The Bonds Of Love And War

Lela and Joe

By Terry D. Janes

 

In 2003, not long after starting this website, I got an email one day from a website visitor, Lela Eitel. Little did I know that this one unexpected email from a complete stranger would become the beginning of a deep friendship for me, but would also bring to light so much lost history and help so many people I’d never met, that the full ramifications would boggle the mind.

 

I had already been working as the historian of the 702nd Tank Battalion Red Devils and 80th Infantry Division Blue Ridgers for 19 years. Most of that was in the days before internet, when letters were on paper, expensive phonecalls had to be rationed according to budget, and many of the Veterans of the unit were still alive. I began the history project with the intent of writing one history book, and be done. I spent every penny I had, and every waking moment of 20-hour workdays, working like a madman to research and write that book, and then self-publish it at a time when such things were just not done, yet. As soon as the book hit print, new information began flowing in. Up until then, getting information about the outfit had been like pulling teeth. No history had been done yet, by anyone. The government knew next to nothing. Both the 702nd Tank Battalion and 80th Infantry Division had veteran’s reunion groups, but nobody had really wanted to talk about the war with this young man nobody had ever heard of before. That is not hard to understand. Veterans have a hard time discussing war with someone who never experienced it first hand. Most had never discussed it with their families. Some could not even discuss it with fellow veterans. The pain was still fresh in their minds, despite the passage of time.

 

My maternal uncle had been a platoon sergeant in Company B, 702nd Tank Battalion. My uncle had been one of the original cadre in the battalion when it was created, and was highly respected by the officers and enlisted men. It should not be surprising, that the majority of men who were willing to discuss the war with me, were men from Company B. As a result, some people felt that my book was slanted towards Company B. I assure you that any such slant was strictly because Company B is where the majority of my information came from, and not because I did not care about all the other units of the division. I took my information where I found it, nothing more. After the book hit print, suddenly a dam broke, and new information began pouring in from all kinds of sources. I finally ended up writing five volumes of history until the cost of self-publishing left me destitute. As much history that came to light during those heady days, it was nothing in comparison to what has come to light since beginning this website.

 

One of the aspects of history that I knew little about at that point, was of A Company, 702nd Tank Battalion and the 317th Infantry Regiment to which it was attached. What is known today of the role played by this company and regiment is in large part due to my friendship with Lela Eitel. Until now, the public at large has not known just how much they owe this gentle, soft-spoken, sweetheart of a woman. Because of Lela, and her never-ending love for this soldier who’d been killed 58 years earlier, a long series of discoveries have been made that had not been made until then, and very well may have never been made at all. Lela’s need to find out what her fiancé went through during the war, led me to begin a serious exploration of the details of the history of that company and regiment. Many times along the way, Lela and I would encounter dead ends in our research. Sources would dry up, and we’d be convinced that we could learn no more. However, at each of these dead-ends, somehow, some way, something would happen, and a new path would suddenly open up in just the direction we needed to go. We felt that God was guiding us. Lela and I referred to these moments as our twilight zone moments. Some of these moments were so bizarre and so far out in left field, that no other explanation was possible, but divine intervention.

 

On February 18, 2003, I was contacted by Lela Bush-Eitel. Fifty-eight years earlier, to the day, her fiancé and the love of her life, Joe DeLaurentis had been killed in the war. In 58 years, Lela had never quit loving the young man she had planned to marry, despite the fact that he was dead. In 58 years, Lela had not been able to find out exactly how he had died, or if he had suffered. Within minutes of getting her email, I was able to give her the basics of how Joe DeLaurentis died. Lela M. Bush was born January 20, 1929 in Wichita, Kansas. She was 15 years old when she met Pvt. Joe DeLaurentis. Their love was pure and chaste. Their one and only shared kiss sparked a flame that would last Lela and Joe the rest of their lives. Theirs was one of the greatest romantic loves I have ever heard of. When I asked Lela how they’d met, she said:

 

“During my high school years I worked at a drug store in downtown Wichita. My hours varied a bit, but usually I was home by 9:00 PM. On this particular night, my mom met me at the door and told me that I had a letter, from someone at Camp Phillips. “I put it on the piano”, she added. I walked across the living room to this big, oak upright piano that we’d had forever. There lay the letter. How exciting to get a letter. How unexpected. I took it into my bedroom without opening it. I wanted to savor the moment. The return address was that of a guy named Joe that I’d met on the bus to Shadowland, the previous Saturday night, and was mailed from Camp Phillips, Kansas. This was my first letter from Joe. I’d met him on the previous Saturday night, (which would have been the 12th of February, 1944), as we had ridden the same bus heading toward Shadowland, a dance hall in Wichita. It had to be fate that we boarded the same bus that night. For one thing, I was a kid of 15 and was looking for adventure. Unbeknownst to my parents, I had accepted an invitation from my co-worker, Mary Meyers, to go to the dance with her and her older sister. Mary was 17. I’d jumped at the chance and was excited to find out what life was like outside my normal world. Excitedly, I wondered what to wear. My red pleated skirt would work with my white mohair sweater, but those brown and white saddle shoes that I wore everyday to high school would not do. After a lot of thought, I finally chose a pair of red cloth shoes, not too high of heel, (so I wouldn’t totter), dressy enough to dance in, and more importantly a pair that I could afford. After all of these years since then, those shoes still remain a symbol of that night when I met Joe.

The building that was once Shadowland, as it looks today.

 

When the big night arrived, Mary and I boarded a city bus with a large sign that read, “SHADOWLAND”. We took the last 2 seats, and the more unfortunate riders had to hang from hand-straps overhead. That’s where I first saw Joe. He was tall, dark hair and eyes, smooth light skin with cheeks that were rosy colored from the cold. When he laughed or talked, I noticed his perfect white teeth. He did a lot of talking, the sort of talk that young soldiers do. For the life of me I can’t remember anything he said, but without a doubt he was aiming his chatter my way. When the bus unloaded at the entrance to Shadowland, I was taking it all in. I saw soft lights and shadows, a dance floor encircled with tables and chairs, a live band and lots of soldiers, sailors and their dates. There was Joe, whom I didn’t know at all, following me around like a little puppy. But I really didn’t expect to hear from him again. Even though we’d danced and he had stolen a kiss, I just thought he was having fun and not the least bit serious. Mainly the reason I was surprised to hear from him was because although he’d asked for my address as we were leaving, he hadn’t written it down: I repeat, I really never expected to hear from him.”

 

Pvt. Joseph F. DeLaurentis

 

Joseph F. DeLaurentis was born in the Mayfair district of Philadelphia on September 11, 1924, the middle child of Nicholas DeLaurentis and Mary George-DeLaurentis. Joe’s two sisters were Marie (the eldest) and Bernice (the youngest). Joe’s dad was born in Italy. His mother came from Ohio. Joe played baseball in high school and loved it. His favorite team was the Detroit Tigers. His favorite foods were milk and apples. Joe was an average kid from a good Italian family. His friends were many and loyal. To protect her from neighborhood bullies, Joe would carry his little sister Bernice to the movies on his shoulders. Joe was a natural born genius at playing the trumpet and saxophone. When war in Europe broke out, Joe was drafted to serve his country. He’d considered enlisting, but the draft board made it easy.

 

Private Joe DeLaurentis was assigned to A Company, 702nd Tank Battalion in 2nd Platoon, although later in war, men were switched around as needed from platoon to platoon. Besides his duties as Tank Driver, Joe also played in the Red Devil Band. Pete Porecca and Tom Barry both very talented musicians in their own right, remembered Joe as a very talented musician.

 

Lela and Joe’s love blossomed, and the kind of love that fairy tales are made of grew. Lela and Joe wrote to each other often, and when he could get leave, Joe would go to Wichita from Camp Phillips Kansas to see her. Before long, the 702nd Tank Battalion Red Devils shipped out for Europe to enter the war. The 702nd left the US from New York, and arrived in Liverpool, England. Soon after, the 702nd was moved to Cannock, England where it spent quite some time. Six decades later, Lela sent me a box full of letters that she had got from Joe. Because much of the content of those letters was the private love-talk of two young people in very much in love, I have edited out most of the content out of respect for their families, and left the portions that pertain to the war, and how Joe experienced it. Since Joe’s letters were a chronology of the activities of the 702nd, where applicable, I will intersperse them with details we knew, and ones that only came to light as Lela and I researched further.

 

Joe Sometimes Used The Alias Last Name Of Foster.  He Feared That Others Would Be Prejudiced Against Him Because He Was Italian.  We Were At War With Italy.

 

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
February 16 1944

Hi Sweetheart,
Here’s my story, Angel. I wrote a short letter to you on Monday. I’m sure I put the wrong address on it. So, I found your telephone number and called a person-to-person call. Well, Baby, I was ready to say, “Hi, Beautiful”, but do you think that your mother would have stood for it? I take it that you work after school hours. You look in the pink to me, Honey, a soft job, Toots? Or smart in school? Say sugar, I kind of took a dive at you when we first met; did you think I was a wolf, or just a fellow who goes for nice things. Here’s the truth, beautiful, you for me any day. This letter should reach you by Saturday, so Honey hang on, I’m not giving up a pretty baby like you. I’ll try and deliver the body Saturday night, (at your door)—if it’s Okay with you. Say, Honey, how’s Tom? I can’t help but wish I were in his boots at Shadowland. Maybe I’ll smarten up one of these days and meet a gal, as precious as you first. I thought I’d seen a lot, but I didn’t see anything ’till I saw you. Well, Baby, I’ll take the chance of either making you, or being a sad sack. How about it, do I get the chance? So long, Sweetheart!
Love always, Joe
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CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
February 22, 1944

Hi Beautiful, X = kiss
After reading your letter I can’t say I’m sorry for you, Baby. You’re asking me to tell you things that I never get a chance to talk about. See, Honey you’re just the way I want you. Maybe you don’t understand me, Angel, but I understand you really well. I told you how gorgeous you are, but that’s only half of what I think of you. You’re personality, way of thinking, and your actions are all a fellow could ask for. You have a swell little home, a nice little mother and everything looks solid. As for me, Angel, things are a little different. Of course my mother thinks I’m swell and a good boy. Being the only boy, my father spent a lot of his time with me. I’ve always lived in Philadelphia in a section called, Mayfair. I liked sports, my mother naturally didn’t. I played baseball in high school. Then I was drafted. (Is that enough, Baby?) OK, I have a car, it’s all mine, a few war bonds and a little cash on the side. Angel, you’re like me in a lot of ways, in case you don’t know it. If there’s something you want to do, you aren’t off handed enough to say, “(I know I can’t do that so I won’t try).”

You say that your dream boy had to have black hair, brown eyes, and etc. to me, Sweetheart. There will never be another you, there can’t be. Listen, Honey, something smells out here at camp. Saturday is supposed to be a holiday for us, but some @xx@!!! (Sorry, Angel) is calling everything off. Until I get the rest of the news, I’ll have to wait and eat my heart out. So, I’ll write again tomorrow, keep your fingers crossed, Angel. I miss you like (I can’t express it). Sure, Honey, I swim, ride a little, and love you. As for the type of date you want, well, just looking at you is enough for me, Baby. The only way I can tell you’re happy is to go where you want. So, let’s cooperate and not stay in one place too long. I’ll try to get in sight of your charm about 7-o’clock. No matter what happens, Honey, don’t stop writing to me. I’ll teach you to drive a car, ride a horse, on your head, and swim like a fish, (PS) after I learn myself. Well, Darling, I’m well done, cooked, and feel like YELLING, but I’ll make it. (Still my Honey?) Smile, Baby! So Long!
Love forever & ever
Joe
P.S. Say “hello” to the folks for me.
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Lela comments: I was pleased to come home and find another letter laying on the old oak piano. In my opinion Joe was not only a good-looking guy, but he was sweet and knew how to lift me up! As for his remarks: I can’t remember asking him any questions about what he possessed, for example the car, or money, I truly think that I did not–that was not me. But it truly was exciting to be getting letters from this handsome guy who told me the most beautiful things.

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
February 23, 1944

Hi Precious, X = kiss
Well, Baby, I tried to make you care, but instead you made me. I can’t get you out of my mind, Honey. I don’t want to, and as sweet as you are, I feel like a sinner every time I kiss you. That night with you will be always with me. I guess that’s why I miss you so much. Just call me “bad news”, Angel. That’s all I can bring you. Not this Saturday, Honey; I tried everything, but the tanks must go out, and me with them. I know you understand, and you also know it’s only the Army who can stop me from seeing you. I guess you know that. I’m not going to ask you anymore if you’re still my Honey, you are, and even more. Write to me as often as you can, Angel, I’ll answer every one of those cute letters. Until I get in sight of your charm, I’ll be a good waiter and do a little dreaming. If everything goes okay, I’ll be a knockin’ on your door sometime next week. I’m too happy to be sad, Honey. I know that you understand, that’s all. Say “Hello” to the folks for me, will you? I can’t tell you how much I love you in a letter, Sweetheart—-so until I can hold you close to me, and kiss you until you melt in my arms, I’ll say–So long–Sweetheart
All my love,
Joe
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Lela comments: Another letter on the old piano: His opening line,” Well, Baby, I tried to make you care, but instead you made me, ” sounded like a “line” to me, but I was cautious. I really liked this guy and felt right at home with him. Both of us felt comfortable with each other, but life was so unpredictable during the war–furloughs and leaves were forever being cancelled–that was frustrating.

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
February 26, 1944

Hi Sweeter-than sweet, X = kiss
How’s the girl of my heart? If this letter reaches you in time I’m sure everything will be Okay. We might get Tuesday night ’till Wednesday night off-this week, Angel! I wish you could see us (the boys), It’s Saturday night, Honey, and we just completed duty hours. Everybody had something they wanted to do, (like myself). So, as I look around, they sit without saying a word. Well, I guess there will be more Saturday nights, ‘eh, Beautiful? After reading your bedtime letter, I’m wondering if your kisses are rationed. You haven’t put a single kiss in your letters, yet. Maybe you don’t go for anything, but the real thing. Is that it? I’ll expect to find you home on Tuesday night, Baby. Would you like for me to tell you how much you mean to me, and also how much I miss your gorgeous eyes, and cute smile. I hope to be in Wichita before you get off from work, if I am I’ll have the pleasure of waiting for you. If I’m not, I’ll have the pleasure of walking 18 blocks. So, you see, Baby, anything I do is a pleasure if I’m near you. X < kiss. So, a few of your girlfriends wanted to know who was courting the pretty date from Wichita? Did the cat get your tongue? Or did you say, “just another playboy?” Nobody kids me, Honey, if it wasn’t you with me, they wouldn’t know that I was alive. As far as working is concerned, it doesn’t even touch me after being in this easy life stage. Does that answer your question about my future? I guess you know how I feel about not being able to see you this week. So, as I’ll never be able to make any girl happy as long as I’m in this? I just want to tell you again, you’re a darling, a sweetheart, and more than plain words can express. Will you keep writing to me, Baby? I mean as much as you have been? I’ll buy you a box of writing paper and some stamps so you won’t go short. Say, Honey, why the Airmail? Does it go faster that way, in just that short distance? Remember the kisses, Sweetheart. See you Tuesday!
All my love,
Joe
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Lela comments: The letters on the piano were getting serious or so it seemed, but I liked that.

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
March 2, 1944

Dear Lela,
Arrived looking like I was a 4F Commando, but I had to talk as fast as soon as I walked in the office. You’re a lucky doll to me, Lela, everything’s Okay. (so far) Received your letter and I’m taking your letter like a man. No more sweet talk or nutty writing. We had some speeches on how to act overseas, today. (that’s all we hear). I know you can keep things to yourself so I don’t mind telling you my troubles. Of course, I can’t tell you too much. Our furloughs have been cancelled, that’s the second time so far. We still have a lot to learn before we take the fishing trip. It’s interesting sometimes even though I don’t think too much of it. Everybody looks tired tonight, after a tough weekend in Wichita. We asked the fellows who stayed for the party and dance how it was. As far as I know they don’t remember a thing. (too much beer I guess). You know we work this weekend and late at night, but I have hope of being with you next Saturday. I think I told you too much, Baby; you know I say what I think so don’t make yourself believe I’m trying to hook you. How’s mom and pop? Anything cooking? I’m glad you’re a good cook, Honey, you’ll have to show me your style sometime. After this war is over you’re going to show me a lot that I don’t know, and if you’re still interested in horse back riding everything I learned I’ll be glad to show you. Oh! Yea! I guess your father will have that chicken coop looking sharp after the war, so I might as well make use of it, and move in. Would you come out at night to peck with me? Well, you know you’re always on my mind so I guess I don’t have to tell you anymore. I’ll see you every chance I get and some day I’ll buy you a nice present. Before I forget, would you like me to take a chance and send you the one and only picture I want you to have? Or should I deliver it to the door the next time I arrive? Please write soon, Honey. Don’t work too hard, Angel.
Love forever and ever,
Joe

P.S. Tell me what you think of this letter, Baby
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Lela comments: This letter that I found laying on the piano tonight reminded me of when I had written to Joe and told him that I thought his letters were a bit too mushy. Although his words were flattering, nonetheless it made me feel like I was being rushed and that he was moving a little too fast. I guess I was also still questioning his sincerity. Many letters later, I did get used to it, and it no longer bothered me. I thought it funny, him referring to the chicken coop in our backyard. A few letters later on he mentions it again. This letter was written on a Thursday, March 2, 1944. The Saturday he is making plans for would be March 11th.

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
March 7, 1944

Dearest Lela, X = kiss
After calling you on the phone, I’m back in the barracks. I have something I want you to know, that I didn’t ask or talk about on the phone. I don’t have to tell you that I love you, so if there is anything you want to tell me, let’s have it. You started to tell me something in your letter, “Oh, nuts, forget it” was it, remember? Well, Honey, if it make you feel selfish, I don’t know what I’d feel like so, just go on writing nice letters. Here’s some troubles if you’d like to hear about it. (my troubles): We’re driving the tanks to FT. Riley, Kansas soon, but this weekend we’re going out on the fire range. I’m trying to get off, Honey, even if it means I can see you for only an hour. I haven’t thought much of the future, Angel, but reading your letter sounded good to my ears. I wish the Army life was all a dream, but if you turned out to be a dream, I’d be disappointed. Don’t get any gray hair at your age, Beautiful; by the time I ‘m back everything will be solid. Even if I have to walk back to 1845 South Water Street, I’d do it. Here’s a little story from me to you, Honey. Not a dream, just an idea. I haven’t taken you anyplace or even tried to show you a good time. Someday, we’ll go stepping. I’ll eat candy, hot dogs, cotton candy, hay candy, and grass. In other words, if you want to go to heaven, stick with me. Keep on dreaming, will you Angel? “If dreams come true, I’ll have you.” “Joe the Poet.” About the pictures, Honey, I only have the one, and you’re the girl that’ s got to have it. It’s not just the idea of you having the picture; if you should get a picture for me, it will go a long way. (see what I mean?) Well, Beautiful, I’ll wait for another dream, (soon). If you call yourself dumb once more in a letter, You’ll hear from me. I’m not in love with you for nothing, stay the way you are, that’s the way I want you. Goodnight dream girl.
So long, love Always,
Joe

P.S. The picture I’d like is about 5x 7 of you, Beautiful.
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Lela comments: Joe wrote this letter on a Monday and I found it waiting for me after work on a Wednesday evening, right on the piano as usual. He writes of a phone call which he made to me from Camp Phillips: 3 minutes goes awfully fast when you have a lot to say. The Saturday he thought he’d get off was now scheduled for him to go to the firing range. Another disappointment for us both. But, I was getting the idea that this guy was serious.

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
March 11, 1944

Dearest darling Lela,
Our outfit is still off the beam today; now we can’t go anywhere without signing our life away. I called you up Saturday night and tried to hide my feelings. I guess I didn’t do a very good job. I’m no better than the rest of the fellows, except I have you. They can’t wait to get off so they can write home. I can’t wait to get you on the phone. I really miss you, Honey, and every chance I get to be near you, I’ll take it. Your letter really hit me, Beautiful; it’s the best I’ve ever received. I guess I can call you my dream girl, I wish I could dream, maybe I could if I had the time. Say, Honey, don’t I ever kiss you in those dreams, or is that part censored? I can say one thing about you, Baby, you haven’t much time for big city stuff, have you? After I called you from the Service Club on Saturday, I remember you asking me questions that I didn’t fully answer. PS (that three minutes really goes, don’t it?”) We’re coming back from Fort Riley after we turn the tanks in, then I hit the road to Wichita and fall in love all over again. Say, Honey, if this isn’t getting my mind off things, too much, I’d like to ask you where you’d like to live, someday? The things you dream of are pretty nice. Do you like kids? and what’s your favorite dish? Well, Honey, I’ll be a good boy until I get that pass and come see you. If they take that away like they did the furloughs, I don’t think I’ll be going anyplace for awhile. Do the best you can with the picture, Angel. I’ll carry it with me all the time and kiss you goodnight as long as I’m away from you.
Joe

Lela comments: Mom had put this letter on the piano for me on a Monday night. Joe was not just thinking of next weekend but of the future: asking if I liked kids, where would I like to live someday? Who couldn’t love this guy?

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
March 19, 1944

Precious, darling Lela,
Well, dream girl, it’s almost over; my long duty hours, I mean. This Wednesday is the end, so far as I know. If it’s true, I’ll do everything I can to be with you Saturday and Sunday. I only want to keep telling you how much I miss you, and that nothing in this world could take your place, or make me change my mind about you. I sure wish I had your picture; I keep kissing you “good night” even though I keep kissing thin air. I’ll make up for lost time before long. Here’s something I’d like to tell you, Honey, even though I know it will never happen to us. Sweethearts become strangers very easy, when they’re so far away from each other. Every time I answer one of your letters late, you’re likely to get all kinds of ideas. When you can’t think of anything to write about or anything interesting, you’ll feel hurt. I know, Honey, I’ve seen it happen. So, I want to make it sound sweet to you, Angel, I just don’t love your writing to me, and sweet things you say; I really love you and no matter what comes between us while I’m away-it won’t last long. I expect to go with you 2 or 3 years after this war, and if we don’t grow on one another by that time, I’ll give up. I’m not going to tell you any troubles this time, Honey. I’m not sure of them. I’m convinced that we’re going on a trip, by the way we’ve been working. You might like to know how I’m going to be your boy for 2 years after the war. Well, I’m lucky on getting work, and I’ll probably be in my twenty-first year of life. You do believe that I’m 19, don’t you? Do I look older? I can prove it to you easy. One year in the Army, and I have the paper with my age on it. Anyway, Honey, don’t change too much; if you get any more beautiful than you are, I wouldn’t be able to stand it. Remember that I love you, and you’ll be a lovely lady by the time I’m back, Honey. I guess I’m out of words until I get to see you and take over with some sweet talk from there. Send me that super dream, Darling. Don’t be afraid of my disliking your sweet dreams, and everything that’s on your wonderful mind. So long, Sweetheart, I’ll always, always love you.
Joe
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Lela comments: Joe’s letter dated, March 19th, was there as usual on the piano, where I picked it up Tuesday night after work. Joe mentions my dreams: Evidently I dreamed a lot then as I still do. He realizes that people grow apart when separated by distance, and he doesn’t want that to happen to us. No doubt he sees and hears a lot of people’s problems and perhaps feels some anxiety.

