, wind and rain from the sea, really pours for a day or more at a time. When the island is repaired and built up it will be a wonderful place to be from, (ha).

Have had one ration of beer here, so you see it's water, or else. Have a P. X., get fresh meat, maybe twice a week, then the rest of the time it's dehydrated, or can-food. What-a-meal.
This is one place money is of no value to you, except in the P. I. and for envelopes. They just pay us ten dollars a month, that's a plenty. They are trying to keep a plenty. They are trying to keep down inflation, and I do believe it's a very good thing. Should have done it in the Philippines, those people hold you up. I know the Japs didn't treat them like the Americans have; if they wanted anything they just took it.

Civilians here are located in camps or villages, they can't understand really what is going on, never so much equipment in their lives before. They raise rice and sweet potatoes, the women do the work in the fields and the men are guards or boss. These women can carry more on their head than I can lift up, it seems impossible, they carry it for hours and never take it off when they rest.
They have rice paddies about the size of a garden all-over the village. When the rice is growing it's covered with water most of the time, and it gets about knee high, similar to oats the grain is above ground.

I sure wouldn't take a lot for what I have seen in the Pacific, but I wouldn't give a penny for anymore.

Thirty-eight months overseas is a long time and the past ten months hasn't been a picnic by any means. I have 78 points, just enough for the duration unless things change in the near future. Some of the boys are being discharged with lots of points, 100 or more. My guess is that I will put in more that 45 months before I get home; sure isn't justice.

Cpl. Carl Holland, 37117400
H. Q. Btry, 179 C. A. Bn.
A. P. O. 331, Care Postmaster,
San Francisco, California.
NOTE: Okinawa was the largest of the Ryukyu Islands.
Merle Miller of Grant City, Mo., daughter of Mrs. Dora Miller of Corning and Carl Holland, son of Mrs. Lesta Holland of Blockton, were united in marriage August 21 in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Holland of Leon. After a brief honeymoon trip through Colorado, the couple will reside on the Hoover farm east of Blockton. ~ Mount Ayr Record News, Thursday, September 02, 1954

Source: Mount Ayr Record News, Mount Ayr,[ Ringgold County]. date clipped off, 1945; Submission by Theola Weeda collection, June of 2013;
Transcription & notes by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2013

Hunter, Cpl. Doyle J., letter dated December 25, year unknown


Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Hunter, of near Algona, formerly of the Tingley vicinity, received the following letter from their son, Cpl. Doyle J. Hunter, who is serving with the armed forces in Africa:

"I have not written to you for at least a month, so today, Christmas day, I thought I should try to rite you a bit. Time lately has gone fairly fast though I might say there have been rather tedious and tiresome hours.

"We have not received any mail from the States for over three months. However, I did get a letter from Eldon Main yesterday. It was dated October 24th and he was in Northern Ireland.

"This year has seemed less like Christmas than any I have spent so far. Last year I thought I was bad off because I couldn't get home for the holidays but I was in the States at least. This year I'm thankful to be alive and am hoping to get back to the States. It is almost funny the way one can go on and looking back realize how easy we had things a year ago.

"I went to church services this morning - Holy Communion - though it was conducted by a minister of the Church of England and their services are somewhat different than ours."

Source: Twice-A-Week News, Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa, date clipped off
Submission by Theola Weeda collection, June of 2013


Return to Letters Index

Return to Home Page