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
March 23, 1944

Dearest darling Lela ,
As you say the weather is swell; when it’s like this I miss you all the more. Of course, you know that I’m always thinking of what it would be like just to be near you, Honey. If I have to break my neck to see you this weekend, I’ll do it. If not Saturday night, Sunday. No promises though. The best thing to do, Sweetheart, is to keep thinking of the future, no matter how hard it is, keep trying. This might be out of place for me to say this, Honey, but I’ve got a vague idea of your father. Maybe he doesn’t know that kids’ are only borrowed in life, and they have to be on their own someday. You know imagination grows with age, but as for you, Honey, you wouldn’t want any other father in the world, for the one you have, and naturally you wouldn’t change your troubles for someone else’s no matter how bad they are. Well, Honey, I’ll never regret going away to do my share, now that I know what I’m going away for. I haven’t met all of your family nor do I know your mother, too well. Still I know that I’m going to be a happy guy from just being around you. You’re still young, Sweetheart, and I know it, but you’re so lady like and loveable that I’ll never forget you. It looks like I’ll never be able to be with you when I get my long awaited picture, Honey. For someone who is so in love, I’m pretty good at waiting, don’t you agree, Beautiful? Just try to get it, Honey, before I leave anyway. Here’s what to do, Angel, just walk in, have a chair, look around the studio, then say, “Shoot the film to me, bill ‘um.” You know something Beautiful, I’m breathless. I just can’t say I’m happy, and don’t want to be sad. Every time I think of ways I’m going to make you the happiest girl in the world, I kick myself (almost anyway). You said that you’re glad that I’m near your age; well you just don’t know how glad I am to be young. I know I look older, and maybe act older, but I feel like a young spring chicken, and all because of you. I wish I could be there helping with your problems, Honey, I don’t know how much help I’d be, but schoolwork never worried me. Besides, if I were beside you not too many problems would stick around for an answer. You’re still my Honey, Lela, and I love you so much. Nothing will stop me from coming back to you. So long, Sweetheart!
Love forever and ever,
Joe

PS. Thanks, Sweetheart X
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Lela comments: I’m still being surprised at the persistence Joe shows and now I find myself looking forward to his letters even more so. This one came on a Saturday while I was at work not at school. I picked it up off the piano and read on; wrote this letter on a Sunday; he mentions my father and I think that he comments very wisely for his years, when he writes: that some parents don’t realize that parents don’t own their children but are only on loan to them for a time. When I read that I thought he was one smart fellow. I don’t remember what I’d written about my father but I do know that I was always afraid of him and didn’t want him to know about Joe, with good reason. The first night that Joe had brought me home and I saw that my dad’s bedroom light as on, I’d told Joe that I couldn’t go in until that light went out. My dad worked nights on the railroad. He’d usually get home shortly after midnight. That night was cold as it was February, but I insisted that I would not go in. We walked down the block to a little grocery store on the side street. It had a covered porch –a wooden floor and one wooden step. That’s where we sat until I felt it was safe to go home. When I went up on the porch my mom opened the door ever so quietly but whispered: “Where have you been?” I hurried past her without answering, I knew I was in dangerous territory. It pleased me to read in this letter that now he knew what he was going to war for. I wasn’t used to so much attention, and to getting such compliments, and I was looking forward to them.

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
March 28, 1944

My gorgeous, darling Lela,
Sweetheart, I had to call you up or I wouldn’t have done anything but daydream until I knew everything was Okay with us. You know I call you up because it brings us nearer by just talking. Someday I’m going to tell you everything about me; my troubles that I’ve had, and why you mean everything to me. First, you nor I mustn’t let anything ever come between us. If you knew how much I love you, you would understand better. I’ll wait until I’m alone with you and then I’ll let it out, and make you understand everything. The Colonel promised us if we did our work and got done sooner, than expected, then he’d give us a few days off. It might be true; I don’t know, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. It’s too bad you didn’t have that super dream, Honey. The only dream I ever have is to be with you always. It’s not a dream; it’s more of a hope. I should have told you a long time ago, but I was afraid that you’d take me for a heartbreaker or a fake. Anyhow, this is my great finding. I never wanted to have a girl waiting for me, or anyone except my folks to be waiting and praying until I returned—–that was my feelings when I first came into the Army. But, because of you, Darling, the picture really changes. I fell for you, even knowing what the future might bring. Sometimes I blame the Army for my being able to meet you, but I always, always, always loved you. My mother told me once while I was eating, she said, “Joe, you’re going to be going out with girls, red heads, blondes and all sorts of girls, but if you ever want to be happy find yourself a nice brunette. I didn’t think of it at the time as meaning much. Anyhow, I told her that I’d bring her home the sweetest brunette I could find. I don’t intend on bringing you home, Honey, but you’re more than a sweetheart. There isn’t anything you can’t do I know that. I know this because I see your way of acting, talking, and lovely everything. Well, Sweetheart, keep your chin up, because when my baby is hurt, then I’m hurt. I just can’t wait to see your picture. It goes wherever I go, just like if it was you yourself. I hope the future brings my dream girl, better dreams. I love you, Darling! So long, Sweetheart!
Love forever and ever.
Joe
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Lela comments: Joe’s mother’s comments on him finding a brunette — I’d always accepted the color of my hair, didn’t appreciate it’s fine texture but was I glad I was a brunette now.

CAMP PHILLIPS, KANSAS
April 1944

My dearest precious darling Sweetheart,
Maybe you’ll understand this and maybe you won’t. Anyway, I was out at your house Saturday night, I saw your mother, and she told me that you were out to a show, that I could find you where you work if I waited until the show let out. I was disappointed, but I guess it’s my dumbness for not calling you or letting you know I was coming. Sunday, I had to go back early because I was on guard duty, and Tuesday we were ready to move out, but something was messed up or somebody was off their nut, anyway we’re back in the barracks again. We’ll be back here for a while, Honey, and if I do get another chance to see you, I’ll fly if I have to. Don’t be afraid to write or send that gorgeous picture, if I’m not at camp it will be forwarded to the P.O.E. I’ll get it there. I miss you more and more everyday, Sweetheart, I’m always thinking of you, but I still love you, which means everything. If everything is the way it is now, when I return, I’ll be the happiest guy in the world. Keep as beautiful as you are, Honey. Go out a lot and keep happy, then time will fly. I’ll write to you from wherever I’m stationed, and as often as I can. If you can’t think of anything to tell me, just write about the town and your family, anything that concerns you interests me, Darling. I’ll have to make this letter short, Sweetheart; I’m going as fast as I can. Work, work, work to win a war, but I’ll be with you, Honey, and so I’ll work. Your last letter was more like it; Darling, and I’ll say that your thoughts have value, Sweetheart. Well, I have to scram now, write soon, Darling.
So long, Darling
Love forever & ever & ever,
Joe

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Lela comments: My last chance to see Joe and I missed it. It was so disappointing and it seemed like his next letter took forever to arrive.
On April 11, 1944, the 702nd was ordered to Camp Shanks, N.Y., just outside New York City, which would be their port of exit. The Battalion traveled by two trains, one taking a southerly route, one taking the northerly. While in New York, the battalion made final medical preparations such as immunizations, etc. before leaving the States. A measure of Military Justice training was also received. One other matter that was finalized was the Table of Organization and Equipment for the 702nd. On April 21, the 702nd entrained at 5:00 P.M. and headed for the N.Y.P.E. From 7:30 P.M. until midnight they prepared for embarkation. From midnight ’till 7:30 A.M. on April 22, they embarked and final preparations were made to set sail. At 7:30 A.M., their ship, the H.M.S. Mauritania set sail. On board, the men of the 702nd could hardly avoid thinking of the war and what it would mean to each of them. The Mauritania arrived at Liverpool, England on April 30 and waited through the night beyond the mouth of the Mersey River for the tide to come in so the ship could port and the men disembark. After disembarkation, the battalion was trucked through the Mersey River tunnels to Birkenhead, and from there to the encampment area at the Ladies Bidston Golf Club. Many men spoke of the unique form of punishment implemented here for minor infractions. This punishment, known as “Honey-bucket” detail, involved the dreaded job of emptying the buckets containing the odorous contents of the latrine into trucks provided by the British. Where the Brits hauled it to, no one cared, except possibly the British. Those not on the “Honey-bucket” detail and therefore not restricted to camp, were given passes to Liverpool. This awe-inspiring visit gave many their first taste of the war and its reality became very evident to these American boys. Sixty percent of the buildings in Liverpool were completely destroyed in German bombing raids. Birkenhead had 60-70% of its buildings completely destroyed.

 

Bidston Ladies Golf Course, Birkenhead, England
May 7, 1944

Hello Darling:
I know you have been waiting to hear from me for a long time. I received all of your letters, Honey, and the pictures of the flood. I’d like to see the mess it made, but I hope that you and the folks are okay. Keep your feet dry, Honey, and if you have to stay indoors you can write a few V-Mail letters to England. I won’t forget you and I do want the picture as soon as possible. I don’t have to tell you how much I miss you. Just wait ’til the day I can walk up to your door and you’ll know how much I’ve missed you. There’s no Wichita in England, Honey, or gorgeous honeys like you. Everything I told you still goes, so don’t let your imagination run away with you. Write as often as you can, Sweetheart, I’ll do the same. Show the Post Office what you’re sending me, Honey, and the letter stating my request for the picture, then I’ll receive it. You can picture all the kisses at the bottom of this letter, Sweetheart.
Love always,
Joe

Lela comments: It had been about a month since I’d found any letters on the old piano and I was becoming more and more anxious about Joe and his status. A few doubts still lingered that maybe I would be forgotten once Joe went overseas and met new people. This letter written on May 7th, a Sunday was from England–my first letter from England, and such a welcome sight to see on the old piano. At the time I didn’t know where in England. I’d written to him about the flooding that Wichita was experiencing. I remembered the elevator boy who worked in the building that I did, taking me up to an upper floor in the First National Bank building, where we could see the flood waters and they approached the downtown area. After the city put in the “Big Ditch” that particular flooding problem was eliminated.

Bidston Ladies Golf Course, Birkenhead, England
May 12, 1944

Dearest Darling Lela,
Received two long awaited letters from you today, and Honey, I feel like you do. Did I tell you I love you more every day and daydream how beautiful you’re going to look one of these days. I’m not disappointed at you, Sweetheart, for feeling that way. It seems natural enough to me. Did you find your sister, Honey? Who is going to look for us when we take a walk at night and forget to come back? I can’t say I wish you were here with me, Darling, because this isn’t the place for us. No matter where I go, what I do, or what happens, I’ll always remember you and love you more than anything in the world. Have a sweet dream for me, will you, Darling?
My true love always — Joe
(a million kisses, Honey) So long, Sweetheart

Lela comments: The letters were starting to arrive again with some regularity, however, a bit slow. Joe always comments on how good I am for him but, boy, was he good for my morale. I don’t know what he meant by, did we find my sister? I don’t remember anyone missing so it must have been short lived/temporary.

Bidston Ladies Golf Course, Birkenhead, England
May 14, 1944

Dearest darling Lela,
I don’t know how long it will take for this letter to reach you, Darling, but it makes up for 2 or 3 V-mail letters. I received your last 2 letters in which you explained how distressing it was not hearing from me. I’ve been thinking how you’d feel about it, and I thought right. I love you for it, Honey, and wish I could do more than just write to you to make up for it. I’ll be waiting for that gorgeous picture of you. I can’t wait to see your beautiful face again. Maybe I’ve told you before, Honey, but I’m telling you again that Angel’s don’t get sick. So, I say that the temperature you have isn’t anything but love sickness. I think I could cure your illness with one kiss. What do you think? I don’t think I know Johnny very well, but he must know his stuff and women, too. It’s okay with me for you to go step’en once in awhile. I haven’t forgotten what you told me one night, but don’t let it stop your letter writing. I’ll bet that your glad the flood is over aren’t you? Did you have to move out of your house? the southern part seemed to get the works just lightly, but what about the northern part? The paper you sent didn’t say. You really want to know if you’re my honey? That’s easy enough to answer so I’ll make it better than that. I’ll say you’re still my Sweetheart and the one an only. I have a question to ask you, but we aren’t going to see one another for sometime, so you can try and guess it. I agree with you, Darling, that song, “I’ll get by as long as I have you,” has got something. I heard it along time ago by Harry James, but it didn’t mean much to me then. What do you think about the day I drive my car from Philadelphia to Kansas just to see what might turn out to be a dream? Well, I guess it’s no use, if I’m not in love now, I’ll never be, but how it will work out is way over my head a mile. Try to understand that, will you, Darling. You’re all I want, all I’ll ever want, and I hope that you believe just that.

Well before I turn Sad Sack, I’ll say, ” I love you!” A million hugs and kisses, Darling: So Long, Sweetheart.
True Love Always,
Joe
Lela comments: This period of no letters due to his moving to England was distressing–How I missed seeing an envelope on the piano addressed to me. Joe mentions the flood again–it was in the north part of Wichita-we lived in the south of the downtown area. Joe loved music and spoke about songs fairly often. As for going “stepping,” I had no interest in doing so. I think the “Johnny” he mentioned wasn’t my brother Johnny-it may have been a school friend who was a bit younger and would come into the drug store and ride the bus home with me. No romance involved, just friendship between two classmates. As for me having a temperature-it must have been infected tonsils again. I can’t remember ever being ill and that happened only occasionally.

Bidston Ladies Golf Course, Birkenhead, England
May 16, 1944

My Precious Darling Lela,
Well, Baby, you’ll never know how much I miss you tonight. I’ve been thinking of you so much and wondering when I’ll get to see you once and for all. Anyway, when that day comes I’ll never let you out of my sight again. You’re really a smart and charming baby and don’t know of any work that can fit your loveliness. The truth is, Honey, don’t know whether to thank the Army or miracles that brought us together. I care a lot about you, Darling, and hope nothing will ever change that. If we have a lucky star burning up in that blue heaven someplace, I hope it does it’s duty for both of us. Here’s hope that the flood is gone and you and the folks are still safe. As soon as I get my hands on some V-Mail I’ll write every day, Darling. I’m out of it at present. Be good, Sweetheart, and remember, I’ll love you ’til the moon turns to green cheese. So long.
Love always, Darling,
Joe
Lela comments: Miracles: That I do believe in. For me to meet a guy (such a precious guy), from Philadelphia, way out here in Kansas had to be a miracle, army or no army. It was meant to be.

Bidston Ladies Golf Course, Birkenhead, England
May 19, 1944

My Precious Darling Lela,
My only hope, is that you received a few letters and understand why they took so long. I know you’ll answer them as soon as you get the chance, but most of all, Darling, don’t let anything come between us. Being so far apart really hurts and I’m finding that out as days go by. I hope that flood goes down soon, Honey, or I might have to do a little swimming back to you. Don’t think I wouldn’t do it, too. I received all your letters up to May 5, Sweetheart, and can see you’re going to make a good something someday. I love you more every day, Darling. I’ll be back to you as soon and as fast as you can say V-Mail. A million hugs and kisses, Darling. So long, Sweetheart.
My true love always,
Joe
Lela comments: What a pain waiting for the mail: it was taking so long between destinations – so different from Camp Phillips to Wichita. This was only the beginning of learning just how slow and frustrating the mail delivery was during the war. It seemed as though our lives were being so affected by the mail. There was the lifting up when we got mail and the anxiety when we didn’t. It was out of our hands: the mail was our one means of communication, and was so frustrating.

Bidston Ladies Golf Course, Birkenhead, England
May 20, 1944

My Gorgeous Darling Lela,
How’s my Honey? Still having lots of fun and stuffing her beautiful face with cotton candy? I wish I could chip in and join you, Honey. I’ve still yet to eat the stuff, but if you like it, I will. I was just thinking about taking a walk, which reminds me of you and that nice walk home one night. Do I miss you, Darling; is one thing you’ll never know , and to top it all off, I’m up and over my head in love with you. I’m almost afraid to get your picture, Honey. I’ll wear it out kissing your cute lips. I wanted to ask you one thing before I left, Honey, but being off the shores of the U.S.A. took it all out of me. Someday I’ll return, Darling, and we’ll start all over again. Well, Beautiful, here’s a million or more kisses to sleep on, and until tomorrow I’ll say so long, Sweetheart.
My true love always,
Joe
Lela comments: Letters like this were worth more than all the money in the world. For one thing when they came I knew that this sweetheart was still safe and not on a casualty list as WIA or KIA. Also, I was reassured over and over that I was important and loved. That’s something you can’t buy.

Bidston Ladies Golf Course, Birkenhead, England
May 21, 1944

Hi ya, Precious,
I just received a pack of V-Mail letters and not any too soon. As long as there’s paper around I’ll write to you every day. Well, Darling, how’s everything coming along? Getting set for the summer vacation? Don’t forget to let me in on some of the pleasure you so well deserve, Honey. I think you said you like horseback riding; if you do we’ll have to get a couple of horses in your back yard, because outside of baseball, riding is my specialty. As soon as my letters arrive you can send the picture, Sweetheart. I’m looking forward to you being my one and only pin-up girl. Well, Gorgeous, all I want to say doesn’t fit this letter, so I’ll start over on another one.
I still love you and I’m still your Joe forever.
Big kisses. So long, Darling.
Lela comments: School was still in session at the time of this letter writing: school usually didn’t let out until the last of May. I’d spend my study hour writing to Joe. After school I’d either ride the bus or walk to the drug store downtown where I had an after school job. Even though summer was on it’s way, Joe was always on my mind. We’d, ( my friends, sister and I ), walk along East Douglas heading west toward town and many times see the troop trains on the overpass at the Union Station. Sometimes the soldiers and/or Sailors would stand across the bridge and whistle or cat call to us. One day as were walking I asked my friends that if they were in a situation where if they could give up their life to save the lives and bring all of the soldiers and sailors home, would they do it. I remember that so vividly because of the fact that no one would do that, they said. I was disappointed. I was, no doubt, an idealist.

Bidston Ladies Golf Course, Birkenhead, England
May 21, 1944

My dearest darling Lela,
I don’t think I told you, Sweetheart, that I wrote a plain letter to you. It will take a little longer than V-Mail but it makes pretty reading. I just can’t say how much I miss you, Darling, as you know I want you more than anything under the sun. It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other that I haven’t any heart left. It’s with you all the time and I don’t mind it a bit. Take care of it for me, Gorgeous, and maybe the body will meet with it someday. I love you, Darling, and can’t wait ’til I hold you in my arms and tell you so. There will never be another you, precious, and I won’t have another but you. Take good care of yourself, Darling. I’ll write again tomorrow, Sweetheart. A million kisses.
Love forever,
Joe
Lela comments: Wow! He made me feel like a princess.

Bidston Ladies Golf Course, Birkenhead, England
May 22, 1944

My Gorgeous Darling Lela,
I got a kick out of you saying you used to look at magazines to see your type of man. My way was altogether different. I was out looking for a charming thing like you, Gorgeous. I hope I don’t have to go on looking, also, more than anything, I hope you don’t need any more magazines. I’m saving most of my questions and plans for later, Darling. At present I’ll try hard to hold your interest just telling you I love you, I love you, I love you. I have plenty of confidence in coming back to you, Sweetheart. I guess I told you I can’t wait to see how gorgeous your picture is. Also, remember it’s not your letters or any picture of you I love. It’s just you and Lela Bush. I’ll close now, Darling. Write often, Sweetheart. Goodnight, Sweetheart, and I still want you for my wife more than ever.
My true love always,
Joe

Lela comments: This letter is dynamite. It’s more than WOW!

 

Cannock, England
May 23, 1944

My Precious Darling Lela,
I was going to write a letter before I started the V-Mail, but I’ll get this out first so you’ll get it quicker. I have so much to say, Honey, it would take the duration of the war to write it. I’m not doing so bad at present, just missing a lot of things I could have if I were in America. You must know by now how much you mean to me, Darling. I don’t think I told you just how much I’d love to have you for a wife. That’s why I’m going to write a letter. A letter takes a little longer than a V-Mail, Gorgeous, unless it’s sent Air Mail and I don’t have any stamps so that’s out. You’re my sweetheart of a dream girl, Darling, and I love you more every day. Tell me what you got out of that picture “Destination Tokyo”, Sweetheart. I didn’t know you had an interest in the war.
So long, Sweetheart
A million kisses
Love always,
Joe

Lela comments: Joe mentions a movie, “Destination Tokyo” that I must have told him about–I doubt if I liked it, but I was very interested in seeing the newsreels which described the latest news from the front lines in Europe and the Pacific. The newsreels were the only way we could see what was happening other than the photos in the newspapers. They always ran before the main film. Of course, they were in black and white, at that time period, and the male voices of the newscasters were stern and serious.

Cannock, England
May 24, 1944

My dearest darling Lela,
How’s my, Honey? I hope you’re in a solid mood, Sweetheart. The last letter I received from you was dated the 8th, Honey, and it was the cutest line of work I’ve read in a long time. You’re a sweetheart if there ever was one, Gorgeous. I don’t think I told you, Darling, about the feeling I had when I first met you. Everything turned out fine, however. You’re very understandable, Sweetheart, I found that out, but every time I think of that night on the bus I have a good laugh on myself. It seemed like I’d only known you for 5 minutes and just like that I was dancing and kissing you like I’d known you all my life. After I got back to camp I did a little thinking and wondering if I’d get the date, and what you had thought of me for throwing myself at you that way. Nevertheless, I’d seen the girl of my dreams and made it my business to know her better. You’re everything I’d ever hoped for, Sweetheart, and more. You were just the Angel of Wichita to me, Honey. As for your letters, Darling, I didn’t care if nobody else wrote to me as long as you did. The few times we spent with each other put me right in my prime. I fell for you like a ton of bricks, and I’ll never regret it, Sweetheart.

I think I told you, Honey that I’d like to go with you for at least a year or more. We’d go places and see things until we got to know one another like brother and sister. To be honest with you, Sugar, I can’t picture the future no how. I have an idea of what it might be like, but that’s all. Anyway, whatever it is it’s got to make you happy and feel the same way about me as I feel about you. I’ll never stop telling you how much I love you, Sweetheart. It might be a long time before we see each other again, still, it could be a short time. Anyway, our love is going to last, Honey. All the bad breaks will end someday, it’s only natural. When it is all over, Darling, we’ll have it made to order, and I’ll get back to you as fast as I can if not sooner. Until then, Sweetheart, I’ll promise you one thing. If you trust me as I think you do, Honey, you ought to believe me when I say I won’t press another pair of lips unless they’re yours, Gorgeous. If there was something to prevent me from looking at them I’d do that too, but I promise I won’t look more than once. Everything I want is right in Wichita, Honey. Until we’re together for good, I’ll write everyday. I love you, Sweetheart, and nothing will ever change that. Be good to me, Darling, and I’ll be waiting for that long awaited picture of beautiful you. My true love forever.
A million kisses
Joe

Lela comments: When I read this letter I wondered what Joe had meant by “wondering ” about me. But, he ended up calling me the, “Angel of Wichita”, so he must have either changed his mind from his first impression or he didn’t think badly of me in the first place. (It was probably the “red shoes”). By now, I considered myself the most fortunate girl on earth. I still do. I was and am more than a lucky person, I consider myself truly blest.

Cannock, England
May 25, 1944

My dearest and precious darling Lela,
There isn’t much to talk about at present, Honey, except our living conditions aren’t so bad and the food is reasonably good. I got on to the English money easy enough but as far as accent goes, that will take a little more time. Some talk a lot like us, and some sound like our Southerners. Then there are some you can’t understand at all. Is everything all right with you, Sweetheart? How did you get over that love sickness you had? I don’t think I gave my best wishes to your brother. You can tell him for me, Honey. I never heard you say anything about your birthday, Gorgeous. How about letting me in on the secret, Honey? I have to keep in good with the family, you know. I never did get the chance to meet Big Sister and Dad. I will someday, though. A million kisses. So long, Sweetheart.
Love forever,
Joe

Lela comments: Our family was made up of my mom and dad, older sisters, Julia and Rosie, myself in the middle, younger sister, Eddie and one brother, Johnny. In the letter Joe refers to my older sister, Julia, who after high school graduation trained at KU to become a draftsman/woman at Boeing, and my dad, who worked long hours during the war on the Frisco Railroad. There was a lot of troop train business and other related war business on the trains.

 

 

On June 6, 1944, the D-Day invasion of Normandy began. The 702nd had been scheduled to be in the landings, but a transport ship carrying the tanks for another unit was sunk by a German U-Boat. The powers that be decided that this other unit was more critical for the D-Day landings, so the 702nd’s tanks were transferred to that unit, and the 702nd was held back in England until new tanks could be shipped over from the States for them.

 

Cannock, England
May 28, 1944

My gorgeous and dearest darling Lela,
There isn’t much I can say so I’m going to ask you some questions. Now that you’ve received a letter or more are you still distressed or did you think that I was giving up for no reason at all? Your letter didn’t sound any too good, Sweetheart, maybe if you tell me what’s wrong I’ll be able to help you. Sending your picture was what I wanted to hear, but your picture isn’t all I want. I won’t give you up for anything. If you don’t understand me now, you’ll understand me later. You’re young and beautiful, Darling, and still full of ideas, and when I come back I want to find you just that way. I know you feel the same way as I do. If my uniform worries you, remember I won’t have it on when I come back. I love you and I always will.
Love and kisses.
Joe

Lela comments: I can’t imagine writing a letter to Joe that would cause him to be upset, I knew he had enough problems by just being in the Army, away from home and on his way to the front. As far as I can remember there was only the problem of not receiving mail for long periods of time and that was distressing.

Cannock, England
May 30, 1944

My dearest darling Lela,
It’s been four days since your last letter reached me. The mail comes all at once and I’m expecting a few from you, Honey. Nothing much going on around here except our everyday training. Remember that night I came from Camp to Wichita and you were out killing time at the movies. When I left your house I don’t know what your mother thought. I walked away without saying goodnight and took off for town after you. I wish that I had found you, Gorgeous. I wanted to see you in the worst way. I had a kiss waiting that would knock a block of houses down.. I’ll let you know when I’ve received your picture, Sweetheart.
My true love always,
Joe

Lela comments: I’ve probably kicked myself a hundred times for going to the movie that night that he refers to. It was so dreadful waiting for the phone to ring, which usually meant disappointing news that they couldn’t leave the base. So, I went to the movie with Norma, my friend, and left a message with my mom that I’d be at the drug store where I worked after the movie let out. This caused us to miss what was to be our last date together.

Cannock, England
May 31, 1944

My dearest, precious Lela,
Another night, Beautiful, and how I’d love to be spending it with you. I don’t know where we’d be, but, Sweetheart, you’d look as good as heaven to me anyplace. I guess the weather is at it’s best in Wichita, so if I were there I’d be waltzing your charm all over the place. Here’s a big kiss, Angel, you can sleep on it tonight just to remind you that you’re still my Sweetheart, and will always be waiting for the day when I can hold you and give you a real kiss as a gift. I’ll save my love for you, Darling or I’ll never look at another girl. Goodnight, Sweetheart, a million kisses and My true love always!
Joe

Lela comments: May 31, 1944 would have been a Wednesday and in Wichita, Kansas, at that time of year, it was probably a lovely night as well. Joe was on my mind good weather or bad.

Cannock, England
June 4, 1944

My Precious Darling Lela,
Everything was fine with me, Honey, until I heard from your letters you hurt yourself. Take my advice, Sweetheart! Killing yourself won’t make you a better baseball player. Let’s take better care of that gorgeous body. You don’t know how glad I am that you are a sport, Angel. I guess there’s nothing I don’t love about you. I’ll make a deal with you, Sweetheart, send me a small picture of you and I’ll get one taken to send you besides the big one. I’ll write a six-page letter as soon as your picture reaches me, Darling. Here are a million kisses for tonight, Beautiful. I love you, Dream Girl. So long.
Love,
Joe

Cannock, England
June 5, 1944

My Sweetest Darling Lela,
Well, it looks like your blitz of letters stopped for a while, Sweetheart. Now it’s my turn. Do you receive mine one at a time or all at once? I had to line yours up by dates, Honey, so I could read them. I don’t mind writing a lot to you, Darling, but it I had something interesting to write about it would help. I could tell you in a boatload of letters how much I love you, how much I miss you, and what I wouldn’t give just to be near you once more. I haven’t received your picture yet, Darling, I should soon. I’m waiting for it like a “guess what” present. You’re a darling, Sweetheart, and you’re the only baby I could ever love. Goodnight, Sweetheart.
All my love forever,
Joe

Lela comments: There on the piano were 2 letters from Joe. His letters to me would arrive in multiples usually after a long dry period. It seemed to take forever to get that picture of me that he wanted so badly. As for the baseball injury, he referred to, it probably wasn’t much, but he sure approved of me playing his favorite sport. I liked baseball, too. I once struck a ball while playing with my siblings in the back yard and broke a window in the chicken coop. (We didn’t live on a farm, but we had several banty hens in the back yard.) I thought that my dad would kill me but he came out, smiled and said it happens. Come to find out he used to play on a team in his youth and loved baseball.

Cannock, England
June 5, 1944

Hi ya Gorgeous,
We just had our afternoon chow and thought I’d let you know what I’m thinking of. How’s my lovely baseball player? I’d give anything to see that pretty banged up finger of yours, Honey. Did it get any better, Sweetheart, or do I have to kiss it? You asked me if I’m having a good time in England. Do you feel sorry for me, Sugar, or do you think a good time follows me around like a shadow? No, Lela, it isn’t that easy; I miss things just like the other guy. Some little things, and some big things. You’re my honey and I miss you. How I feel about you is told in the oldest love story, Darling. Well here, a big kiss, Dream Girl. I love you, Sweetheart, and always will.
Your Joe forever Darling

Lela comments: I was becoming the most spoiled “sweetheart” in the USA.

D-Day June 6, 1944: I awoke to the big news; our forces had landed on the shores of France. It was hard to contain myself. If I only knew where Joe was and if he was safe. There were many casualties as those first soldiers left ships and ran toward land. I listened to the radio and read everything I could find. I felt both “up” and “down”. It was so hard, this not knowing. People everywhere were talking about it. My stomach was in knots. At the movies the newsreels were showing live action as it happened on the beaches. The whole country was excited!

Cannock, England, D-Day +1
June 7, 1944

My Dearest Darling Lela,
Just to break up this daydream I’m having about you. I thought I’d write a letter as soon as I get some writing paper. I’ll have a lot of things to tell you about by then, but a good long letter is better than a sheet of V-Mail. How’s my honey and all my honey’s folks? I just received a letter dated May 11 from you, Gorgeous. As for you going to college or becoming an actress, sounds pretty good, Honey. Do what Momma says and you can’t go wrong. You would like to know why you mean so much to me, wouldn’t you, Darling? Don’t lose any sleep over it, though. I’m saving the story until I get you in my arms for good. All I can say is I love you, you’re a sweetheart, and the most gorgeous little honey a fellow could ever want. Here’s a kiss about a mile long.
I love you just the way you are,
Joe

Lela comments: I didn’t get this letter for many days after D-day -and he doesn’t say anything about it: Due to being censored, no doubt. He mentions several times that I was thinking of becoming an actress, I never had serious thoughts of acting, however, it sounds like fun. A lot of our letters took about a month, some longer and would pile up.

Cannock, England, D-Day +2
June 8, 1944

My dearest darling LeLa,
Hi ya, Honey, just another day in England for me, not much to talk about or do anymore. How did that fellow that dropped over in the store make out? Is he Okay? Or is that the reason you work extra hours in the store? I never hear you do much kicking, Sweetheart, so there must be a reason when you do. I’m getting writing paper today, Darling – so I can write my Honey about five or six pages. What do you want me to tell you or what you’d like to know can’t be told, Honey. I wish I could call you up –I’d do it just to hear your voice, Beautiful. I love you more everyday. Here’s a kiss, Honey.
Love,
Joe

Lela comments: Two days after D-day–in this letter, no doubt Joe refers to “What I’d like him to tell me what he knows about”–and he can’t. All of his mail was censored. I’d been suspecting that something was going to happen such as D-day, but I didn’t know what. When I heard of those landings on the beaches in France I was so afraid that Joe would be in that group. It was so dangerous -that’s not the word for it. It was such a relief to hear from him and he was still in England. I think Joe was referring to my boss, Mr. Parham, when he referred to the man who had passed out it in the store and they took him away by ambulance. I loved Mr. Parham; he was more like a father to me than my own dad. Once he told me I could leave the store to go to church on Friday nights if I wanted to. I’d just told him that my dad forbid me to go to the Catholic church where I prayed for peace and safety of Joe and all the soldiers at the Novena with my friend, Norma and her mother and Aunts.

My old friend and mentor, Mr. Parham, never returned to the store–he had liver problems. Eddie, my younger sister, and I took the bus out to visit him one afternoon. I could tell that it tickled him to see us. I had worked for him from 8th grade through high school graduation. The people who worked there, the manager, Mr. Parham and the pharmacists, the other personnel at the soda fountain and the business and professional people in the building liked my sister and me, and treated us with respect. One pharmacist asked me one day why I didn’t go see a certain dermatologist, who was a regular customer in the drug store, for a thing that looked like a boil on my face–it was large and hurt -maybe it was a cyst. I said to him, “No, I don’t want him chasing me all around the office”. The druggist laughed and laughed. So I explained that I’d heard stories at school, how Dr. so and so chased young girls around the office. Well, that little bit of news got around. And when I kept telling an oil man from up in the bank building that I didn’t want the medicine he’d had Mr. Parham find for me (still the same problem on my face–I guess I worried people)- I could see Mr. Parham look at me with admiration for being so independent. I remember actually feeling angry that the man was so pushy and insistent. Now I look back and I know he was just trying to help because he saw me as a poor little waif.

June 8, 1944 Part II
My dearest, darling Lela,
Here I go on that six-page letter that I promised you, Sweetheart. Don’t mind the paper and writing, Honey; just make believe that I’m talking to you. I can’t make the whole 6 pages at once so let’s call it part I and part II, Okay? Beautiful. Any day now a beautiful, and most lovely picture should be looking at me. I’ll write six more pages as soon as it reaches me, Honey. Do you know how long we’ve been writing to each other, Sweetheart? I’d say about 3 and 1/2 months. Loving you that long was easy, Sweetheart, now I have to better myself a little bit. Of course, you were the girl of my dreams long before we ever met, Honey, and even though I almost told you the first night we met that I love you, Miss Bush, we got along pretty good together. What would you have done about that, Sugar? If I had told you just what I was thinking. I don’t think you would have done much just because I realized how lovely of a girl you are. You knew that I was serious in every way though, didn’t you, Sweetheart? Let’s keep it just the way it is, Gorgeous. Being my honey for a while after the war will be heaven for me, and as for you, Angel, I’ll make every minute as pleasant, and as heavenly and almost as beautiful as you. Is everything going as well as I hope it is around home, Sugar? My last letter from home wasn’t so good. It isn’t that everything happens to me, but my mother took my car out for a ride with no water in the battery and as a result she’s not going out anymore. Well, Honey, before I close part I, of this bedtime story here’s a reminder that you and only you mean everything to me. If I could just hold your charm and tell you that, it would mean a lot more to you. I don’t care to tell you what we’re doing over here, it’s best not to try expressing anything of the past or future. Just remember I love you, and nothing will ever change that.
A million kisses
Your Joe forever, Honey and all my love!

Lela comments: This letter was so sweet, not unlike all the others. In this letter, though, Joe spoke of his car and the accident his mother had with it when she took it out for a ride. I could tell this bothered him more than he let on. He loved that car.

June 8, 1944 Part III

My gorgeous and precious darling, Lela,
I was just thinking how solid everything would be if I could walk into that little store for about 5 minutes. Not that I’m dying for ice cream or a shot of poison. I just happen to remember how proud of a guy I was, sitting and having a good look at the gorgeous doll that served me. Maybe she could fix good drinks, but who could enjoy a drink with all that beauty around. Then that lovely 18 block walk home, that was the fastest walking I have ever done for anybody, but I knew what it would mean if I didn’t keep that date. I wouldn’t have you for a Honey, and that’s not all, I’d still be looking for the girl of my heart. If I could have seen you more often without getting into trouble. We have a lot to make up for, Honey. I wish it were this summer, but let’s hope it’s the next anyway. You’re not going to leave these months fly by are you, Darling? Have a good time and tell me about it. Don’t forget the small picture that you’re going to send me, Honey. The more I see of you the better. You have the nicest mother that I’ve ever met and that’s because you’re so much like her, and a birdie told me that I have good judgment. You’re always on my mind, Darling. I’ll never forget you or how you treated me. Send me a sweetheart of a dream, Gorgeous. I need it. Your Joe, forever and ever! I love you, I love you, I love you,
Joe

Lela comments: Joe reminisces about the night in the drug store where I worked after school. It was a nice store located in the in street level corner of a bank building with tile floors, wooden cabinets with glass doors that held the cosmetics, drugs etc. I worked mainly behind the marble soda fountain across the room with bar stools, and about 5 tables and chairs. We had to wear starchy stiff uniforms of green and white and/ or sometimes wine and white. We’d ride the elevator up to the 4th floor and change before and after work, thus leaving our soiled uniform for laundry pick up at the end of our shift. Joe had come into town before I was off work, which was either 7:30 or 8. He really didn’t care for sweets but probably ate that ice cream to please me. On this particular night a lady named Patsy was on duty behind the register. Patsy was a sprightly little lady who was easy to know and like. She talked to us in a kindly manner and we told her we were cousins, in a joking way. After that she’d always ask me how my cousin was and where he was at the time.

Cannock, England, D-Day +6
June 12, 1944

My dearest honey,
It’s another one of those nights over here, which I’d like to be spending with you, Sweetheart. How do you like this paper? It’s the kind of paper you write on one side and read it on the other. Why are you going right to work, Honey? Take it easy for a while if you think you need it. Sure, I know a girl by the name of Wanda, Sugar, I don’t know if it’s the same one or not, but still she don’t mean beans to me and I never wrote or wasted the paper on such a ! ! The Wanda the boys and I knew worked in the PX at Camp Phillips. When we left we gave her a present and a little poem. We never found out what the results were, but she got what she needed. Well, Darling, hearing that you’re Okay makes me feel my best. I’d love you in England, China or anyplace, but I’ll take you as you are right in Wichita. If you want to help and do your part to make the rest of the world happy that’s okay, but I know a soldier you could make happy, just by waiting for him. I guess I’ve told you how much I love you enough, times, but I seem to be kind’a proud of you too, Gorgeous. All I wish I had to do is write to you, Sweetheart, but don’t worry about me, as long as you’re in Wichita waiting for me and that happy day to come, I’ll be Okay. I know I don’t say much about the future, but I think a lot about it. Tell your cousin to lay off the teasing, Beautiful, she’s teasing my Honey and that ain’t good. Goodnight, Sweetheart. All my true love forever and ever.
I love you,
Joe

All the kisses to Sweetheart!

Lela comments: When I read this letter, I felt sorry for Wanda, whoever she was. I don’t know what caused me to ask Joe about Wanda-perhaps one of the clerks at the drug store met her through the USO.

Cannock, England, D-Day +8
June 14, 1944

My dearest, Honey Lela,
How’s my Sweetheart? And, all her folks? Home doesn’t change much does it, Honey? But it’s like a long lost friend when you’re away awhile. I don’t know about you, Sweetheart, but I’m finding it easier to write one letter airmail, rather than three or four v-mail. Maybe you ought to try it, Honey, save yourself some time. I’ve been thinking before I started the letter about your picture. Also the small one. A few more days and it will be a month since you sent it. Still I don’t think anything happened to it. It comes 3rd class mail which you might say is slow, but sure, maybe not even sure. How do you like working full time, Sweetheart? Don’t knock yourself out on these hot days of summer, Beautiful. When I think of the summer nights and how lovely you’d look in the swing on your front porch; that’s when I eat my heart out. Nevertheless, you’ll never have to tell me what a lucky guy I am, having a Honey like you to come back to. You’re in for a good time, Beautiful, you and me both and there’s no two ways about it, you’re my Lela and always will be. I have more than just love burning in me, just being away from you makes me burn all the more. Really, loving someone isn’t easy, is it, Sweetheart?

No letters from home this week, Honey. They must have their ears glued to the radio, and not time to write. All the fellows and myself feel and look pretty good, but you can bet we’ll feel our best when we land back in New York again. My mother promised that she’d have my car and everything ready for me, I don’t know if she means it or not. If she can get four new tires for me, before the war is over, and the right size clothes, that’s doing something. When my mother tells me things like that I keep telling her she’s the best mother I ever had, I guess she wonders how many I want. Time goes fast when I write to you, Sweetheart, and all I can tell you is I’m safe. You can pray all you want, Honey, that doesn’t hurt anybody, but I don’t want you worrying. I’ll try to write as often as I can and plenty. I’ll write you a nice long letter when I receive your pictures, Beautiful. I love you so much I could eat you, but you’re even too good for that. Where’s that dream at Honey? Your dreams send me and have plenty of good ideas. Don’t believe everything you dream is an old saying, Sugar. You’re a good guesser, Honey, what do you think? Be a good Honey a little while longer, Sweetheart, I’ve got that feeling we’re going places. I love you, Darling and that will never end. Here are all the kisses I can kiss, Gorgeous. Take care of them for me. Goodnight, Sweetheart. I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,
Joe

Lela comments: “Loving someone isn’t easy is it sweetheart?” How true Joe’s words were. At this time he was very lonely for home and those things that make life comfortable. I was home but he was sacrificing all that makes life comfortable, as were all the other soldiers who had to leave home. For me it was a time of anxiety. In the summer I would work full time at the drug store. I was used to working and wanted to. The people that were our customers were for the most part very nice and pleasant people. I felt as Joe did about the lonely evenings and wishing he could sit with me on the front porch in the swing. Our front porch was the old fashioned type with banisters and the usual porch swing. We, as children, used it to park our tricycles and toys at night. Mom and our neighbor, Mrs. Sanders, would sit out there with us kid in summer evenings when it was too hot to stay inside. Sometimes, not often, we would all get a Fudgesickle as a treat. If one of us was lucky and found the word “free” printed on the stick we’d save it for another night when we could all share in the treat. Our form of entertainment on summer nights in August was to sit on the porch and watch the people make their way down to the Camp Grounds for the “Camp Meeting”, we called it. The cars would be a constant parade as well as the walkers on foot. That was a good time to play “one light” and smack our fist-the object to be first and get the most. Glad to hear that his mother intended to have the car fixed –I know that helped him feel better. Joe seemed to be trying to live along with me as he would envision what I was doing during different times of the day. We really missed each other.

Cannock, England, D-Day +12
June 18, 1944

My dearest darling LeLa,
Hi Honey! It’s been a swell day, Angel. Washing clothes and having your picture to look at: the only thing is I get more water on myself than on my clothes. How’s my Honey? Still the same gorgeous baby as when I left? Your picture, Sweetheart, spells all your charm in capital letters. Tell me how long it takes airmail letters to reach you when you answer this letter, Okay? Sweetheart? I write one every other day except when I’m out of stamps or envelopes. How’s that back yard of yours. It should look it’s best this time of year. Anyway, I’d love to be there with you, Honey. The backyard, a moon and you, Sweetheart makes a perfect dream. How are your folks, Angel? Does big sister still take a walk at night, or did you break up the sweet romance? I know you remember and I’ll never forget the few walks we took. Not even 18 blocks seemed long when I walked with you, Darling. Besides, I enjoyed myself, Honey, so you can expect to find me walking to my dream girl when I get back. I’ll have to cut this letter short, Darling. Another hour and I’ll have to stand guard mount. There’s not much to say as you can guess, Honey. It’s best not to say anything except I love you every minute of the day; more and more and will never stop loving you, Sweetheart. I miss your kisses, Honey, but as long as I have you I’ll store ’em up for the day we meet again. Say “Hello” to everybody for me, Honey. Goodnight, Darling. Pleasant dreams-and remember, I love you with all my heart, Lela.
Your Joe, Forever and ever!

Lela comments: Joe writes about the back yard at our house fairly often–it must have impressed him even in the cold winter when it was devoid of flowers or any foliage. Later, I understood why, when I saw his home in Philly, no yard to speak of.

Cannock, England, D-Day +14
June 20, 1944

My own darling LeLa,
Hi Ya’, Lovely! This letter won’t sound as happy as I feel, Honey, after hitting the jackpot with three letters from you, Sweetheart. In one of the solid senders you said you’d received five letters from me. That makes me 2 up on you, Precious, it’s great to hear you’re fine and as sweet as ever. Everything is just about the same with me, Angel. When I think of you and try and figure out what you might be doing at a specific time; that’s sweet day dreaming, don’t you think, Honey? This summer is really breezing by, Honey, but we have, as you say, all those Saturday nights to make up for. I’ll change that, Darling, to every night. Say, Honey, you might have told me, but I’ve forgotten when your birthday is. If I can’t get you a card or something I’ll make up a poem. I don’t want to forget you on your best days, Darling. It’s almost time to eat, Sweetheart, can’t kick about the food, its not so bad. I still remember that night on our first date; your mother was making a pie. Never did find out what kind of pie it was, did I Beautiful? Thank the folks for wishing me good luck, Honey. You said that I’m coming back, Sweetheart, I’ll say it too, without being optimistic about it. Don’t get tired of me telling you how much I miss you, Gorgeous. Every minute of the day I love you more and more. Goodnight, Sweetheart! Your Joe, with my true love always and always!
I love you,
Joe

Lela comments: My mom was making apple pie the first night Joe came after me on our first date. I took him to the kitchen and introduced him and he asked her what she was doing. She answered that she was making a pie. My younger sister, Eddie, was in the room and she started giggling, then I did, so Joe did also. I wondered for sometime if he’d never seen a pie being made before. We left to catch the bus to take us to the movie and as we stepped off our porch on the old wooden steps, Joe said, “Honey, it’s no shame to be poor.” I didn’t know if he thought we were poor or was he poor. I was somewhat taken aback. My thoughts were: maybe it was his family who was poor since he didn’t know anything about making a pie, and yet, maybe his family was wealthy and he’d never seen anyone making a pie. I know our furniture was shabby but I’d never really thought about our family as being poor even though I had to work for all I had, clothing, books, school expenses, movies. Living at home was still free but there was a threat even at that.

Cannock, England, D-Day +19
June 25, 1944

My precious darling LeLa,
First, Sweetheart, I’ll ask you who your favorite author is. Then I’ll ask you if you are interested in reading a book. Just to prove to you, Honey, that my morale and hopes are at their best, I could write page after page of my love for you. Just looking at your picture tells a love story, Sugar, speaking only of how sweet you are, and strictly how adorable you look. You remember the first night we met, Honey? It was you for me any day and that still goes more than ever, Darling. We’ve only known each other for a short while, but I loved and trusted you for years. Knowing your mother and father would help me a lot, Darling. That will come later. Right now it’s between you and me, Sweetheart. You being so sweet and tender come first. How about letting me in on some of the things you want out of life, Honey. You’re not a common girl, LeLa, I realized that a long time ago. Just give me an idea of the things you have in mind, Gorgeous. I remember you saying in a letter that you could live anyplace with someone you love, and that you like children, and can cook. So, let’s not talk about that Honey. Right there is more than a fellow could ask for, Darling. I always said that a fellow who marries a girl who cooks the first meal without burning it has something to be proud of. I don’t know how much you like to travel, Honey, or what kind of up to date stuff you like.

Anyway, I know there’s never a dull moment when there’s fun to be had. To bring home the bacon to a sweet and charming wife like you, and making you the happiest sweetheart in the world would be heaven. That’s all a fellow like me needs to make my dreams come true, Gorgeous. There’s not much figuring ahead to be done, Angel. All the time I’m spending in the Army should be spent with you, Darling. We’ll make up for it double for at least 2 years after the war. I don’t have to tell you Darling that knowing a person and living with a person is two different things. If there’ s any reason why we shouldn’t go on loving one another after the war, we’ll probably know that reason in one or two years. I’m sure nothing will, Sweetheart. I love you so much now that I could never stop loving you for a minute no matter what happens. You’re just the girl of my heart and always will be. As for me, Beautiful, to make my dreams come true, all I need is you; to give a sweet Honey like you everything a lovely wife deserves. Right now, Honey, if it cost a nickel to get around the world I couldn’t even get out of sight. It’s all for the best, Honey. Either I get to spend my savings on the things I love or as they say “You never miss what you don’t have.” I can’t wait for the day that we go see a man about a ring, Darling. The happiest days of my life will be, first, getting back to you, then the big days that follow. It looks like everything fall back on time, Honey, time tells. Right now, Sweetheart, I’m looking at your picture. You’re the most adorable baby I ever saw. I’d give anything if I could just kiss you again. When I do get my arms around you, Honey, I’ll just hold an Angel ready to fly away. I guess this isn’t much of a book, Darling, more of a short love story. Anyway, it only takes a sentence to say, “I love you, Lela”
So long, Sweetheart!
All my love with all my heart!
Joe

Lela comments: Joe makes a lot of down to earth observations and lots of sense. His words, “. . . go see a man about a ring . . .” made my heart sing.

Cannock, England, D-Day +19
June 25, 1944

My dearest Honey, LeLa,
Hi ya, gorgeous. I just finished eating and feel just in the mood for writing a few pages to my honey, and the sweetest girl in the world. I’ve been thinking of you all day, Sweetheart; we’re just about six hours ahead over here, so you’re either working or asleep. When do you get your day off, Honey? One of the weekday’s? Or every other Sunday. Everything is just about the same with me, Darling, except I miss you more than ever. What would you say for that, Honey? Just for missing a sweet baby like you? Am I just unfortunate, or do I have a penalty to pay for loving you so much? This type of paper is running short around here, Honey. Right now I’m waiting for a package from home, with some writing paper in it. How’s everybody around home, Angel? Anything else happen in Wichita since the flood? How’s the water for swimming about this time of year, Honey? And how are you at swimming? I don’t think you ever said anymore about the small picture of you, Sweetheart. Do you have it with you or do you have to get it made? If you have it, Beautiful, and want to sent it to me, I won’t kick. The more I see of you the more I love you. Just until tomorrow, Honey, I’ll say “So-long” I love you, Sweetheart and always will. Love forever and ever.
With all my heart,
Joe
A million hugs and kisses, Honey

Lela comments: Ever since I learned to swim in a neighborhood pool in Wichita, at the age of 10, I’ve loved summer and swimming. Joe was thinking of these things and of what I might be doing. Seemed like that small picture he wanted would never get there. I hope that there is no penalty for loving.

 

Cannock, England, D-Day +19
June 25, 1944

My dearest darling Lela,
Hi ya, Honey! I had a letter started just before I received two letters from you, Sweetheart. One letter and one V-mail. Now I’ve started all over again. Glad everything’s Okay with you, Honey. Your letter sure made a big hit with me, Angel. The part I liked best was you saying I’ll wait no matter how long it takes you to return. That’s what I like to hear, Sweetheart. I wish I were there when you told the singing cowboy why you wouldn’t go out with him. Thanks a million, Gorgeous, I wish I could kiss ya. I hope everything turns out okay for your father, Honey. Though I never met him I’m sure I’ll find him to be a swell guy after I get to know him. What do you think, Beautiful? You know how hard I am to get rid of. I don’t think I remember Mary, Honey, I was to busy looking at you. It’s too late to eat a sandwich for me on the picnic you talked about, Sweetheart, but on the next one you eat my share. I guess it’s kinda hot in Kansas at this time of year, Honey, but how’s the swing at night? I can picture just how sweet you’d look sitting there, Honey. As for my mother, Honey, she was in love once; as a matter of fact I think she even got married. Anyway, Sweetheart, if I know my mother she’ll agree not only with me, but with us on whatever we do. How’s that, Darling? feel better? You want to know if I accept being your Joe, Honey? I’m either yours or nobody’s; You’re still and always will be my Honey. When I walked you home that night, Sweetheart, I did know a little, but I also knew I was walking with the sweetest and most charming girl a fellow ever walked with. It doesn’t make any difference what I knew then, Honey. All I did was hope you’d do just what you’re doing, Sweetheart; writing to me, and waiting for the day we can pick up from where we left off. I enjoyed the short time we spent together, Darling. As you say, we’ll be the liveliest pair and the happiest couple on earth. I’ll say “So long for a while, ” Sweetheart. Your Joe, with all my love forever and ever. I love you, I love you, I love you!
Goodnight, Sweetheart,
Joe
A million kisses Honey!

Lela comments: Re: “singing cowboy” –don’t remember a thing about such a person. He must not have made an impression. The “Mary”, mentioned by Joe, was a gal named Mary Meyers–who was the acquaintance from the drug store where I worked. She’s the one who asked me to accompany her and her sister and friend to Shadowland. Mary was a couple years older than I and her sister was probably in her 20’s. Mary didn’t stay at Tilford’s for long–I lost track of her. The picnic Joe speaks of was probably the one that the people from Stannard Oil Company had and hired us (I guess) to make sandwiches and accompany them out for fun. They talked me into playing softball with them and made a fuss over me for knowing how to play. I probably wrote to Joe and told him about it because he loved baseball and used to play.”

Cannock, England, D-Day +21
June 27, 1944

Hi Ya’ Sweetheart,
It looks like my picture is really getting around, Honey. You can thank all the folks for the compliments, Sweetheart. I’ll remember your birthday from now on, Sweetheart. Mine comes on September 11th: my mother says the sun always shines on that day. If that’s some sort of present it doesn’t hang around long. So, your back yard is covered with nature, eh, Honey? You and all of that would make anybody wish they were there. You can thank Eddie for wishing me good luck, Angel. I remember the night I came to your house, Honey. She wouldn’t stop laughing at something I said, and then you started. After that I couldn’t keep a straight face. I know I still have the big day ahead, Sugar, when I meet your dad and big sister. I guess the folks will really celebrate when she gets married. Most likely everybody will be congratulating her, but I’m putting mine first because it’s coming from 1/4 way around the world. If you take any pictures, Sweetheart, or can you get film? Slip me one of you. I’d like to see how lovely you’re looking on that day. Carter Ratliff sounds like a good football player’s name, Honey. Being my true dream girl is more than good enough for me, Gorgeous. You’re the only honey I’ll ever love, and I do love you more and more every minute that passes. Thank Eddie, for me again, Angel. I hope you can make this out LeLa; I’m stuck for time, but still thinking of you.
I love you, Darling
Joe

Lela comments: Joe tells me that his birthday is September 11. I knew it was in September because he wore a sapphire ring . That’s one date I never forgot. I showed Joe’s picture to anyone and everyone–Naturally all the girls went gaw gaw over him, with those good looks and priceless smile, who wouldn’t? This letter of Joe’s refers to the pie making episode-when Joe asked my mother what she was doing, which was so obvious that Eddie and I got the giggles, then he laughed too. I’m glad he was a good sport. I’d told Joe that there was going to be a wedding in the family and he remarks about how I’ll look and I know that it hurts for him to see the world go on without him.

Cannock, England, D-Day +24
June 30, 1944

My darling LeLa,
Some of the fellows have been asking me questions and talking to me all afternoon, but I’m just looking at nothing, hearing nothing, and doing the same, “nothing”. Not because it’s payday, Honey, but because I received the five page letter that you wrote on the 21st. Since I read it I’ve been thinking how to express what a lovely letter like that can do for a person. I’ll wait awhile, then one of these days I’ll write a sizzler, that will make your pretty head spin. When I told you that I’d never forget you and the way you treated me, that’s what I’d call “good”. You know, Sweetheart, from the time I met you, until the time I left I was in love with you, and my love for you is still growing more everyday. What I meant by “treated” is, you didn’t need me no how. I wasn’t thinking of Tommy, Shadowland, or anything. One night when I was going to tell you how I felt about you, I expected an answer like this: “Joe, I’m just having too much fun to give myself up for anyone.” That’s what you should have said, Darling, but you didn’t. After that I’d tell the world I love you, LeLa.

Remember when I told you that you’re too good for me, you’d never know what I had been thinking or you would have guessed why I said it. You’re as beautiful as you are sweet, Lela. Having you near me is all I’ll ever want. Thanks for being ornery, Honey. I won’t tell you what I think of Shadowland, Sweets, but I met you there and did you look adorable! Let’s forget about the dream, Angel. If it’s as lovely as you say it is, I can wait. I’m not disappointed Honey, you said, “I love you,” and I believe that and nothing else. You’re young, so charming and lovely Lela, we have lots of time for person-to-person talks. I understand you as much as I love you, Darling. If I ever, and I have, skipped a couple of days, Honey, writing to you. Remember that I’m always, ” your Joe,” who’s in love with you every minute of every day no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I can always say I’m Okay, Sweetheart, the foods not too bad and the boys are as ever. I’ll be looking for your picture, Darling. I wish I could just see you in the back yard; I’ll bet the roses haven’t anything on you. Someday, Darling, you’re going to be awfully happy; we’re made for each other, Sweetheart. I don’t want anyone but you and you feel the same so that’s all that matters. So long, precious, just ’till tomorrow. I love you, LeLa and always will love you, Darling!
Joe

Lela comments: “I remember very vividly that Joe made the comment several times about how I treated him–at first I wondered what he meant–I didn’t treat him any differently than I did anyone else–civil that’s all. Joe mentions a Tommy in several letters; I’d forgotten Tommy –and I can’t remember much now. I think Tommy was a lieutenant who said he wanted to be brain surgeon–he was at Shadowland, I guess at the same time that Joe was–he seems to be familiar with him. I don’t know what part of the services Tommy was in and barely remember him at all. Perhaps Mary and I sat at a table with Tommy. Another thing I remembered is someone saying to me, “Is it past your bedtime?” (Probably Joe). I was not used to late hours and I’d put my head on the table. I do know that Tommy guy made a pass at me that I didn’t appreciate and told him so. But, I’m sure that I never heard from him again. All I remember about that night was Joe and his fascination for me–he “treated” me with dignity, but with lots of interest and I thought he was sweet and nice looking. Joe had a beautiful complexion–it was light, but his cheeks were a rosy pink, his teeth were white and even, his hair very dark and his eyes were brown and sparkled with life. His dancing, I don’t know–we managed–it went smooth–I’d not had any experience dancing with a guy –just with the girls in gym class. Later my friend, Norma, and I took dance lessons from an older, portly gentleman (it’s in one of the letters in which I describe it to Joe and tell him which dances we were learning) I don’t remember any of those steps now.

In one paragraph in the letter above, Joe says, “Thanks for being ornery.” I think he’s referring to me explaining how I went to Shadowland that night by lying to my parents (my mother) and how excited I was to see how people in a dance hall acted. It was an adventure that I’m not sorry for but it could have been a very dangerous escapade—now I know–and that boss, that I adored, told me so, when he heard where I’d gone. Re: The dream–Joe says, “Let’s forget about the dream, Angel.” I apparently dreamed how heaven would look more than once as he mentions it in another letter. I have dreamed of Heaven and a large mansion that is beautiful, with ivory colored walls and deep green trim. I’ve also dreamed of Mary (as of late years) I saw what she looked like and she walked toward me as she knew I was troubled, she didn’t look worried, but showed concern and love–she had on a pastel gray, pink and yellow dress of geometric design, not like the statues and pictures we usually associate with Mary. As she turned away for me (she said nothing but conveyed love with her eyes) My thoughts were that she was going to other troubled souls and there were many-, and following her–in her wake–was clouds or bubbles that had rounded tops and were thick, and came toward me as they trailed after her–they immersed me completely and I understood that they were “love”. Mary had a delicate face– a long neck –she looked more like “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” as depicted in the icon. I’m off track again. But, this was a gift that I’ve told no other. Joe says, “We were made for each other”. I agree–today they call them soul mates.” “. . . . We’re made for each other, Sweetheart .. .” This became more and more apparent as the days and years passed. Joe had written 16 letters to me in June. Any doubts I’d had about his sincerity were long gone. What a guy!

Cannock, England, D-Day +25
July 1, 1944

My Dearest Cousin:
How’s that for a heading honey? After reading your V-Mail letter I was thinking about the day we almost made Patsy believe we were cousins. She’s ok. I have your picture in front of me darling; you almost look real, Someday I’ll show you how I looked at it, and if you don’t think your tempting just ask me. I’d like to be back in the store honey, Not that I like watching you work, but just to see how beautiful you look punching that cash box around. If I were your boss honey, I’d count the mistakes (if any) as hugs & kisses. Would you stick around very long sweetheart? I’m glad your feeling better, and not so tired anymore honey. I know how much my letters mean to you gorgeous. If you knew how much your letters mean to me you wouldn’t miss a day. I can’t write every day honey, so I don’t expect you to. I’ll never regret writing to you sweetheart. Even if I have to fill the paper with “I love you” I’ll do it. When I say you mean everything to me darling it’s just another saying for I want you more than anything else in the world. I was glad to hear everyone in your family is fine & doing ok honey. I received another letter from my Dad, I’m not sure but I think my Mom’s making him write. He never wrote two letters in one week since I’ve been in the Army. Well Sweetheart it’s just–So Long– until tomorrow. I’ll be thinking of my LeLa for the rest of the day. All my true Love, to the sweetest girl in the world.
“I love you”
Joe

Lela comments: Patsy was the night cashier and such a neat lady. The night Joe waited for me in the drug store she made us feel so comfortable and at ease. Joe refers to getting a letter from his dad-and thinks that his mom had something to do with it. He mentions his mom quite a bit but this was unusual to hear about his dad in a letter.

Cannock, England, D-Day +26
July 2, 1944

Hi ya, Precious,
How’s my Honey? It’s a swell day for me, Sweetheart. Did I ever tell you that Sunday is my day, Honey? Back home after church, I’d play ball with the fellows from the neighborhood; then one of them or myself would get a bright idea to go someplace. Now, I’m saving my Sunday’s and thinking of my Honey far away. How do you like the green ink, Honey? I borrowed some from a pal of mine. After receiving three v-mails from you, Angel, it gives me something to write about. Maybe I don’t hear from you for three or four days, but when I do, I hear plenty. I don’t worry about you writing to me, Gorgeous, I trust you as much as I love you. I’m glad you enjoyed the picnic, Honey. I guess you were kinda’ tired after working all day, Honey. When you said, “I liked the baseball best,” that did it. You’re just the girl of my heart, Gorgeous, and you can bet I would have liked to have been there with you. Just a picnic and my Honey, would make any day perfect. Well, Sweetheart, I’m still going to tell you how much I miss you and still love you more than anything else in the world. I’ll be here just thinking of you for the rest of the day, Sweetheart. I guess it’s about time to say, “Hello” to the folks. I know that I’ll be writing again tonight or tomorrow, Darling. So, it’s just so long for a while, Angel. I love you, LeLa, and always will. Millions of kisses, Honey!
Joe

Lela comments: Joe mentioned how he loved Sunday’s more than once, and how he and the fellows would play ball. It pleased him so much to learn that I also liked baseball.

Cannock, England, D-Day +27
July 3, 1944

My dearest LeLa,
Hi ya, Honey! I was thinking about getting my rations before I started writing to you, Angel. Some of the fellows already got theirs and they look pretty good. Did I ever tell you what we get per week? We get 7 packages of cigarettes; three candy bars, box of matches, 2 razor blades, 2 packages of cakes and a can of something to drink. It cost 3 shillings, which in our money is 60 cents. Not bad, eh, Honey? I looked at your picture when I said, “eh, Honey” Do you feel as good as you look in the picture, Sweetheart? Tomorrow’s the 4th of July, Honey, got any fire works? Write and tell me about it no matter how you spend it. I haven’t heard from home for a while: I guess they’re all Okay. I bought all the writing paper and envelopes I could, Sweetheart. So, you can expect to hear plenty, every time I get a chance to write. I just remember you saying in your letter, if there’s anything you could send me, Sweetheart. Right now I can’t think of anything I need, Honey, but maybe later on I might run short of something that you could send to me. I already asked you to send me your small picture of yourself, Honey. That sort of thing you can send everyday and as many as you want, Gorgeous. I’ll have to stop now Darling, only until tomorrow when I’ll come back (I just ran out of ink, Beautiful, it doesn’t matter how I write, “I love you, Darling”, blue or black ink. Of course, I’d rather just hold you in my arms and tell you that you’re the sweetest Sweetheart in the world.
Just until tomorrow, Darling, “So – long.” I love you, LeLa. A very, very precious love that will last forever and ever, Darling.
Joe
1,000,000,000,000,000,000 kisses –return ’em, Honey!

Lela comments: I can’t ignore all of those kisses and his statement about his love and that it will last forever and ever. What a Sweetheart ! He realizes that tomorrow is the 4th-and wonders what we’ll be doing? I don’t remember exactly but our usual family thing was to get up early, daddy would hang the flag with 48 stars, us kids would light the fire crackers, (depending on age as to what kind) the little kids got to light the lady fingers, and the “snakes on the sidewalk”, and older kids could light the Black Cats, and torpedo’s. At night we had the fountains, the hand held sparklers, the aerial bombs, the windmills which my dad would fasten to a tree, the parachute man, whom we’d have to find after take-off, and roman candles. Mom would bake a chocolate cake and ice it with cooked frosting: that would be our desert following a fried chicken dinner. On that particular year I’m not sure if we were able to celebrate due to the war. There were so many items we couldn’t get during wartime. I would be very surprised if we were able to get the fireworks, especially from China, where most of them were made.

Carl Nordstrom of the 702nd wrote: “July 3: Tomorrow being our nation’s birthday, we are going to put on a parade for our English cousins. Since something has to be said, the Colonel has decided to commend the battalion in writing for its conduct and has assigned the job of preparing the document to me. . . On July 4th we bicycled to a nearby pub (in terms defined by Kansas). It was a good five miles. The countryside was beautiful; sometimes the view was absolutely superb. The weather in this country could never be a military secret, it is perpetually nasty.”

Cannock, England, D-Day +29
July 5, 1944

Hi Ya, Gorgeous!
How’s my Honey? Everything’s fine today, Lela, after receiving two airmail letters from you, Sweetheart. I’m fine and just hope you’re the same. I’ve always liked home cooking, Honey, but since I’ve been going to cafe’s I’ve gotten kind of used to it. I’ve never been to the Holly cafe, Sweetheart, but we’ll go there one of these days. So, you think you’re a democrat because your mother and father are, eh, Honey? That’s pretty good; mother and father both can’t be wrong. It doesn’t make much difference what I am, Honey, I’m still too young to vote, but Roosevelt’s okay for my money, which isn’t much. That almost answers the questions in your first letter, Darling, except I wish I were the dentist who’s taking care of your gorgeous teeth. Would I have fun–ouch. Someday, Sweetheart, I ‘m going to write a real love story to you. Maybe you don’t think I know how lovely you are, and being true which is the sweetest thing you ever could do for me. You work hard and save your money for war bonds, but don’t get much enjoyment out of it. All I can do now, Sweetheart, is to tell you I appreciate and love you for everything you’re doing. When the day comes for me to prove to you that you’re the only girl in the world for me, I know you’ll be a happy, Honey. The girl I marry isn’t going to work, Sweetheart. So just keep remembering that I love you dearly, and I want to make you happy, because the future owes you everything you can dream of, and are working so hard to get. If we can keep our love together, Sweetheart, everything will come natural to us. We have plenty of time to plan for that nice home and all those beautiful things that make a couple happy. So, as long as I have you, Darling, I’ll never have to play “Dan Cupid” to make another couple happy, I love you very, very much, Lela and always will!
Joe

Lela comments: Two letters on the piano, hooray! I’m still a democrat and still a believer that Roosevelt was one great President. Joe showed his appreciation for even the smallest things.

Cannock, England, D-Day +29
July 5, 1944

Hi Ya, Beautiful,
You might get tired of hearing this, Sweetheart, but this is another one of those nights. I wish I were with you every night, Honey, but some of these nights with their color and you would make them just perfect. I guess Mary does feel pretty bad about her boyfriend. Were they true sweethearts or just good friends? Honey, do you have trouble finding something to tell me in your letters? If I don’t ask enough questions, or tell you what you want to know, Sugar; just let me know. Writing to one another is almost like being together, and means a lot. We’ve been able to know one another pretty well through letters, and we’re not going to stop writing to one another even if we have to send blank pages. I wouldn’t think of anything else but being true to you, Darling. There’s nothing in this world I want more than you, Honey. I know we’re not the only sweethearts that have been separated since the war, but feeling as we do about each other, Gorgeous, will get us places. Every couple want a nice home, every girl wants a good husband, and every fellow wants to make his girl happy. You deserve everything a sweet, charming, Baby, like you can dream of; that’s my post war plan, Honey. Here’s a kiss to seal it. Your picture sure is something to look at, Darling; I like it more everyday. I’ll be looking for the small one soon, Honey. Just until tomorrow, Gorgeous, I’ll say, “So long, precious, Your Joe, with all my love forever and ever.
Joe
Million kisses, Honey

Lela comments: Mom put this letter on the old piano one day during that last week in July. The news of the war in Europe was hot and every time I opened a letter from Joe I feared the worst. Had he moved on –would he be heading to the front soon. How was he feeling? Then I’d read his sweet letters that were so calming and wonder what I was worrying for. He didn’t seem worried. He would remind me of our times together, our letters and our future to come.

Cannock, England, D-Day +30
July 6, 1944

My dearest Honey, LeLa,
Hi ya, Sweetheart, how’s everything with my lovely lady? Everything’s fine with me Honey, and hope you’re the same. I’ve been looking at your gorgeous picture, also thinking what to write. Do you try to think up news before you start your letters? You haven’t got a censor or anything, Honey, so that ought to make things pretty easy for you when you write. Well, I just about asked you all the questions I can think of except one that I never asked you, but in about two more years I will. I still have one which doesn’t mean very much, Honey, and I don’t think I asked you about it before, but do you think if you would pass me on the street and I was wearing civilian clothes, would you recognize me, Sweetheart? I’ll put it this way; Would I recognize you in a WAC uniform? I’ll be honest with you, Honey and tell you I don’t think I’d know you, because I can’t picture just what you’d look like. You’d be the sweetest and most beautiful WAC in the Army, if you were one, though. LeLa, Darling, I guess there’s not much to write about at present, but tomorrow is another day, Sweetheart. I miss you so much; plain words can’t express it, but my love for you grows more and more every minute while I think of my precious Honey. Just until tomorrow, Sweetheart, remember that my favorite saying is, “LeLa, I love ya!” Here’s an all day kiss for you, Honey!
Love always,
Joe

Lela comments: Each letter that waited for me atop the piano soothed my worries away.

Cannock, England, D-Day +31
July 7, 1944

My Own darling, LeLa,
Hi ya, Gorgeous! How’s my Honey? This little gift I’m sending you isn’t a masterpiece, Honey, but it’s guaranteed not to turn your wrist green. It’s also handmade “by me” (ahem). The big coin in the center is 1/4 cent, and the birdie is topside up. The rest are 3-cent pieces, Honey. That’s the bird that told me that I have good judgment, remember, Sweetheart? I’m still the same; feeling fine and in love with the most gorgeous Angel in the world. After receiving two V-mails, dated 13 and 14, I wondered if you’d remember the questions you asked, if I answered them. Anyway, Darling, you can bet any love song fits in our love, which is the sweetest love of all loves. Being stubborn might be a good sign, Honey, for you and me both, but I’m not too stubborn to know when I’m in love with something as beautiful as you. Teaching you to drive is one of the happy days ahead for us, Honey. It won’t be my car, it will be “our” car, so you’ll have to learn, Sweetheart. I’ll be loving you ’till the end of the day and looking at your sweet picture every chance I get, Honey. I hope you like the bracelet, Angel. Just until tomorrow, LeLa, I’ll say “so long.” All my truest love to the sweetest girl in the world.
I love you,
Joe

 

Lela comments: The little gift, the bracelet, was precious and meant so much to me since he’d made it for me. There would be no more letters now for a while which gave me reason to feel anxious. The next letter was dated the 14th and gave me no indication as to why he hadn’t written or where he was.

 

On July 13, 1944, the 702nd was moved to Ashton-Keynes, on the Salisbury Plain.

 

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +38
July 14, 1944

My Adorable Sweetheart LeLa,
Here it is night & you’re right beside me while I’m writing this letter. What a picture! What a girl! You’re just too beautiful for words, Sweetheart. Speaking of pictures, Honey, while I was waiting for your letter tonight I was hoping your small picture would be in it, but no letter. I’m not sore though Honey, “Here’s a kiss to prove it”. I’m doing my best to make up for the time I lost, Gorgeous. I know how bad you feel when you don’t hear from me. I’d gladly write every day if I could, Sweetheart. Remember how I used to call up every other night. Now, if I were back there I’d call everyday, and see you every chance I would get. I guess I’d know Wichita & your family as well as my own neighborhood & family by this time, Honey. You never did get on to my “not knowing” where the bus stop was Beautiful. I didn’t know it the first couple of times you told me, Angel. But after that I played dumb just to watch how sweet & lovely you looked explaining it to me.

Did you ever hear the GI poem, Honey? I can’t write you a real love story, Angel. I might get a letter from you tonight so ’til then I’ll ask you to be my sweet gorgeous baby, then I’ll write another letter. I really think a lot of your picture, Honey but you’re more precious to me than anything else. You know that course I was thinking about taking up after the war, Sweetheart? That comes in two parts. First, it wouldn’t ever be any use out in Wichita & I spent all the time I’m going to spend away from you, Darling. Second, course I’m going to take up without fail is how to make a lovely Honey like you the happiest girl in the world. You might not understand all this at present, Honey. I don’t want to write it all out in a letter. Did I ever tell you where I worked before I came in the Army? Three good places; Pontiac Motors, a leather mill & the best of all, the Philadelphia Navy Yard. All my ideas came to me when I worked at the Navy Yard. I’ll tell you all about it some time, Honey. Now it’s time to tell you that I love you; think you’re the most adorable sweetheart on earth & can’t wait until I can be with you again for good. Here’s a big kiss just until tonight, Sweetheart when I’ll write again. I love you, I love you, I love you, I will always love YOU
Joe

Lela comments: Joe explained how he’d like to write everyday but couldn’t and he knew how badly I felt when I didn’t hear anything. The mail was our lifeline. Joe used to grin when I explained how to catch the bus from our house on the South Main bus line. The bus did a loop so if you missed it across the street on Skinner you could walk one block east and catch it as it headed back to town. I don’t know how many times I repeated this to Joe and now I find he was just watching. Funny Joe.

Part II of This Letter
July 14, 1944
My Dearest Honey LeLa,
I haven’t written to you for the last four days Sweetheart. If I start telling you the story it would take five pages & even then the censor might not let it through. I’ll make up for it starting today, Gorgeous. Everything okay around here Honey; I received two letters; the 27th & 29th. The 27th wasn’t so good, Angel. You really made a big mistake drinking out of that glass. You didn’t want to do it, did you? When somebody asks you to taste something, just take their word for it that it’s no good. You’ll keep that beautiful complexion you have. You can give Eddie, Johnny, & your Mom my thanks for the few lines they wrote Honey. I do get a kick out of it. Tell Mom I’ll be around for that apple pie. I’ll be a sport and bring the apples. You asked me what I think of the family, Sweetheart? My answer to that is, I wish I were part of it. You write very cheerful letters, Honey, if you know it or not. One of these days I’ll get out of a day dream and write it all down yet because it isn’t finished, but I’ll send it to you when it is. Well, my adorable Honey, just until tomorrow I’ll say So Long. I love you, Honey. Always have & always will.
A million kisses and hugs to the sweetest girl in the world.
I love you,
Joe

Lela comments: What luck, a 2-part letter. I was interested to hear where Joe had worked prior to the Army–his comments on my family–my mom, sister, Eddie and brother, Johnny were in reference to the short messages they’d included in one of my letters. Joe never forgot to appreciate.

England, D-Day +49
July 15, 1944

My precious darling, LeLa,
Hi ya, Honey! I don’t know if you noticed my change in writing, Sweetheart. My fountain pen broke and now I borrow my pal’s when I write to my Sweetheart. His is a little harder to write with and mine wasn’t any too good. How’s my beautiful Honey? I f there’s anything wrong, here’s a “big kiss” to fix it up. This might sound funny to you, Sweetheart, anyway, while I was half asleep, and thinking of you, before I started this letter; I had the feeling that I’m going to see you again before I’m out of the Army. The first person I’m going to meet, Honey, is your mother, then you. How long from now, I don’t know, but if that feeling comes out right, Sweetheart, I’ll kiss you the longest that you’ve ever been kissed; just to make sure it’s the real and only girl I love. It wouldn’t make any difference to me, Gorgeous, whether I’m in the Army or out just as long as I’m spending time with you. Even one night, just walking, or talking to you, Honey, with all your charm would be heaven. Stop me if I sound lovesick, Sweetheart. Maybe I am, but who wouldn’t be with an adorable darling like you. If anyone ever tells me that there’s no such thing as love, they’ll have to eat those words. I never knew it before, myself, Honey, but since I met you I’ve found out a lot. When I compare my life with you and without you, Sweetheart, there’s all the difference you can dream of. I don’t have to go on saying anymore, Beautiful, that you’re the girl of my heart, and the only girl I’ll ever love or want for a wife. Again I’ll tell you, Honey, that I can’t wait ’till the day comes when I hold you and kiss my dream girl. Love you more and more each day. Just my saying will make a perfect closing of this letter, Sweetheart. You know: “Lela, I love you”. Say hello to the family for me, Honey. Here’s a big kiss just for you. Until tomorrow, Gorgeous. So long, I love you, I love you, I love you!
Joe

Lela comments: Joe didn’t know how prophetic his words were, that he had a feeling that he’d see me before he got out of the army but he’d see my mother first. I think we, Joe and I, both had dreams to help us through this time of separation.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +50
July 16, 1944

My Own Gorgeous Darling LeLa,
Tonight I really hit the jackpot, Sweetheart. Four solid letters from the one and only girl I adore. They make me feel like standing on my head and kicking Hitler’s teeth down his throat. Two of your letters were from way back in June 22nd and 24th. You might remember saying, “Do you think I’m doing right?” That was in reference to going to college and getting something out of life. The rest was about you being sorry for upsetting me with your letters. That’s all over with now, Honey, but you didn’t upset me, I would have written if I could. Well, Darling, I’ll answer that question the way I think it should be answered and I hope it’s what you want to hear, Sweetheart. We’re both pretty young, Honey; nevertheless, if I’m not in love with you then I’m not alive. You can tell this to your mother in a nice way if you want to, Sweetheart, I’ll leave that up to you. When I say that I love you, LeLa, and tell you how precious you are to me, I mean every word I say, Honey. It looks like I’m picking on the spark of the family, and a very, very lovely girl.

You and I can’t blame your folks for wanting to see you make something of yourself, Sweetheart. I have plenty of room upstairs for more brains, myself. So, Honey, putting two and two together, since I love you very much and hope to marry you someday, you can go to all the colleges in the United States, but nothing can make me give you up. Darling, if this war were to end tomorrow, I’d get back to you as fast as I could. I don’t have to tell you that I’m willing to do anything that will help make you happy, and the reason for that is, you’re my type, and I know it, Sweetheart. I know I can do it, Angel. All I need is the time it takes after the war to prove that you’re all I want. Answer these questions the way I hope you’ll answer them, Sweetheart, and I’ll be the happiest guy on earth. Will you let me be your guy for as long as it takes after the war, Sweetheart, to show you how much I love you? Would you like to be called Mrs. Delaurentis, someday, Honey? That’s that, Darling. I think I told you once that I played baseball in high school, Honey. We’re really going to get along good, I can see that, Baby. Teaching you how to play baseball, and how to drive will be great. You seem to like French toast, Honey, we get it once in awhile. You’re going to have me at your side someday, Beautiful and your never going to get rid of me. Just until tomorrow, Sweetheart.
I love you,
Joe

Lela comments: How would I like to be called, Mrs. DeLaurentis, someday, that question jumped out at me –can I say, Yes, yes, yes, a million times yes? Other comments: I guess my mother must have said something about continuing my education before marriage-and evidently I’d written to Joe about what was said. My mom did believe strongly in education. She, herself, had to give up school after the 8th grade. She was college material, but continued to learn by reading and educating herself. She picked up a lot from us, her children, as we progressed through school. Because of her interest in our subjects we also took more interest.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +51
July 17, 1944

My Darling LeLa,
Hi ya Sweetheart. How’s my honey? Everything’s still the same with me darling, with you to think of, and your sweet picture to look at, things couldn’t be any different. Do you remember saying “I talk to your picture sometimes?” Same here beautiful. I always say; Hello Gorgeous, or still my Honey; when I’m away more than five minutes I say, What so ya say Precious? Did you miss me? I still love ya Honey. Not bad, eh Angel? So Eddie can play “Pistol Packin Mamma” on the piano; that’s not bad, but I’ll expect her to sing and play at the same time when I get back. Greedy guy aren’t I honey? Tell her to try our song Honey, you know “I’ll Get By As Long As I Have You”. As for swimming together we’ll have fun, but I won’t dunk you. My way is to watch how the other person acts then do the next best thing. Well Gorgeous, It’s time to tell you again that when I come back it will be straight to you, & you’re the only honey in the world for me. When I answer your lovely letters honey & think about some of the things you ask and want to know; I realize if it weren’t for you precious, I might have forgotten all those things by now, & maybe never have an interest in them again. You’re my only dream girl Lela, & best of all the girl of my heart.

One more thing Honey, maybe you seem to think I don’t like Mary, but do you recall Angel, I met you & her almost at the same time. Can you blame me for being careful who I talked to Honey? I never did figure out why you didn’t clip me one for kissing you on the dance floor sweetheart. And I was almost sure you took me for a wolf, the way I went after you, Honey. Well Gorgeous, that’s what happens when a couple that are meant for each other meet. Do you have any idea of what it will be like when we’re together again, sweetheart? I can’t think of anything else but being happy with a sweet, adorable honey like you. I don’t know if you take that “Adorable” the way I mean it, Honey, but I’ll bet you know that I do, really and truly adore you, Sweetheart. So long ’till tomorrow, Gorgeous. All my love forever and ever,
Joe
“LeLa I love ya” Hugs and kisses by the millions, Honey.

Lela comments: “Pistol Packin’ Mama” , my younger sister, Eddie was learning to play it on the piano. Joe asks if she can play our song, “I’ll Get By as Long as I Have You”. We also liked, “Missed a Saturday Dance” and “I’ll Walk Alone”–Joe’s family and Joe were musical. As for me I did good to hum along, but I liked music and l kept up with the latest so I could tell Joe.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +53
July 18, 1944

My Dearest Darling LeLa,
Hi ya Sweetheart. Another day gone by and everything’s just about the same. Our mail hasn’t come through yet Honey, so I guess that’s the reason I’m not getting any letters from you or home. The boys really jump & run when somebody yells; “Mail Call.” Your brother Johnny said he bought the little model tank for you & is going to make it up sweetheart; but it’s probably the type with the cannon on the side. That’s the old type Honey. The newest has the 75 in the turret, & since you asked me sweetheart; you’re right that’s the type I drive. By your letters, Honey I can tell that everything’s fine around home so I’ll just say hello to them; Johnny, Eddie, your mother and last a big kiss for you, Precious. I was just thinking, Honey, whether I should take you up on that candy you said you can make & send to me. I wouldn’t want you to make, or go through the trouble just for me, Gorgeous, so when you’re making some for the folks sometime, that’s the time to send it. There isn’t anything I need at present Sweetheart, just a million thanks for thinking of me anyway. I never told you this, Honey; at the time you might have thought I never had a home. Anyway, Sweetheart; when I was at your house on our first date, I felt like a lost dope that never saw a lady baking pies. Then the next time, Honey, when we danced, talked & all, I felt like I was on a furlough or pass; and Sweetheart you’ll never, never know how I hated to leave that night. Say Honey, how’s the dog? You seemed to like it. (he or she I don’t know) but you never mention anything about it. Do you still have it Honey? I’m expecting your small picture soon, Honey, and I’ll try my best to get one for you, Gorgeous. Be my Honey just until tomorrow, when I’ll write again, Sweetheart. So long to the only girl I love and adore.
All my Love, Joe
“LeLa I love ya”

 

Lela comments: This letter on the piano tonight was a welcome sight. The mail had been inconsistent and slow, Yet, Joe’s letter writing was consistent and he wrote everyday from the 14th of July through the 19th. In all he wrote 25 letters during the month of July. I would have felt spoiled if I’d gotten them in a timely manner. Once again Joe writes on the subject of my mom baking pies that first night we had a date at my home. He did act funny like he’d never seen a woman bake a pie before, I guess he was nervous. But, how he loved that memory of being there with me and my family. Then he brings up the dog. I loved that dog, Snooky. Our dad had found her along the RR tracks, all flea-bitten and hair tangled. We’d cleaned her up and loved her so dearly. When the neighbor lady told me that she was ugly I argued that she was pretty and was I mad at that woman for saying such a thing. Snooky lived for many years, went blind and finally died of old age. How I loved that dog.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +53
July 19, 1944

My Gorgeous Darling LeLa,
I wrote a letter yesterday, Honey & dated it the 19th. It was only the 18th so please excuse my mistake. Will you, Precious? I remembered Honey that you wanted to know what APO stands for. It might sound tricky, Sweetheart but it’s easy if you think awhile. It’s Army Post Office, Honey. I got a haircut from our company barber, better known as butcher. You sound awfully serious, Angel, wanting to know if I changed much. I don’t like the idea of asking another fellow if I have dimples, Honey. He might throw something at me or think I’m trying to become a pin-up boy. I do have one sweetheart on the left side of my face. You noticed it that night on the bus, remember? As for my hair, Honey, it has grown back pretty well I think but you never can tell when another order for a GI haircut is coming up. Speaking of changing Honey, there’s one change I’ll never make. And that’s my feeling, love, and everything you mean to me. You’re so precious and I adore you very much, Sweetheart. I can keep telling you that I miss you very, very much, Gorgeous, but it’s more than that, Honey. You’re always on my mind. I’m always thinking of you & I think you understand me and know me well enough to believe that I’ll try hard & do my very best to get back to you, Sweetheart. We’re going to have mail call tonight Honey. If I get a letter from you I’ll answer it right away. I just remembered I didn’t give you the opening kiss, Beautiful. So here it is Honey. Got it? Just until tonight or tomorrow, Sweetheart. I love you with all my heart.
So Long-Honey
Joe
“LeLa I love ya”

Lela comments: Besides being tall, dark and handsome, Joe had a dimple in his left cheek. It is I who is the winner and what a prize. Beyond just great looking this man is adorable.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +55
July 21, 1944

My precious, darling LeLa,
The days are passing, Honey, it’s been four days since I’ve heard from you. There’s still tonight though, Gorgeous, and I know if I get any mail there will be more than one letter from you. We’ve, (the boys), been kind of busy lately, Honey. Do you remember me telling you that I was going to write you a real love story, “Just about us only, Sweetheart.” Well, I converted it into a poem, Sugar. I’m not a poet by any means but it’s my own thoughts, and really how I think so much of you, Angel. You can keep it like you’re keeping all of my letters, Honey. July is almost over; time sure travels, doesn’t it, Beautiful? Honey, I don’t like to write mushy or page after page of the same thing, but there’s nothing I can think of, that I like to think of more than you, Beautiful. Not because I’m far away, Honey; I’d feel the same way if I were standing next to you. I know you can easily guess where my mind goes when the day is done, Sweetheart; right over to you, Honey. Thinking of what you might be doing, and what we’d be doing if I were there. I only hope, Sweetheart that someday I can love you, and hold you forever. You’ll never hear me say, “If ” about our love, Honey; my love for you only goes one way no matter where I am; what I’m doing, I’ll love you more and more, Sweetheart. Just until tonight, Darling; here’s a big kiss.
“LeLa I love ya”
Joe

POEM

My Love for LeLa

All my life I tried to find the gorgeous girl that was on my mind.
I searched and searched, which might seem funny, but one night I actually did find my Honey.
LeLa, Darling, I love you so, nothing could ever change me, that you know.
You’re really everything I expected: so lovely a Darling, and so well respected.
Take all the flowers that nature grows, from a tiger lily to a light blue rose.
They stand with color of such delight, but they could never match your charm so sweet and bright.
Darling, there’s one thing for which I’ll always pray, that is to make you happy some future day.
Nothing more will I want in life than to have you for my lovely wife.
Remember always Darling, whatever passes me by, my love for you will never die.
When things are dark and out of sight one thought of you brings back the light.
I’ve found my girl that I adore, and want to have her forever more.

Sweetheart, poetry really isn’t my line, but I hope it proves to you that you’re always on my mind. I know you’re waiting, and being true, for that my Darling I give all my love to you. I wish I could kiss and hold you tight, forever more day and night, but sweet Darling true, (big kisses, Honey) I can always say, LeLa, Darling, I love you!

That’s it Honey. Read it and believe it, Sweetheart. Keep it if you wish.
So long for awhile, Precious.
Joe
“Lela, I love ya”
More kisses , Honey

Lela comments: When I read this poem I felt like the Queen of Sheba. Tears came to my eyes and a lump in my throat. Every single word is priceless because it comes from a loving heart.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +55
July 21, 1944

My sweetest, darling LeLa,
For awhile I thought I didn’t get a letter from you, Darling, but my pal surprised me when he handed me your letter dated July 3rd. They called packages first and I received my Mother’s package at last. For a while I thought fish were having a good time with it. After reading your swell letter, Angel, I can answer one question right now. Do you want to know what you’re for, Honey? You’re for me, Sweetheart, and always will be. You are being so true to me, Sweetheart, and I love you so much for everything, I’m breathless. I’ve already asked for the candy you said you’ll make for me, Darling, so just add to it, Honey, anything except cigarettes. Honey, when you send me your picture how’s about a lock of hair? Those little curls in your gorgeous big picture are making me eat my heart out, Honey. I don’t often think of the day when I will meet your father, Beautiful, but I never ran into anyone I couldn’t get along with if I wanted to, Honey. So, you are starting a little story of your own, like I am eh, Honey? I can do better with a poem, Sweetheart. Poems, stories, letters, and all you or I can put on paper only mean one thing, Gorgeous, that we love each other and always will. I’ll finish my poem by tomorrow, Darling, and send it out with a letter. I just remembered I forgot the opening kiss, Angel, so—— Got it, Honey? Now it’s time to say goodnight to my, Sweetheart. Just ’till tomorrow, Honey. So long —— all my love to the sweetest of sweethearts.
I love you.
Joe
“LeLa I love ya”

PS When you send the package, Honey, slip in the box of kisses.
Love always,
Joe

Lela comments: Could anyone ever doubt that Joe loved me?

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +56
July 22, 1944

My adorable, darling LeLa,
We haven’t had mail call yet, honey. If I get a letter from you I’ll answer it right away though. It’s Saturday night and a swell one at that, the poem I promised you should be well done, sweetheart: I’ve been thinking it up for sometime now. First, I’ll say “Hello” to the folks. I hope you’re all well. I’m the same as ever and everything’s OK. How’s Wichita around August, sweetheart, any hotter? It was pretty nice today, but it never gets too hot for summer. I bought some airmail envelopes today, and asked the mail clerk about the rates, they were the same as far as he knows. Maybe your letters are a little heavy honey; our love is kind of solid. What’s some of the latest picture shows around Wichita, Honey? Did you see any you liked lately? How’s about taking me with you the next time you go? The only star I’ll look at is the one sitting right next to me. Anyway, Sweetheart, you’re my favorite star, brighter and lovelier than any I’ve ever seen. Still want to go to heaven, angel? Don’t take this funny, Honey, but when you don’t hear from me, you must look and act like I feel when I don’t hear from you. I have one thing on you though, when I don’t hear from you, all I have to write is how much I love you; what I’d like to be doing if I were with you and etc. No answering to do, get it? That’s all I want to do anyway, Lovely, just tell you and go on telling you how much I adore you, always think of you, and how much I love, love, love you. Be my Honey for a little while longer, Sweetheart. I’ll write again soon.
All my truest love.
Always,
Joe.

“LeLa, I love ya”
“Millions of big kisses Honey.”

Lela comments: Joe reassures me of his love over and over. He writes so faithfully and I write to him daily –that’s all we can do. He asks about “picture shows” in Wichita. I don’t remember now what I told him, but mainly I’d go to kill time and to see the newsreels of the war in Europe. I’d listen to the radio and read the newspaper but to see for myself how War looked the newsreels at the theater were the only way to see it.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +57
July 23, 1944

My lovely, darling LeLa,
Hi ya honey. It’s Sunday afternoon & a very nice day. I’m feeling fine and hope you are too. The mail is all messed up somewhere honey. We might get more mail tonight but if we don’t it will make six days, and only one letter from you. When your letters do come, honey, I’ll have plenty to write about. Not much doing today, sweetheart, a good day to rest and write letters. Your picture is still with me, honey, and it’s as lovely as ever. I painted your name on the front of my drivers hatch, honey, in 2-inch letters. The name of our tank is “Rollin’ Rhino,” with a picture of a Rhinoceros under it. Well, beautiful, how’s Eddie getting along with our song? Has she the music, or can she pick it up as she goes along? Does Johnny have your model tank finished yet, honey? And how’s the cooking [coming] along? I hope it isn’t too hot to bake cakes, or make pies. If you & the folks aren’t doing anything on Sundays, all I can say is you should be. If you are, honey, write and tell me about it. I haven’t been swimming yet, sweetheart, but the summer isn’t over yet. I’m rusty as [heck] on baseball, but we did play softball a few days ago. That’s all the news I can think of, gorgeous, I’m just hoping for a letter from you tonight, sweetheart. You’re all I’ll think about for the rest of the day, darling. I love you, honey, and wish I were with you. I forgot the opening kiss again, so here it is. An all day kiss ——Got it, honey? Just until tonight or tomorrow, sweetheart, so long-I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.
I’ll always love you.
Joe

Lela comments: Joe says he painted my name on the driver’s hatch of his tank, I felt honored. The name of his tank is the “Rollin’ Rhino” –and a picture of a Rhinoceros on it. I wondered who painted that. It’s July 23rd, and he’s hoping for a letter tonight -no mail for six days. He mentions swimming and how he hasn’t gone yet and baseball, one of his favorite pastimes.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +58
July 24, 1944

My Precious, Darling LeLa,
“Big Kiss” Hi ya, Sweetheart. Received your letter dated the 30th, Honey. Glad you like the “book” & as long as we’re together, Gorgeous there will always be plenty of love stories. Just keep talking about that little house with a garden, trees, and everything, Sweetheart. That’s music if I’d ever heard it. Sure I like children, Beautiful. And old fashioned things too. I just can’t wait till we hit that quiet spot and talk it over, Gorgeous. Gee I love ya. So you saw the “Heavenly Body” and didn’t like it, eh Honey? Remember we saw or did we see “Around the World” Honest, Honey I don’t remember anything except I was kissing the girl I loved & I’m loving her more every day. I don’t know Wichita as well as Philadelphia, Honey but when I get to know it, will go to the best places & only the best places, Sweetheart. I never was a very fleet footed dancer, Honey, but I’ll guarantee you I’m not keeping up to date with it, Gorgeous. All those things will take care of themselves, Honey. Yep, Darling, it sure is going to be swell to be part of such a swell family. (I’m out of paper, Angel) I’m making it my business to get along with everybody, “mostly you, Sweetheart” and work hard so we can be happy someday, just the way we plan it. All I want out of life, Honey, is to make you very happy & have you for a wife forever. Darling, I love you & just as long as I have you, Honey everything will be a pleasure just doing it for you.
True Love forever & ever, Precious
All my love & kisses
Joe
“LeLa I love ya”

Lela comments: It took nearly a month for one of my letters to get to Joe. No wonder he waits on the mail. He keeps focused on us and our future in his letters. He happily writes about having a house, trees, garden, kids–my kind of Joe.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +62
July 28, 1944

My sweet Darling LeLa,
Well beautiful, I’m behind in my letter writing again. We’ve been busy honey, but we’re settled again. I guess I’ll have to write a volume to catch up sweetheart. Received four letters from you & now I’m waiting for the letters with the pictures in it. Frankly honey, you can’t imagine the feeling I get when I can’t write to you. Every chance I get I start a letter, & honey writing to you is a sweet pleasure. I’m always glad to hear your folks are fine & you’re as lovely as ever honey. Doing a lot of swimming eh sugar? It sounds like you got my share-honey. Did you ever hear of a G.I. suntan, “hands and face” only? The paper you use is big-honey; send me some of it if you can sweetheart. I’ll show you how to fill those pages with sweet love talk honey. Your folks did a lot of traveling gorgeous, I seen most of the south, & you seen the west. Are we going to see the Great Salt Lake Angel? You seemed to like it when you were there. I promised you we’d see heaven honey, I mean that.

The church I belong to is St. Timothy’s. It’s not big but from first grade to 8th grade I seen it grow, more people joined every year, now they have three buildings, three priests & a sharp looking convent. You had red shoes on the night we met precious, I didn’t say anything about them then but I was going to ask you if they were your dancing shoes. I’ll tell you something sweetheart about us fellows. When we talk about home and things we used to do, the morale really goes up. I remember the time, Did you ever see this or that, I wonder what, where, etc. That’s all we ever talk about honey. All I can say is I miss you very much, you’re so lovely, adorable & such a sweet darling, that I couldn’t have a greater love for anybody anything than the love I have for you. All I want out of life honey, is a honey of a wife, which for me can only be you. Love you, adore you forever and ever. This letter isn’t nearly enough for what I owe you gorgeous, but I promise with all my heart I won’t be behind long. A great big kiss to the most lovely darling in the world.
All my Love,
Joe
“LeLa I love Ya”

Lela comments: Mom laid this one out for me on the piano on a Monday, the 7th of August. It’s a good letter, full of love. He mentions the red shoes again–that made me laugh–I’m beginning to love those red shoes. He had wanted to ask if they were my dancing shoes. You could say that. A dance was the reason for my buying them. I didn’t have occasions to wear them again while he was gone. St. Timothy’s Church was the parish church where his parents lived. He seemed proud of it. Then he talks about the fellows and how their morale picks up when they talk of home. Joe was sensitive to the feelings of others.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +63
July 29, 1944 (Joe says this is dated wrong)

My dearest Sweetheart LeLa,
After a minute & a half of thinking honey, if my calculations are correct, it will take approximately eleven pages of this paper to make up for one of your five page letters. I was all set to go tonight sweetheart, I was going to give you all my love & try to catch up on some of your letters, & then two more arrived. Happy? You can bet I am gorgeous. I’ve been happy ever since I met you darling. Right now honey, I need a shave, shower & I have a few clothes to wash. If I didn’t write to you first I wouldn’t do a good job, so sweetheart you come first and always will. Your two letters tonight were tops honey, I didn’t tell you I was making you a bracelet gorgeous, because I wasn’t sure it was going to look right. Thanks for all the cute sugar & by looks of all those kisses at the end of your letter, I guess I’m not on your rationing list. What I wouldn’t give if I could just have one of those kisses in a real manor from the lovely girl I adore. What the reason is for paying 12 cents for an airmail letter beats me honey, some- change; maybe it’s because of us honey; or others like us writing so much they can’t handle it all.

That supper you & your girl friend made honey, must of been good, don’t write too much about that kind of food beautiful, the way you expressed it I could almost taste it. (“ahem, not bad either”) Your six-page letter was a sizzler lovely. “LeLa I love ya” is and always will be my favorite expression honey. Yours is really a natural. All I want to be is your Joe; when you put that on paper, I can get the full imagination of the way you say it honey. Did I ever fish? Honey my mother could tell you all you want to know about my fishing. Never used a pole or net sweetheart, always some kind of home made trap. The trouble was I’d always get lost, or tire myself out so much I’d fall asleep before I reached home. I don’t know if you’d call that fishing angel but that’s the way it was with me. Sure is swell to write, think & talk about the past, eh honey? The best of all is yet to come though darling. You can bet I’ll work up to the top, if I can let you alone long enough. It seems no matter what I’d be doing sweetheart, you’d always be right there with me. I’ll always say that love is sweet angel. Our love is on the beam & couldn’t be more perfect. Wartime might take the sweetness out of some–loves, but ours is going right through. It’s easy to love a sweet charming girl like you LeLa. I’m proud, happy & again I can say; after I get back I can adore you, love you with all my heart, forever and ever.

You remember saying how felt on the picnic honey? You’ll never get a chance to feel that way when I get you in my arms again. It sure hurts to wait to live–honey. We’ll never forget it, but we’ll really make up for it. Well dream girl, I got this far with the letter, but I have to stop for a while, it’s my turn to use the tub so I can wash my clothes. All done angel. Now I can go on telling you you’re the sweetest most gorgeous baby on earth. I didn’t get much water on myself this time. It sure is a nice night beautiful. Your picture is glowing right down on me; what a lovely looker you are. You get up kind of early for work honey; I know how tired you get because I remember how tired you were when I was with you. You said you kiss my picture before going to bed, & when you get up. I couldn’t count how often I kiss yours darling. Of course the picture is always near me but I’m still going to do better gorgeous. At one-thirty I’ll throw a kiss right through your window, you’ll just be getting up, at 6:30 sweetheart. I’d do it all night too but I wouldn’t get much sleep. Gee I love you precious. It’s nothing else but real true love for such a darling girl. Goodnight Sweetheart, Big Kiss Honey!
Love forever,
Joe
“LeLa I love you”

Lela comments: Memories were keeping Joe going–his way of coping with this crazy world he was living in -in 1944. His memories of going fishing were funny, his referring to the dinner that my friend, Norma and I cooked brought back memories for me. She and I were cooking partners in Junior High. We made it a fun thing; even the dishwashing. Our food usually turned out pretty good, but we’d giggle and find things funny like when poor sweet little Miss Cunningham would scold us for having dirty dishwater. She’d just sigh. I tried to picture Joe and the boys doing their own laundry–that must have been a sight.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +63
July 29, 1944

My Lovely Darling LeLa,
It’s Saturday afternoon, Honey. Been pretty busy this week. I dated my last letter the 29th by mistake so watch for it, Angel. Again, I thought I’d try and catch up on your letters & again I got another one from you. Well, Beautiful I’ll tell you all I can & how precious you are to me until I get even again. I’m afraid I’ll run out of paper though, unless I get to the P.X. quick. I was hoping this letter had the pictures in it, but maybe the next one will. I’ll try my best to get you a picture somehow, Honey but don’t be disappointed if I don’t get it. I’m glad everybody is fine around home, Angel. Looks like baseball is in full swing everywhere. Do you like to watch it or do like playing it better, Honey? I received two letters from home too. Everything’s dull & quiet, but the radio in our house is on from morning ’til night. As for the radio, precious, do you still listen as much as you did when the invasion started? What’s the most popular songs going around, Honey? If it’s like “Mairsy Doats” forget it but if it’s like “I love you” or “Long Ago and Far Away” tell me about ’em. I can’t sing all the words to any song I ever knew, Gorgeous. Besides I can’t sing, but I tried to learn the trumpet and the sax at the expense of everyone. I could sit and listen to a good band all night. How about you, Honey?

Do you like night clubbing or just formal dances? That’s one good way to dream a night away. That’s also where a car comes in handy. If the place is far or buses don’t run that way;- You know all those little things that happen, Honey. Anyway when there’s something worth seeing or going to, I like to get there and back. So Johnny got up, but you went out for the count of ten., eh Honey? Did the saddle make all the difference, Honey? Or do you think if you had a saddle you could control the horse? That one part never fails does it, Angel? Everybody stands and looks but don’t do a thing. Don’t be afraid to get back on a horse again, Sweetheart. I don’t suppose you are afraid but I want you to go on again so you’ll be used to it by the time I get back. Horseback riding, traveling, dances, swimming, shows, and everything on earth, but the best of all is just being with you, Darling. There sure are a lot of things to talk about & do, eh Honey? There will always be a grand time when we’re together. Remember the quiet place you talked about; where we’re going to discuss everything, Darling? That’ s where I’ll tell you all I’ve been thinking, how much you mean to me, & how lovely it would be to spend the rest of our lives together. How much I love you can’t be put on paper, Sweetheart. Nor how much I adore you. That’s the only reason I quit trying to express it. You’ll always be my darling. I’ll always love you above everything else. Adore you; admire you every minute you’re in my sight. I’ll love you that much more every time you smile. (And not at a horse either) Wherever, Honey. Remember, all my truest love to a precious Darling. “Just for a while, Honey.”
Love Always,
Joe
“LeLa I love Ya”
Millions of hugs & kisses

Lela comments: The old piano yielded a couple of letters on this night. Joe is looking forward to good times ahead–he can picture us dancing, traveling, riding horseback–whoa-I don’t do well on horseback. That time he is referring to was at my Uncle’s farm. My cousins told me I could ride their horse, but my brother wanted to also. So, they put us both on -with no saddle, no reins, no skills. They failed to tell us that when that horse got away from home it would race back no matter how loud you screamed. We tried hanging onto the mane but it was racing so fast we both ended up in the road. Johnny was Ok but I was momentarily stunned. One cousin said, “she’s dead.” That brought me to in a hurry! We walked back to the house and the horse had beaten us, what a surprise.

 

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +64
July 30, 1944

My Precious Darling LeLa,
I had to borrow some paper, Honey. I couldn’t get any anyplace else. It’s been nice all day & the night is just as well. I feel pretty good myself, Angel; all cleaned up, shaved & the clothes I washed are dry. It’s like I was getting ready for a date with you only I’m writing a letter instead. Do I talk a lot about my car, Honey? I didn’t know I did. I’m not proud of it Honey, though it is kind of nice. When I bought it I was thinking of the family so I got a four-door sedan, black; with plenty of power. The only thing wrong was my sister liked Buick’s better than Pontiac. Somebody had to say something about it, eh Honey? My mother only asked about you twice, Sweetheart. After I told her she ought to see my picture from a real live pin up girl & the girl I’m going back to after the war. She asked me if I really was in love & wanted to go out to Kansas again. I’m not going to hold anything back from you, Honey, so I also told them (the family) how beautiful you are, how much you mean to me & everything I intend on doing when I get back. I think I told you before, Honey I was never a home-boy. There are so many things to tell you & talk about, Honey. Someday we’ll go out for a whole day, you can tell me all about yourself Sweetheart, from a baby up. “You must have been a beautiful baby” Get it, Honey? I’m slowly catching up Darling. This takes care of another letter. If you send me some candy, Honey put some writing paper in it, will you? Just ’till tomorrow, Gorgeous.
All my truest Love, to my precious Honey. Goodnight, Sweetheart, Millions & Millions of kisses, Sugar!
I love you
Joe
“LeLa I love Ya”

Lela comments: I wonder how many young men would think of the family’s needs when buying a car. He bought a 4 door Pontiac because of the family. That was his first car and he was understandably proud of it.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +64
July 30, 1944

Sweet Darling LeLa:
Hi ya, Honey, it’s a very nice Sunday and what makes it so perfect is the three letters from you, Sweetheart. Today, again, I thought that I’d write two or three letters and try to catch up a little. What a girl! Two of your letters were up to date, Sugar, the other was from June 28th. That letter puzzled me, or I don’t have a very good memory. I have all the trust in the world in you, Honey, so, for the man that comes in the store, I don’t know him anymore than you do. Would you mind sending me that V-mail Honey? If you want to know why I call you, LeLa, Honey, that’s easy, because it’s your name. Lela is the right way to write it, but LeLa is the way I like it. Do you think your father might write to me, Honey? That would be funny. I’d like to write to your mother and sister, Eddie, once in awhile, they’ve been pretty nice to me. Maybe I had better catch up to you first, Sweetheart. Besides this is all the paper I have and it isn’t going to last long. I feel fine today, after shaving, cleaned up myself, and my clothes. Tomorrow I get a GI haircut. A few fellows got ’em already, and they don’t look bad. That’s right, Angel, we’ve known each other six months, and still it’s only the beginning. Sometimes I wonder if you have the same feeling, Beautiful. I feel like I would always like to be with you, hold your lovely charm, and never let go. Nothing will ever come between us, Honey. I love you so much, and my love for you is so great nothing in this world could change it. Your birthday is pretty far away, Honey. I really wanted to get you something nice, and I would if I were still in the states. That poem will be yours if you want it as much as you say you do, Precious, but when I get back I’ll get you what I have in mind. I’ll be back tonight with a couple of letters, Darling, ’till then, all my love to my precious, Honey.
I love you,
Joe
Millions of hugs and kisses
“LeLa, I love ya”

Lela comments: I kept wondering why Joe wrote my name as LeLa–he explains in this letter–he said he likes it this way.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +65
July 31, 1944

My adorable Darling LeLa,
Hi ya Honey, Your mirage of letters of letters stopped today, but I was hoping all the time I’d get your letter with the picture in it. We were paid this afternoon sweetheart, also got the afternoon off. One of my pals is out trying to get us writing paper. He’s out of it too. You must have a pretty lot of bonds, Angel. How often do you buy one? Haven’t received any letters from my Dad yet; but I knew his writing wouldn’t keep up. You bet I’d like to be with you, Sweetheart. Sunburn & all. If you couldn’t sleep, I’d tell you bedtime stories, If you couldn’t dance, I’d just hold you tender like, & kiss all your misery away. I don’t have any imagination of what your Grandfather’s farm looks like, Gorgeous. Grandpop. What’s he like? The best way to tell me about the farm is; when you go on your vacation. Any apple trees? I never told you, Beautiful that I like apples very much. Apples & milk; I could live on that. Making myself hungry, Angel, so I’ll cut out that kind of talk. Your picture looks lovely, Honey. No kidding I think a lot of it & do my best to keep it in good shape. Proud of it too. I like to watch the eyes on some of the fellows when they look up at it. I like the real girl more than anything on or outside this world. LeLa Darling you’re a mighty sweet girl. (As a westerner would say) No matter how you put it, Gorgeous; you’re still lovely & precious to me. I’ll love you forever & ever & ever & ever, and at the end of ever, I’ll still say; you’re beautiful and I love you.
Kisses to sleep on by the millions
Goodnight, Lovely
Joe
“LeLa I love ya”

Lela comments: Subject; sunburn–this must have been the time I went swimming on a cloudy day and didn’t realize the burn I was getting. It was the only time that the burn was so bad that I couldn’t even dress to go to work the next day. Boy, did it hurt.

Subject: Grandfathers farm -My grandma and grandpa Triboulet lived outside the city limits of Wichita on an acrage–It wouldn’t be considered a farm. They had more land at one time but had sold it off. In the summer before being old enough to work on a job, my siblings and I took turns staying out at their house. They had cows at one time and sold milk and cream, Grandma raised chickens and a big garden. It was a fun place to go. As for Grandpa he was a short little man with a ring of white hair around his otherwise bald head. He was gentle and kind and very religious although he didn’t go to church. He memorized the bible before going blind after he retired from his job as security guard at Cudahey. He let Grandma do any reprimanding that needed to be done. She was the strong one who cared for everyone. She was on the school board out there in the country and took her grandkids to school in her old model T. Kids would be hanging off the running boards. I loved my Grandma and knew that she loved me.

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +66
August 1, 1944

My sweet Honey, LeLa,
Here’s my new type writing paper, Sweetheart. The best I could get, rather thick, isn’t it? Didn’t get any letters from you tonight, Precious, there was hardly any mail at all. Pretty busy again today, but still I thought of you; I remembered to throw you a kiss at 1:30 this afternoon, Honey, as you were just getting up. I’m going to try to remember it everyday. It’s pretty nice to know what my dream girl is doing. We have a lot of pretty good singers in our company, Gorgeous. They’ve been singing for quite awhile now. Mostly old songs, like, “Down by the Old Mill Stream,” “Let me Call You Sweetheart, ” and etc. Can you sing, Honey? That night we danced you were singing in my ear, not bad either. What’s your favorite song, Sugar? Other than, “I’ll Get by as Long as I Have You.” What’s your middle name, Beautiful? I know it begins with M., and I have been doing a lot of thinking over it. The deal is, I won’t tell you mine until you tell me yours. I really like LeLa a lot though, Sweetheart, it’s a pretty name for a girl.

It’s nice of your mother to say there’s still time to make me a pie. Of course it wouldn’t be for me only. It would take me a week to put a pie away. Anyway when the day comes to make the pie, ask her if she needs any help, or does she believe that “too many hands spoil the pie?” I’m slowly catching up on your letters, Darling. I only wish I could write a lot more everyday. You never told me how you guessed the invasion day, Honey, what gave you the idea that either the 6th or 26th there was going to be action? I’ve found a real sweetheart, haven’t I, Honey? You know how much I love you, Darling? Try counting the stars some starry night. If you happen to count them, well, that’s just a small part of my love for you, Angel. If the stars are countless, Precious, then my love I hold for you will always be untold. It’s just like this, Honey, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. On and on and I’ll never, never stop telling you “LeLa, I love ya”
Goodnight, Darling
All my truest love
Joe
Millions and Millions of kisses, Honey

Lela comments: In reference to the song, “I’ll Get by as Long as I Have You” that was one of our favorites songs and also, “Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week”. Re: Mom’s pie: Joe met my mom one evening before we went out–she was making a pie in the kitchen. He writes about that in another letter–he has asked my mother what she was doing, it struck my sister and I funny because it was obvious he said my sister started laughing then I did. I remember -we didn’t mean to–he just seemed so innocent. Re: Invasion Date–Joe wondered how I knew–I can’t remember but I do remember studying what was going on and sort of trying to read between the lines of the newspaper articles about the war.”

Ashton-Keynes, England, D-Day +67
August 2, 1944
My Lovely Darling LeLa,
We just had mail call, Honey, but none from you. As you would say, “Tsk, tsk,” is that right? I remembered to throw you a kiss this afternoon again, Sweetheart. Better watch! One of these mornings, you’re going to go back to sleep with a kiss on your sweet lips. Or does a kiss wake you up faster? How’s Wichita around August, Sweetheart, any hotter? It was pretty nice today, but it never gets too hot for summer. I bought some airmail envelopes today and asked the mail clerk about rates. They were the same as far as he knows. Maybe your letters are a little heavy, Honey, our love is kinda solid. What are some of the newest pictures showing around Wichita, Honey? Did you see any you liked lately? How’s about taking me with you the next time you go? The only star I’ll look at is the one sitting right next to me anyway, Sweetheart. You’re my favorite star, brighter and lovelier than any I’ve ever seen. Still want to go to heaven, Angel? Don’t take this funny, Honey, but when you don’t hear from me, you must look and act like I feel when I don’t hear from you. I have one thing on you, though. When I don’t hear from you all I have to write is how much I love you, what I’d like to be doing if I were with you, etc. No answering to do, get it? That’s all I want to do anyway, Lovely, just tell you and go on telling you how much I adore you, always think of you and how much I love, love, love you. Be my honey for a little while longer, Sweetheart. I’ll write again soon.
All my truest love
Always, Joe
“LeLa I love ya.”
Millions of big kisses, Honey.

Lela comments: I always feel badly when Joe doesn’t get any mail–I know how badly I feel when I don’t hear from him but he is in need of correspondence more than I. I have my own bed, my home, my family, my friends, my work all things familiar around me–but with Joe it’s a constant moving–one day he’s in a tent and the next he’s traveling in an uncomfortable tank either sizzling with heat or freezing to death. Will this war ever be over we all ask?

 

 

 

“Your picture is still with me, honey, and it’s as lovely as ever. I painted your name on the front of my drivers hatch, honey, in 2-inch letters. The name of our tank is “Rollin’ Rhino,” with a picture of a Rhinoceros under it.”

 

On the cold early morning of August 4, 1944 the tanks warmed up and at about 6:00 A.M. the 702nd was on it’s way to Southampton. At a port of embarkation camp they spent the night on the alert at any minute. The battalion was located on the northern outskirts of Southampton, in the Marsh Forest. The 702nd boarded an L.S.T. at 8:00 A.M. on August 5, 1944 and at 12:15 P.M., they set sail across the English Channel for France and war, two months after D-Day. It was a sunny day. The battalion landed on Omaha Beach on August 6, 1944, reassembled, and got orders that they were to be attached to the 80th Infantry Division, to provide tank support.

The 80th Infantry Division G-2 (Intelligence) After Action Report gives a good overall picture of the situation from August 3 to August 13: “The concentration of the 80th Infantry Division in France at St. Jores from 3 August to 7 August 1944, occurred simultaneously with the break-through at Avranches and the attack on the Brittany Peninsula. The rapidity and strength of the break-through had temporarily thrown the Germans on the U.S. Army front into confusion. Field Marshall Rommel had been reported wounded and Von Kluge had been made Commander in Chief in the West. The enemy had committed at that time approximately forty-five divisions on the Normandy front and had managed to build up a mobile reserve of five panzer divisions. This reserve, together with remnants of the units swept aside at Avranches, counter-attacked on 6 August from Mortain in a desperate effort to cut the Third U.S. Army supply lines in the vicinity of Avranches. It was to meet this counter-attack that the 80th Division received its first combat orders on 7 August 1944.

During this period, the Division intelligence agencies made final preparations for functioning in combat. The German counter-attack having been stopped in the vicinity of Mortain, the 80th Division, temporarily motorized, moved south during the night of 8-9 August. During this movement, the Division received its baptismal fire in Avranches and St. Hilaire Du Harcourt, which were bombed by the enemy as the columns passed through during the night. At St. Hilaire, the first prisoner of war was taken when a German aviator surrendered to Lt. Lloyd C. Bloomer, ‘A’ Battery, 314th Field Artillery Battalion. Closing into an assembly area, the division was immediately committed from Laval to Le Mans. Le Mans had been liberated early that day and the extended supply line was vulnerable to attack by elements of the 708th German Division from the vicinity of Sille Le Guillaume.

First contact with the enemy was made on the 9th of August when the 317th and 318th Infantry Regiments moved north and liberated Evron and St. Suzanne and received fire from occasional snipers. The enemy situation north of the Le Mans – Laval highway was obscure when the division moved into the area. Information gained from the 90th Infantry Division in the vicinity of Le Mans and from civilians established the fact that the 708th Infantry Division was operating in this sector. P.W. taken on the 10th from the 748th Regiment of the 708th Infantry Division confirmed this fact. Elements of the 1st Sicherung Regiment, formerly charged with the defense of Paris as part of the 325th Sicherung Regiment were also rushed to this area to try and stem the American advance. The Division advance northward, however, was opposed only by small disorganized groups and by minefields and demolitions. On 11 August, Sille Le Guillaume was occupied without opposition. On 13 August, Villaines was seized with only light opposition from the enemy who by this time had withdrawn completely to the North to escape encirclement.”

From the 80th Division monthly report: “From the 14th through the 17th of August, the 80th Division was out of contact with the enemy. During this period, the Germans were fighting a desperate rearguard action to save remnants of the 7th German Army from encirclement. German strong points were holding at Argentan-Falaise to prevent the closing of the trap and the 9th SS Panzer Division was trying to hold the eastward attack of the U.S. and British forces. The 80th Division was ordered to move on Argentan to eliminate that German strong point and to close the Argentan-Falaise Gap on 17 August.”

 

 

 

August 4, 1944: 6:18am, Headquarters Company, and Battalion Headquarters moved from Aston-Keynes. The rest of the companies, “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” and Service were to follow the last serial at 5:55am, and moved fully combat loaded to Rom-Sey, then to the marshaling area. The men were fed at noon, supper and breakfast, and then were billeted in tents. Movie shows and religious services were available around 10:30pm. We left August 5, 1944, at 7:15am. “D” Company left the previous evening at 6:00pm. August 5, 1944: “On board a Landing Ship Tank. Battalion moved to France. All vehicles on board at 12:00 noon. Dinner served, morale good, weather very good.” Ed Wizda wrote: “We left our camp early in the morning in convoy to proceed to the waiting L.S.T.’s. There was no tenseness, only eagerness. As each tank rolled into the L.S.T. you knew then that you could strike a finish to all your training and from here on it would be experience. The L.S.T. proved more comfortable than we expected. Manned by our own sailors, it made us feel more at ease than we did on our trip across the Atlantic. The chow was swell; the weather perfect, and we all bedded down for the night with thoughts of ‘la Belle France’ racing through our minds.”

Retired Col. “Bull” Miller described these early days of war: “We arrived off the coast of France and waited for the tide to come in so the L.S.T. could get as close as possible to the beach.” At 5:40 P.M., August 6, the L.S.T. carrying the 702nd was on the beach. The two front doors swung open and the ramp was dropped into the water. Tanks drove down the ramp into three and a half feet of water. All units made their exit, followed by wheeled vehicles. By then, the tide had gone out more (so the water was not quite as deep) so the wheeled vehicles could make it without drowning out. Utah Beach, at 6:30 P.M., the unloading was complete. Military Police led the battalion to the assembly area as a complete unit. The assembly area was 20 miles from the front. Orders were to be ready to move out at a moment’s notice. The thunder of artillery barrages permeated the night. The officers were told that the 7th German Army was attacking the bridgehead and had made an advance towards Mortain. It was thought that the 702nd would be brought into reserve and placed into position in order to blunt an attack if the Nazis were successful in penetrating the front line.

Service Company’s diary states: “August 6, 1944: Without a doubt, the dry runs are over. Everyone was up bright and early, and on the L.S.T.’s this morning. We pulled up on Omaha Beach about 9:00am. The tide went out around noon, and as soon as chow was finished, we unloaded. There was no trouble, and the mishaps were three bent trailer tongues. MP’s guided us into transit area “B”, in the vicinity of St. Germaine. The usual proceedings of gassing up all vehicles were carried out in an excellent manner. Actions are quick and precise. Nerves are somewhat tense, and all personnel seem geared to do the job that is now at hand. Our trip across the channel was uneventful, and even bordered on being enjoyable. Most men said they wished that they had become sailors, and had been put on L.S.T.’s. The weather is excellent, and the sun shone all day. No one pitched a tent. Most bed-rolls were laid out under the starry sky. There was an open-air Mass this evening at about 8:00pm, said by the Catholic Chaplain of this area. Men attended from all of area “B”. There was quite a large crowd. Confessions were not heard, but the priest gave absolution to all, and Communion was received by about 90%. The only trouble encountered by the battalion, was a shortage of space. Three of “A” Company’s vehicles were left in Southampton, to sail at a later date.”

The Wizda diary contains the following entry: “Aug. 6: None of us will ever forget this date. It is a beautiful Sunday morning. Even the breeze seems to be in tune with all the surroundings, so peaceful yet so busy. The number of ships around us was enormous. We were not the only ones to remember this day. As each tank hit the French soil, it became another beat to a war call and each and everyone of us was answering it. As the tanks raced down the dusty French road they became another vein on the road to Berlin. In a large hedgerow-surrounded field we all parked for the night. Catholic and Protestant services were held our first on French soil.” In Joe’s A Company, they unloaded from the L.S.T. at 5:45pm and proceeded to the battalion assembly area located in Germaine de Varreville.

From the 702nd Tank Battalion Company A Diary:

6 Aug 1944
France
Location-ST. GERMAINE DE VARREVILLE– The Company disembarked from L.C.T’s. at 1745 at Utah Beach and proceeded to Battalion assembly area at St. Germaine de Varreville.

7 Aug 1944
France
Location-ST. GERMAINE DE VARREVILLE– The Battalion departed from this area to repulse a German attack at Mortain, however it was stopped before we could reach there. We left area at 2230.

8 Aug 1944
France
Location-ON THE ROAD–Company was forced to drive the entire night of the 7th and all day of the 8th until 1930, when we bivouacked in a wheat field near Everon. T/4 Robert L. Blew- Duty to Hospital

9 Aug 1944
France
Location- Near EVRON- The 317th Inf. Regt. of the 80th Division, with “A” Co, attached, attacked Everon. Opposition was practically nil with two snipers captured as our first prize. Co. moved on to Bazaugers and arrived at 1600.

10 Aug 1944
France
Location-BAZAUGERS–The Co. left this area and went on a circular road march passing thru Sille Guillaume and other small French towns. Enroute Capt. Smith had Lt. Croxton help some Engineers to clear a roadblock. Rest of Co. sat in a nearby field awaiting orders to move. French civilians very happy and always giving us things to drink.

11 Aug 1944
France
Location- AMNE – Arrived at Amne at 1400

12 Aug 1944
France
Location- AMNE – No change.

Amne, France

August 12, 1944

My Darling LeLa,
I haven’t had a letter from you for quite some time, Honey. Also, I haven’t written for the same length of time. I’m fine as ever, Sweetheart, and hope you are, too. I know you have been writing, Honey, but the mail hasn’t been brought in yet. Not hearing from you makes it seem like I lost my lovely honey and all your sweetness. When the mail does come in, I’ll have a lot of catching up to do, so all my spare time will go to letter writing. We’ve been doing our own cooking lately, not bad, but we’re improving everyday. We might get permission to say a lot more soon, Honey, but that doesn’t matter, just as long as I can tell you how much I love you that will be enough. I hope everything is fine around home, Honey. The summer sure is passing by quickly. It hasn’t been too bad so far as weather goes. I can’t help wishing we were doing together all the things you have been doing. Your picture is still with me, Precious, I’m holding on to it like it was part of me. I still throw you a kiss everyday, Honey, just like having a date with you and keeping it. I haven’t written home for so long, they’re probably wondering all sorts of things. As busy as we’ve been, Sweetheart, I did a lot of thinking about you. I can easily say my love for you hasn’t dropped a bit, but just keeps on growing more and more. The stars have been out the last few nights, Honey. If I had you here we’d talk about them and without a doubt you’d look beautiful, lovely and everything charming. Did I say we’d talk, Angel? I take that back. I’d just kiss you until your lovely dark eyes lit up like two bright stars in heaven.

Lela comments: What a glorious sight to see a letter on the piano. Joe had left England 67 days after D Day and was now writing from France–he was careful to not say where he was but I guessed it was France.

13 Aug 1944
France
Location-On Attack– The Company attacked Villains with Infantrymen riding on our tanks into town. While two Platoons were in the main square of town Pvt. Johnnie Vitello was shot in the arm. Then they let loose and really shot up the town. Leaving Villains we parked in a field nearby to gas and oil the vehicles. Again the tanks were on the road but were delayed somewhat because Kraut machine gun fire ahead of us was firing on “Dough’s” in open trucks. Capt. Smith, with Lt. East’s 1st Platoon wiped them out. “Black John” met his first French love and PFC Ferry, being concerned for the safety of the Company, volunteered for Guard Duty all night. Pvt. Johnnie Vitello-Duty to Hospital

14 Aug 1944
France
Location-In the field–Today the Company cleaned guns and pulled anti-aircraft guard on surrounding hills. Lt. East, Sgt. Deem and Sgt. Murphy were ordered to go on a mission to knock out an 88mm. gun position but at the last minute the orders were cancelled.

15 Aug 1944
France
Location-In the field–Arrived in the vicinity of La Chapelle at 2000.

16 Aug 1944
France
Location-LA CHAPELLE–The Company left La Chapelle for Mace. They arrived at Mace at 2000.

 

La Chapelle, France
August 16, 1944

I’m back on this letter again, Sweetheart. Maybe I’ll get it finished sometime in ’44. I can’t say what we’ve been doing; it wouldn’t make sensible reading anyway. Anyway, I’ll give you my own opinion of the French from what I’ve seen. They seem overjoyed having the Americans here, but just looking at them and their conditions answers why they’re so happy. Some wear wooden shoes like the Dutch, they always want cigarettes and they sure do a lot of cheering. We have our own rules why we shouldn’t accept anything from them in return. From now on, precious, you don’t have to do much writing. Just answer my letters. The mail is still behind us someplace, Honey. We should get some soon. I’m taking as good of care of myself as I can, Lovely. Being careful, too. The war can’t last much longer. That means the day is coming closer when I can come back to you, Sweetheart and make our dreams come true. I still love you so much I can’t express it. Nothing can and nothing ever will come between us, Darling. Here’s a big kiss to go with it. I often say, “I wish LeLa could see me now,” but, Honey, I only wish I could see you. You know I’ll write every chance I get, Honey. I’ll always be thinking of you and throwing you kisses. Keep your chin up, Beautiful. Your Joe will go on loving you forever and ever and ever.
All my truest love,
Joe
Tons of kisses, Honey
“LeLa, I love ya.”

Lela comments: When this letter arrives I know he’s in France for sure–they’re doing their own cooking and probably on the move. As I read his letters from now on, questions go unanswered such as; has he seen action, where in France is he, where are they headed, where do they sleep. Talk about worries, they’re just beginning I’m afraid.

 

On August 18, 1944, the 702nd Tank Battalion and the 80th Infantry Division to which it was attached had its baptism to battle at Argentan, France. This battle was part of the Allied attempt to encircle and cut off an entire German army, by cutting their escape path between the towns of Falaise and Argentan, France. Naturally, the Germans were desperate to keep this escape corridor open so their encircled army could withdraw to the rear and escape destruction. The 80th Division’s 318th Regiment and the 702nd Tank Battalion B Company attacked Argentan from the south and immediately ran into a well-laid ambush. The 80th Division’s 317th Regiment and the 702nd Tank Battalion A Company attacked Argentan from the West across open fields. At Joe’s “A” Co., the anonymous keeper of the Company Journal wrote: “Company rode through Juvigny sur Orne for attack with 317th Combat Team at 5:30 P.M. Lt. Stevens was wounded during the attack and later died in the hospital. S/Sgt. Larkin took command of his tank, Larkin’s vehicle being bogged down in mud at the time. It was foggy and raining during the night and visibility was extremely poor so tanks remained in the field all night long.”

 

According to Owen Cusick, Lt. Stevens Driver, the A Company Journal is wrong in this account. The tanks were approaching the forest and received machinegun fire. The tanks returned fire in the direction of the muzzle flashes. His tank was suddenly hit by an anti-tank round in the turret-ring, breaking the traverse gear. The cannon turret was useless. Lt. Stevens’ shoulder was hit, mangling it badly. Cusick backed the tank up to where it was safe, and they extracted Stevens. A medic, who was nothing but a young kid took one look at Stevens’ shoulder and got sick. Cusick shoved him out of the way and applied the bandages to Stevens’ himself. They shot morphine into him and got him back to the aid station where he later died. According to Cusick, Larkin may have assumed command of the attack, but did not assume command of Stevens’ tank as is indicated. Stevens tank was taken back to ordnance for repairs. Joe DeLaurentis was S/Sgt. Larkin’s Tank Driver, so after Lt. Stevens was wounded, Joe would have had the task of driving his tank in the lead of the attack across the open field killing ground towards the forest on the west side of Argentan. The Germans were highly skilled experts at defensive warfare, and having just seen his platoon leader fatally wounded, must have been extremely frightening for Joe as he now drove his tank into the lead. This was his first experience of battle, and that is always a major shock for all soldiers.

 

2nd Lt. Carroll A. Stevens disappears from the records of the 702nd at this point. Many decades later, while I was researching Joe’s A Company movements, Lela and I searched high and low for any information about Lt. Stevens and where he was buried, where his family was, etc. We discovered that he was not buried in any veteran’s cemetery, so his burial had to have been in a private cemetery. We could find no trace of where he was from; so we came to a complete dead-end in our search for information about him. About a week after we had given up completely on our search for information about Lt. Stevens, I got an email one day, out of the blue, from a man who’d found my website. This man had the unusual hobby of exploring old cemeteries, and in particular, searched for the graves of US military veterans. He lived in the Philadelphia area, and had been recently visiting a large private cemetery in Philadelphia and found an old, abandoned section of the cemetery, long overgrown with weeds. In this area, he found three old graves of veterans. One of these graves was a double headstone of a mother and son buried side by side. The son was none other than 2nd Lt. Carroll A. Stevens, 702nd Tank Battalion, Company A. His mother had lived a decade or two after his death, and had herself buried alongside this son who’d died at Argentan. It was very spooky for Lela and I, to suddenly have this information we’d been seeking, just suddenly drop into our laps, just a week after we’d given up the search as impossible. Thus began what Lela and I came to call our “Twilight Zone” moments. As we progressed through the various stages of studying and researching close details of Joe’s and A Company’s movements through the war, we would progress until inevitably we would hit a wall in our research that seemingly was impossible to get past. At each one of these walls, just when we were ready to give up, suddenly something strange would happen and the information we sought would suddenly drop into our laps, and we’d have our answer and were able to move on. Over and over again, this happened. Lela, a more religious and spiritual person than myself, was convinced that God and Joe were guiding us along, and helping us when we needed it most. I could only shake my head in amazement and bewilderment at how the various puzzle pieces just seemed to always fit right where they were needed.

 

17 Aug 1944
France
Location–MACE–No change.

18 Aug 1944
France
Location–MACE–Moved into an area outside of Juvigny Surorne and listened, part-of the day, to artillery observers giving orders to the batteries. It was a field day for them.

19 Aug 1944
France
Location- JUVIGNY SURORNE –Company rode thru Juvigny Surorne for an attack with the 317th. Combat Team at 1730. Lt. Stevens was wounded during the attack and later died in the Hospital. S/Sgt. Larkin took command of his tank, Larkin’s vehicle being bogged down in mud at the time. It was foggy and raining during the night and visibility was extremely poor so the tanks remained in the field all night long.

20 Aug 1944
France
Location–In the field–Company continued the attack until 1400 when the tanks withdrew to reload with ammunition. Sgt. Yagle’s tank was hit by an antitank gun. Sgt. Yagle, T/5 Krause, and PFC Ted Grunert were killed. Cpl. Tomashunas and Pvt. Roland F. Hills were wounded. The tank burned. Sgt. Szymanski’s tank was also hit by an anti tank gun and burned but no one was injured. Cpl. Harris re-entered the tank and traversed the turret, allowing the Bog’s (bow gunner’s) hatch to open. Harris thought the bow gunner, Al Swathell, was trapped by the gun. He was awarded the Bronze Star for this deed. His was the first award in the Company. Sgt. Jones’ tank silenced the gun that disabled Sgt. Yagle’s tank. Cpl’s. Pruett, Daniels and Foster claimed a Mark V Panther tank. An anti-tank gun was definitely silenced by Lt. East’s tank. Capt, Smith’s “Buggy” sustained a hit in the turret before destroying 2 Mark IV tanks and a half-track. Sgt. Deem knocked out 2-20mm guns. Lt. Croxton’s gunner, Cpl. Dunsavage, has an anti-tank gun to his credit. Lt. East, without any personal reconnaissance, accomplished wonders. He used “recon by fire”, shooting up one hedge-row and then advancing to it. The attack was a great success and the objective, Hill # 213, about 1 1/2 miles north of Argentan, was taken.

21 Aug 1944
France
Location- ARGENTAN — Cpl. Frank M. Tomashunas -Duty to Hospital L.W.A.—Pvt. Roland F. Hills-Duty to Hospital S.W.A.–Sgt. Edwin N. Yagle-K.I.A. The Company left Argentan at 1430 and arrived Medany at 1630.

22 Aug 1944
France
Location- MEDANY-Left Medany for field and bivouacked. No other change.

 

 

 

Medany, France
August 22, 1944

My Dearest Darling LeLa,
I had a letter started, but a lot happened since then so I’ve started all over again. I received some of your letters that were written in July. They sure were swell, LeLa, and mail was just the thing the fellows and I needed. I’m glad to hear everything around home is fine and going okay. The letter I wanted most was the one with your picture in it. I got your lock of hair, Sweetheart, it’s right here where it belongs in my left upper pocket. I’m short on hair at present, Honey, so you’ll have to wait a while, but I’ll send it, Lovely, just as I promised. I still haven’t written home, but as soon as I finish this letter I’ll write and let them know how I’m getting along. In my last letter I told you about the French people and their conditions, which aren’t any too good. Since then, Honey, we’ve seen a little action. We got some German tanks and field guns took some prisoners and killed a few. I don’t think I got any, though I fired one of our machine guns during the battle. A driver just drives the tank and doesn’t fire any guns. It hasn’t come to the point yet where I don’t want to talk or tell about it, but it isn’t a picnic. I guess if everybody could get a taste of it, there wouldn’t be any wars. During the operation I wasn’t scared, but after, I got to thinking. I’m sure now, Honey, it reads well in the papers and sounds good over the radio, but that’s as far as it goes.

Enough of that, Sweetheart, and back to you. I’m glad you like the ball games, Honey. Do you know how to keep a scorecard? Since you like it so well, someday I’ll take you to see the World Series, though I’ve never seen one myself. My favorite team is the Detroit Tigers, but their not doing so hot this year. That’s because I’m not there pulling’ for ’em. Of course, baseball isn’t the same with most of the good players in the service. Is the candy you’re making for me still on the way or haven’t you sent it yet? Your picture is right with me, Sweetheart, and still as good as new. It’s the loveliest picture I’ve ever looked at and the best thing I ever owned. You said you saw me standing in the store looking over the place, just like I did when I was there, eh, Honey? You don’t know how I wish I were standing there again. Thanks for all the nice sayings, Gorgeous. I’ll really pack them away, thinking over and over about my lovely honey that I want to be with for good someday. I told you in my last letter, Sweet, that nothing would ever come between us. The present isn’t what we’re thinking of; it’s the future, Honey. When I get back everything will be okay. Will I love you, Beautiful? More and more and more every time I look at you. You’ve got spirit, Honey, just what I like and I love, trust and adore you. I can’t ask for any more, Darling, but for you to stay just as you are until I can hold you again, like I always wanted to hold you. You know I’ll write every chance I get, Angel. And I’ll always say, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I’ll always love you, LeLa. It’s getting dark now so I’ll call this a letter, just until tomorrow, Beautiful.
All my truest love forever and ever and ever and ever,
Goodnight, Darling,
Joe
“LeLa I love ya”

Lela comments: Mail had been held up on both ends but tonight, a night in September, I found 2 letters on the piano, one written on the 22 of August and one written on the 23rd. How can I describe the pain I felt to read of the dangers Joe had faced and would from here on out. Thank heavens he got the picture at last and the lock of hair. He certainly needed something to hang onto.

 

23 Aug 1944
France
Location-In the field– Cpl. Frank M. Tomashunas-Hospital to L.T.D. T/5 Joseph D. Krouse-M.I.A. as of the 20th. PFC Theo. Grunert- M.I.A, as of the 20th. Company had a movie and a visit by the Red Cross Clubmobile today.

 

Bivouacked In A Field, One Mile West Of Medany, France
August 23, 1944

My Darling LeLa,
Hi ya, Honey. You know what’s giving us plenty of trouble; these French bees. They got me twice already and almost a third time, but I got him first. They pile up in our food like flies. Did I tell you the food we’re eating isn’t bad? We do our own cooking so we can’t kick. August is almost over. Did this summer go fast! Time goes by so fast sometimes we don’t know what day it is, the date, or anything. I don’t know if you’d like to see France or not, Sweetheart. I imagine it’s a lot nicer in peacetime. When you go to the movies you usually see a town or two in the news, don’t you? That gives you an idea of what it’s like. Nevertheless, if I had a penny for every time I wished I were with you, I could retire. You wanted to know what I did at Pontiac and the Navy Yard. Well, nothing much because I was under age at the time. I used to like working on battleships at the Yard. Did you ever hear of the USS New Jersey or Washington? I was on both of them and they’re really solid ships. I just got the surprise of the day, Honey. A fellow handed me a pink envelope with five pages and two pictures in it. I don’t like the one you aren’t smiling in, Angel. You look like me after a bee stings me. What’s the trouble? Too much sun? The other one isn’t bad but it was taken too far away.

Anyway, Honey, you look lovely and really solid. I still remember how you looked the last time I saw you. You were as pretty as a picture then, but the picture couldn’t be drawn by the greatest artist. I remember you as clear as day the night we danced. Was I hot because I couldn’t take you home! I saw red and after you left I didn’t do anything but sit. I’ll keep your picture right with the lock of hair you sent and, Honey, thanks a million for everything. Here’s a big kiss to go with it. You’ve probably heard of trick photography, haven’t you, Sweet? I’ll try it when I get back. I know a little bit about it and it works pretty good. I should get a letter or more tonight from you, Sweetheart. Now that we’re at a rest area I can catch up on my writing. Tonight I’m going to write a sweet one to make you happy as possible because I want you to be a happy little honey and not a sad looker. Gee, I sure wish I were in that garden of yours. Just looking at you as you stand there, lovely as a flower. Sweet things go with sweet things, LeLa, and you’re the sweetest of them all. Just wait until tonight, Lovely. Your Joe forever and ever.
I love you.
Joe
tons of kisses, Honey “LeLa I love ya.”

Lela comments: Joe’s in a rest area and the only complaint is the French bees that have stung him twice–a real bother. He hangs onto memories of our times together in Wichita, few that there were, but like him, I still remember, and with fondness.

24 Aug 1944
France
Location-In the field– The Company left area one mile west of Medan at 1800 and arrived two miles north of Almeneches at 1845. Pvt. Chris McConnell Jr,–Appointed T/5, Pvt. Joseph S. Lanfranco–Appointed T/5 Pvt. Robt. Weis Appointed T/5. T/4 Robt. Brown Appointed Sgt.

25 Aug 1944
France
Location-Near ALMENCHES-No change.

Bivouacked In A Field, Two Miles North Of Almenches, France
August 25, 1944

My Dearest Darling LeLa,
Hi ya, Lovely. Remember the letter I promised to write that night? It was going to be a sweet one just for you. I didn’t get the chance, I thought I would so I’ll try again. First, I’ll tell you that it’s nice if you can remember what you write. I know how it is when you don’t remember. I ask you questions, then forget about it. When you answer I have to stop and think a while. I sure wish I were with you right now, Honey. The summer is almost over and we sure could use the last few weeks. Just being with you couldn’t make me any happier, but we’d have to outline that and really go places. Have you been doing much dancing lately? That’s out of my line but I haven’t given up. Anyway, dancing always brightens up an evening and dancing means holding you so we’d do plenty of that. I’ve been thinking most of the day about the times I spent with you, Honey. Even how good that ice cream was that you dished out. I had my eye on you most of the time, so I didn’t notice what kind it was. Do you remember, Honey? The best one yet was that cold night I had you walking around the block. When I put my overcoat around you I just about couldn’t hold back from laughing. You really had plenty of room for air-conditioning. One thing, though, Sweetheart, I’ve always regretted not being able to spend more time with you and taking you out for a really good time. Every time I’d get a chance to see you, something went wrong. I guess I don’t have to promise you all the good times we’re going to have together, Angel. You know I love you so much I’ll do everything to make you happy.

All those little things that happened the short time we were together, I can’t and never will forget because I knew they were happening with the girl I love. There’s one other thing I’ve been thinking, Lovely, that I hope I can get back to you by your next birthday. I imagine your mother always has a big birthday dinner for you. If I’m back you can bet there’s going to be two dinners, one on me. If I could, I’d even cook it for you, except the cake, Sweetheart, which I don’t have patience with. My mom always sent me to my room or outside when she had a cake in the oven. If you so much as look at the oven cross-eyed, the cake drops. That’s the reason I don’t like baking cakes. We haven’t had any mail for three days, Honey. The last one from you was dated August 1st. Again I’ll tell you Darling that you look lovely and your garden sure looks nice. That’s where I want to be with you one of these fine days, just like you are in the picture. Right now, though, Honey, I’m throwing you a big goodnight kiss. Sure wish I could put it on your lovely lips. They (the fellows) stopped talking for a while after we didn’t get any mail, but they’re okay now. There’s always tomorrow, but we really hate to wait. You can bet I’ll be thinking of you always and always, Sweetheart. I’ll keep your lock of hair curly, too. That’s what I like, Honey, a lot of things to remind me of you. You’ll always be my beautiful honey and I’ll love you forever as sure as your name’s LeLa.
Goodnight Sweetheart
All my truest love forever and ever,
Joe
“LeLa I love ya.”
Big kisses, Honey

Lela comments: This letter dated the 25th was the 6th for the month of August. I could tell he was on the move and grateful that he took the time to write under the circumstances. He wrote of me maybe dancing-no way–would I dance while he was “over there”. The only dancing I did was in a dance studio with my friend, Norma, where we took lessons from an old man. I wanted to know all the steps when Joe came back. Joe’s mind was occupied with thoughts of the future for us and he also reminisces about our time together a lot. Maybe those thoughts gave him a sense of balance in a crazy world.

26 Aug 1944
France
Location- Enroute

27 Aug 1944
France
Location MARIGNY– The Company departed from Almenches at 0800 Aug. 26th. and arrived at Marigny at 1400 today.

28 Aug 1944
France
Location- ST. ETIENNE– Moved out of Marigny at 0015, passing through Orleans, Troyes, Sens, Villoneuve and Pavillion. Arrived in the vicinity of St. Etienne at 1700. 1st Lt. James Adkins R.S.G.D.-2nd, Lt. Bernard W. Dickhauser A.S.G.D.- Pvt. Virgil Burns A.S.G.D.-Pvt, Jesse W. Hodson A.S.G.D.- all joined “A” Co.

29 Aug 1944
France
Location-ST. ETIENNE -The Company left the vicinity of St. Etienne at O430 to attack city of Chalons. Reached the city at 1600 but there was no enemy opposition encountered. Moved out of Chalons at 1000.

30 Aug 1944
France
Location–Near ST. ETIENNE -Arrived N.E. of St. Etienne at 1000. Pvt. Melvin L. Glantz -Duty to Hospital Seriously injured, non-battle casualty.

31 Aug 1944
France
Location-Near ST. ETIENNE—T/4 John W. Manning-Reduced to Pvt.–T/5 Arthur E. Collins-Reduced to Pvt.–Both for inefficency. PFC Albert B. Schweiger-Appointed T/4. PFC Walter F. Winbrow-Appointed T/5.

 

Near St. Etienne, France
September, 1944

My Gorgeous Darling LeLa,
Writing this letter on silver paper and in gold ink wouldn’t even express how I’m adoring your picture. I’m in a dream out of this world, Sweetheart, and feel like taking off cross country, swimming the ocean, “smack” back to you. Would you mind it too much if I fell in love with your picture? It wouldn’t hurt anything because I love you more than anything in the world. Even seeing you in a picture is like a dream, Beautiful. I just can’t put it down; you look so charming and adorable. You have all my thanks and love for sending it to me, Darling. The family must have thought a lot of it. A picture like that affects the heart no matter who looks at it. I placed it so it will be the last and most beautiful thing I look at when I hit the hay, and the first adorable thing when I wake up. I’ll take special care of it, Sweetheart, and try not to wear it out kissing it. Never have I owned anything like it, Honey, and when something’s first with me, everything else goes out the window. Just think, Honey, I can look at my dream girl every chance I get!

Remember I told you it would go a long way? Well, its still going, Honey, and it won’t stop until the sweetheart who sent it is looking at it again. Of course, the guy who admires it will be there, too. Then I’ll have you to admire, Honey, for good. Thinking of you, Darling, and how beautiful everything will be when we’re together again is my favorite pastime. Having a lot to do, and a lot more coming can’t stop my love for you, Darling. I remember the times I thought there would never be a war. Also, I thought there would never be a sweet charming honey like you. It looks like everything I didn’t think came. To rely on the future won’t do me any good, Sweetheart. I have and always had my future made. What about you, Gorgeous? I know what your favorite dish is, “not bad either”. How’s about using mental telepathy on me, and figure out our future? If you can guess what I’d like to do for both of us, Darling, maybe you could help me figure. Being my best sweetheart comes first, Honey. Then we dream the rest and live happily ever after. I have a lot to ask you, Sweetheart, and that much more to tell you.

As far as I’m concerned this is the last summer you’re spending alone, Darling. I think you once said in a letter that you’d like to go to college or be some sort of actress. That sounded pretty good to me, Sweetheart. I take it you know how to use the knowledge you learn. I have a course I want to finish. I don’t really need it, but there must have been some improvement made by now. Yet I might not even go back to it after the war. Well, Sweetheart, it’s a great night. I’ll be thinking of you, Honey, and looking at your picture, which I know makes the night the way it is. Darling, I love you and can’t help being proud of it. So far away doesn’t seem to be a dream anymore, Honey. Just as long as I know you’re there waiting I’ll go on loving you more and more every day. A million kisses and thanks, Dream Girl, for the lovely picture. You’re the sweetest darling a fellow could ever want, Lela. I love you, I love you, I love you!
I’ll love you forever and ever,
Joe

Lela comments: In this letter Joe sounds like he is really busy with not much rest in the days ahead. He was so appreciative of me sending him my picture—and tells me several times. This was the only letter he was able to write to me in the month of September.

1 Sept 1944
France
Location-near ST. ETIENNE -Received new tracks for the tanks and Capt. Smith’s, Lt. East’s, Sgt’s. Deem, Gratazy’s and Wil!iams’ tanks all got new motors.

2 Sept 1944
France
Location- ST. ETIENNE -No change. Maintenance of weapons.

3 Sept 1944
France
Location– ST. ETIENNE -No change, Maintenance of vehicles.

4 Sept 1944
France
Location– ST. ETIENNE -Pvt. Arthur A. Jedrezewski and Pvt. Charles L. Baker transferred to Service Co. Pvt. John R. Quinn, Pvt. Robert G. Shafer, Pvt. Robert L. Sharp all assigned to “A” Co.

5 Sept 1944
France
Location– ST. ETIENNE -Pvt. Albert P. Pritchard and Pvt. Kenneth I. Preston assigned to “A” CO.

6 Sept 1944
France
Location– ST. ETIENNE -Cpl. Arthur Van Fossen was slightly injured and evacuated to Hospital The Company moved out of St. Etienne Au Temple at 0140 and arrived at Flirey at 1100.

7 Sept 1944
France
Location–FLIREY–The Company departed from Flirey at 1500 and arrived at Gezoncourt at 1800.

8 Sept 1944
France
Location–GEZONCOURT–Lt. East, S/Sgt. Smalley and PFC Palmer were ordered to go on reconnaissance with Capt. Smith at 1000 to Dieulouard. They left Dieulouard for a small island in the Moselle River and proceeded to recon for a suitable spot for the tanks to ford the river. T/5 Blew, when returning with the peep, reported machine gun fire, small arms fire and hand-grenade explosions. Capt. Smith, Lt. East, S/Sgt Smalley and PFC Palmer are listed as M.I.A.

9 Sept 1944
France
Location– GEZONCOURT–Company departed from Gezoncourt at 1130 and arrived in Tremble Court at 1430. Cpl. Robert L. Harris -Duty to M.I.A. as of 28 Aug. 1944. 1st. Lt. Francis L. McDermott, T/4 Thomas Hildebrand, Cpl. John Janny, PFC Joseph Fassl, Pvt. Henry Coira all assigned “A” Co. from “C” Co. Lt. McDermott assumed command of the Company today.

10 Sept 1944
France
Location — TREMBLECOURT Remained in Tremblecourt. No change.

11 Sept 1944
France
Location–TREMBLECOURT–Today- Company had showers and went to church. Capt. Robert L. Smith, 1st Lt. Aubrey E. East, S/Sgt. Dillie R. Small, PFC Francis A. Palmer, all Duty to M.I.A.

12 Sept 1944
France
Location–TREMBLECOURT–Cpl. Arthur Van Fossen, assigned to Co. Hospital to Duty The Company took up a tactical position approximately two kilometers from Dieulouard in a patch of woods. They drew some Artillery fire. Could observe enemy activities on the opposite bank of the river.

13 Sept 1944
France
Location–Near DIEULOUARD–Company departed from vicinity of Dieulouard and crossed the river on a pontoon bridge, under cover of darkness, for a combat mission. Enemy action started with machine-gun and artillery fire. Enemy tanks encountered. Our tanks took up positions on a hill past Bezaumont with Lt, Croxton on the left and acting Platoon Leader S/Sgt. Murray in the center with Lt. Atkins on the extreme right. About 0530 the Germans counter-attacked and during the ensuing battle Sgt. Polin’s tank was hit 3 times by a German Mark IV. PFC Kiker and PFC Seeberger were killed and Cpl. Eiler and T/4 Wisniewski were wounded. Upon meeting this opposition Capt. McDermott, S/Sgt. Murray and Sgt. Reidenbach deployed their tanks on the side of the hill while Sgt. Szymanski was hit in the neck by German “Burp-gun” fire while on patrol. PFC O’Donnell took charge and directed his tank back as far as Bezaumont (which later was taken by the Germans). Later in the day they (Germans) recaptured the town of Bezaumont and the high ground behind it where Capt. McDermott’s, Sgt. Reidenbach’s and Sgt. Murphy’s tanks were all hit by enemy fire, disabling the 3 tanks and killing Cpl. Stan Weiss, who was dragged from his burning tank by PFC Maar and S/Sgt. Murray. PFC Pizza, PFC Maar, T/5 Trather, Capt. McDermott and PFC Hickman were all wounded in this action. In Lt. Croxton’s sector, he and Talum in one corner of the woods and Sgt. Deem and Gratopp in another were receiving heavy barrages from the Germans. The infantry and T.D.’s both departed due to intensity of enemy fire. Still later, the 4th Armored Recon came forward and began firing on Deem’s, and Gratopp’s tanks, unaware that any American vehicles had advanced so far ahead.

Former Lt. Mike Blaesing remembers seeing an American plane shoot down another American plane over Mt. Mousson. He always wondered in later years if the pilot who parachuted to safety realized that he had been shot down by his own Air Corps. “Tactical employment: Company ‘A’ attached to 317th Combat Team, Company ‘B’ to the 318th Combat Team. The original plan: Each tank company to cross with the combat team to which it was attached. However, since the tanks had to wait for the completion of the heavy pontoon bridges, Companies ‘A’ and ‘B’ crossed after the foot elements of the two combat teams. The Shermans were able to cross after 8:00 P.M., September 12th. On arrival at the far shore, Co. ‘A’ was parceled out to the battalions of the 317th, one platoon per battalion. One platoon occupied a position on the reverse slope of Falaise Hill, two on Genevieve Hill. Company ‘B’ remained intact in a reserve position covered by an orchard near the river.” “The morning of the 13th the enemy counter-attacked. Using the Foret de Facq as an assembly area, three major thrusts were directed at the bridgehead. Each thrust featured a team consisting of a platoon of tanks coordinating with a company of infantry. One thrust was directed through St. Genevieve, across the ridge to the town of Bezaumont and westward to the bridge. Another was aimed through St. Genevieve downhill to Loisy then southward to the bridge. The third came through Atton southward to the bridge. The bulk of our infantry occupying the forward slopes of Genevieve Hill were cut off by these thrusts.” “Utilizing the dense early morning mist, characteristic of the Moselle Valley in this region, they enemy pushed through Genevieve and occupied Bezaumont. The infantry and tank destroyers at Loisy were pushed back and the enemy counter-attack carried to within 200 yards of Company ‘B’s’ position. There, the 11 tanks of Company ‘B’ apparently unnoticed by the enemy opened up on the enemy, knocking out two tanks and turning them back. The tanks fired from set locations.” “Company ‘A’, which had been pushed from the hill, reorganized and in staggered line formation, proceeded up Genevieve Hill, followed by the infantry. A turning movement was effected on Bezaumont, resulting in the capture of the town.

Interview with Lt. Col. Ralph Talbot, C. O., 702nd Tank Battalion: “Previous to the crossing of the 12th, the 702nd was at Chalons replacing engines and tracks. After an overnight march, the battalion arrived near Flirey. At that time, the 80th Div. was fighting in three separate sections. One section from Dieulouard to include Marbache, Marbache to Pompey exclusive, and Pompey to Toul. After these areas to the west of the river were clear of enemy, preparations were made for the crossing. It was essential to cross the tanks as soon as possible after the initial assault by the infantry. However, the muddy river bottom precluded fording the tanks. The crossings were to take place near Dieulouard where the river forms two arms embracing an island. Although it was possible to ford the first arm, it was impossible to determine the fordability of the far arm until the engineers had made a thorough reconnaissance of that arm. A possible ford was located after the infantry had made the assault, but after an attempt to ford an armored dozer at the likely location had failed, it was decided to build a heavy pontoon over the far arm as well as over the canal and the near branch. Originally it had been planned to cross each tank company with the combat team to which it was attached. However, since the tanks had to wait for the completion of the three heavy pontoon bridges, plans were altered and “A” Company and “B” Company crossed after the two combat teams “A” Company was attached to the 317th Combat Team and “B” Company to the 318th Combat Team “C” Company was operating with the 319th Combat Team in the vicinity of Toul and “D” Co. was with the Div. Rcn. Troop. The crossing took place with the normal difficulties but no losses. Intermittent shelling was in process from the enemy-held heights and once traffic was held up a few minutes because of a hit on bridge. On arrival at the far side, each company reported to the proper combat team and was ordered to take up a position. Company “A” proceeded to the high ground south of St. Genevieve, Company “B”, just north of Le Pont de Mons on the road to Loisy.

At 4:00 on the morning of the 13th, the enemy counter-attacked and drove the infantry and Co. “A”, 702nd temporarily off the hills. The German infantry and tanks drove the Americans to within 100 yards of the bridge. The C.P. of the 318th Combat Team was overrun and the Regimental C.O. and two of his staff were wounded. The “B” Company tanks in position opened up. This tank fire from set locations by itself repelled the counter-attack. Captured German artillery observers attribute the failure of the counter-attack to the direct fire from the American tanks coupled with the fact that a lucky hit by damaging their antenna put the enemy observers out of contact with their artillery. The Germans, according to these P.W.’s did not bring up reinforcements immediately after the crossing. On the afternoon of the 13th, C.C.A., 4th Armored Division passed through the bridgehead. The other operations of the 702nd consist of small engagements intended to enlarge the bridgehead. The terrain in this area is bad from the point of view of tankmen. The hills are too steep. The weather has been satisfactory and the tanks have not been roadbound. The Germans had the roads and other natural approaches well zeroed in and for that reason the tanks moved cross-country as often as terrain permitted. Quite a few mine casualties. Fields becoming more deliberate. Only seen two 88’s, mostly “souped up” 75’s and small stuff.”

Interview with Capt. Francis McDermott, C.O., Co. “A”: “The mission of Co. “A” was to support the 317th Infantry. At 8:00 P.M., the 12th, this company commenced crossing the bridges built by the 1117th Combat Engineers Group. At that time, it was supposed that the infantry had secured the hills just east of the river (Hill 380 and the hill just south of Hill 380). The 1st Platoon under Lt. Atkins occupied the hill to the right (south of Hill 380) and the 2nd Platoon led by Lt. Croxton took up a position in a patch of woods southwest of St. Genevieve. The 3rd Platoon, together with Capt. McDermott was located along the west side of the St. Genevieve-Bezaumont road south of some ruins. After contacting Major Burnett, Capt. McDermott was told to find a position. It was dark. Battalion guides had met each platoon at the bridge and had led each into position. The 1st and 2nd Platoons were put on outpost without infantry. The 3rd Platoon tanks were positioned close to each other with guns pointing in the direction of Bezaumont. During the early morning of the 13th, some of the infantry apparently pulled out. The 3rd Platoon set up its own security. At about 4:30 A.M., hell broke loose. The Germans were within talking distance. The men tried to avoid being discovered. Enemy tanks however, came from the direction of St. Genevieve. It seemed that the infantry lines were too thin. Also the infantry were positioned on the forward slope of Hill 380 and the tanks on the reverse slopes. The German counter-attack issued from the direction of St. Genevieve effectively separated the infantry from the tanks. The men of the 3rd Platoon could not see the enemy. In the meantime, the infantry outposts came barrel-assing over the hill down toward the river. The men from the tank platoon on security pulled back. One of them, Wishnefsky by name, gave the alarm to the C.O., jumped on Capt. McDermott’s tank, but was carried off by barbed wire. Jumping on another tank, he made his getaway. The tanks highballed down the hill to the river.

The next morning at daybreak, defensive lines were formed at the bottom of the hill. It is worthy of note that Lt. Croxton’s platoon off to the west of the Bezaumont-St. Genevieve road, was unaware of the counter-attack until the morning when it joined with the rest of the company in the counter-attack up the hill. A line was formed at the base of Hill 380. The infantry was to follow the tanks up the hill. A colonel from the 317th (name unknown; possibly Exec. O.) threatened to shoot any infantrymen falling back. The colonel and Capt. McDermott tried to form a group of infantry to follow the tanks but their efforts were unavailing. At the bottom of the hill, Sgt. Murray and the C.O. jumped off their tanks and proceeded to orient themselves with the terrain. They were unfamiliar with the ground. While they were going through the process of estimating the ground in relation to the employment of tanks, a hail of machine gun fire drove them into foxholes and a ditch. At their first opportunity, they got back to their tanks. The 1st Platoon on the hill south of Hill 380 was sent for. The 3rd and 1st Platoons started out up the hill in staggered line formation, slowly negotiating the incline. No infantry accompanied the tanks. On the way up the hill, contact was made with the 2nd Platoon. On the way up the hill, fire was being received from our own men from the rear, and from the enemy to the left and front. About halfway up the hill, the enemy fired smoke shells on the tanks, but these did not delay. Sgt. Murray’s platoon swung to the right of the ruins when the Bezaumont-St. Genevieve road was reached. The rest continued up the hill. Meanwhile a 4th Armored Reconnaissance unit moved through in the direction of Nomeny. This outfit was using the same channel (radio). The recon. unit reported Bezaumont and Ville Au Val clear of enemy. As the unit from 4th Armored moved over the hill, it received enemy fire. Census: 1 M6 and several armoured cars.

At the ruins (the Roman Temple east of Ville Au Val) Sgt. Murray bumped into two Germans (killed both). The rest of the company proceeded up hill, swung sharply to right, and moved in a staggered line southward along the gradual reverse slope of Hill 380, east of the Bezaumont-St. Genevieve road in a turning movement on Bezaumont. The ground east of the road where the line turned to the right, slopes gradually and is open. An additional feature was the existence of eight foot hedgerows bordering both sides of the road. To some extent, the hedgerows masked the tanks from observation and fire from the direction of Bezaumont. Capt. McDermott was hit shortly after the company turned to the right.

(The following story was obtained by a mass interview of a representative group numbering approximately twenty men): Notes on terrain from personal observation: In the vicinity of Dieulouard the Moselle meanders wormlike through a flat floodplain northward. To the East looms stolidly a series of big hills. From these dominating eminence’s the enemy could observe all activity on the west side of the river. Successful assault of these heights was a prerequisite to securing the bridgehead. In general, the terrain in this region is unfavorable for tank warfare. Too steep heights and too numerous wooded areas canalize tank movement along well-defined avenues. From the heights of Mt. Toulon and Mt. St. Jean, the enemy could bring to bear observed artillery fire on eastbound traffic. The roads are frequently bounded on one side by deeply ditched streams, on the other side by rises too steep for tanks. Thus deployment and dispersion were limited. Account: On the morning of the 12th, Co. “A” was in a forward assembly area in the Bois De Brule. At dusk on the same day, word was received that the engineers had completed the heavy pontoon bridges and that the tanks should cross as soon as possible. At 1:30 P.M., singly, in low gear, the tanks commenced the crossing Previously the 1st Platoon with Capt. McDermott, the C.O., had been attached to the 1st Battalion, 317th; the 2nd Platoon to the 2nd Battalion; and the 3rd Platoon to the 3rd Battalion. As each platoon reached the far bank, it was met by a guide from the battalion who informed the Platoon Leader where to place the platoon. It was a pitch black night and the tanks blazed their own roads across the island and to their respective positions. The 1st Platoon led by Lt. Atkins met the guide at the road and was directed up the slopes of the hill south of Ville Au Val. On these slopes in an open space at the bottom of a patch of woods the 1st Platoon spent a comparatively uneventful night. Two tanks were positioned above, two below. The interval between groups was 75 yards.

The crews spent the night in the tanks. The next morning, the platoon moved to join the rest of the company along the river just north of Le Pont De Mons. The 3rd Platoon with 1st Sgt. Murray in charge, met its guide and proceeded up Hill 380 until it reached the dirt road between Bezaumont and St. Genevieve. Outside of Bezaumont, this road follows a deep cut bordered by hedgerows well over the height of a man. West of the road the ground slopes gently down to the valley floor. Just off the road are some ruins in a patch of vegetation. The 3rd Platoon tanks were positioned to the South of the ruins behind the embankment facing in the direction of Bezaumont. The tanks were close together to maintain contact in the dark. Between the road and the river was an infantry mortar platoon. Meanwhile the 2nd Platoon under Lt. John Croxton had been placed off to the west of the St. Genevieve-Bezaumont road north of Sgt. Murray’s position. This platoon occupied ground which slopes away in the general direction of Loisy. In several clusters of small trees the tanks took up position so as to cover the town of Bezaumont and northward in the direction of Loisy. In fact Lt. Croxton stated that he was unaware of the road to St. Genevieve and for that reason he found out later that he had not placed his tanks advantageously. Early the following morning, the enemy counter-attacked from St. Genevieve with infantry and tanks. The men recalled the details with clarity and their versions dovetailed. At 3:30 A.M. Sgt. Murray sent Polin, Szymansky and Reidenback to lay on the embankment and watch. For about an hour the enemy artillery shot over the tanks. It seemed that the mortar was attracting the fire. Between 5:00 and 6:00 A.M. red, green and white flares were seen. From the embankment, enemy were seen approaching, talking loudly. The men on watch along the embankment flattened. One returned to Capt. McDermott to give the alarm. At this time, Dunsavage was on turret guard of one of the tanks. He heard an enemy tank approaching. All the men agreed that the motor was not heard. What was heard, were the steel tracks and the brakes when the enemy vehicle stopped to fire.

It was still too dark to see much. The enemy infantry started to shout. Apparently they had just discovered the tanks. Dunsavage grabbed the 50 cal. anti-aircraft gun and swung it around in the direction of the voices. The enemy tank let go and placed a couple of shots in Polin’s tank, which was guarding the rear of the platoon from the direction of St. Genevieve. Dunsavage then hopped on the gunner’s seat, flipped the power traverse and tried to traverse the turret to the left. The tank was facing in the direction of Bezaumont. However, the turret started sparking because of a short circuit. He then tried the manual traverse and hollered to the driver to take off. The tank would not start at first. Meanwhile, Dunsavage thought that his tank had been hit because of the reflection from Polin’s burning tank. Finally the driver got the tank going on the road to Bezaumont. The dust caused by Dunsavage’s tank to some extent screened the other tanks and enabled them to make a safe getaway. The other tanks had highballed it down the road through Bezaumont down the hill where reorganization took place. It is worthy of note that Lt. Croxton’s platoon located a few hundred yards northwest of Murray’s tanks failed to hear the enemy. Lt. Croxton stated that they did hear vehicles, but thought them to be friendly. During the early morning, infantrymen from Company “G” were forced back from St. Genevieve, and passed through Croxton’s platoon toward the bridge. The infantrymen looked badly beaten up and claimed that they were trying to form a line. However, they showed little inclination to remain with the tanks. Later, Lt. Croxton heard sounds which seemed like tanks closing. The noise came from the area where he had placed the other two tanks. He didn’t dare use the radio. He called several times. (No answer).

The next morning, the company reformed at the bottom of Hill 380. Capt. McDermott decided to bring the company up the hill to the Bezaumont-St. Genevieve road, wheel to the right across the road and effect a turning movement on the town of Bezaumont. The tanks proceeded up the hill to the road and stopped. The infantry had not followed the tanks. The tanks went on alone. Lt. Croxton took his platoon across the road and commenced to swing sharply to the right, in the direction of Bezaumont. Murray’s platoon was to take the right of the road, but instead went to the left staggered behind Croxton’s platoon. An enemy tank appeared to be in position beside a barn in Bezaumont. Some enemy fire seemed to come from a high wall of a graveyard to the left of the town. Croxton’s tank was nearest the hedgerow and the road. Talin, Deem, and Grattup to Croxton’s left, in that order. Croxton hugged the hedgerow. A shell passed over his head and hit Reidenbach’s tank farther up the hill. It was possible to spot the dust raised by the muzzle blast of a stationary tank in the town. The whole company began pouring stuff into the town. In the meantime, Starner and Williams had taken the right of the road near the ruins and fired fourteen rounds apiece into Bezaumont. At the same time that Reidenbach received his hit, Capt. McDermott and Talin were also hit. Reidenbach’s crew bailed out. Lt. Croxton backed his tank up in an attempt to get the men on the back of his tank. He was waved aside. Apparently they saw the source of the enemy fire. Croxton then tried to maneuver so as to protect the crew. Finally, all the crews were safely carried to the other side of the embankment where reorganization took place. During the morning, the sunlight had been blinding and had interfered with the observation of the men. Lt. Croxton believed that he saw smoke from the stationary tank in the town after he had placed 1 AP and 2 HE in that direction. After the reorganization, the infantrymen started pushing up the hill. The German infantry took off. Census: 3 Company “A” tanks out; 7 enemy tanks sighted, 6 destroyed.

The night of the 13th, Lt. Croxton took his platoon of 4 tanks to St. Genevieve. The intention was to employ the tanks for the purpose of morale. However, two tanks were placed as listening posts towards Loisy and two covered the approaches to the town from the Northeast. The other two platoons did the same for other battalions. On the second morning, the 1st Battalion attacked through Landremont toward Belleau. At noon, 14th, Lt. Croxton took his platoon to help the infantry attack through Landremont. The infantry had sent a man to get the tank platoon. Croxton was merely told that the infantry needed tanks. He tried to find Major Burnett of the 1st Battalion, 317th, but was unable to locate him. At 1:00 P.M. he found the infantry pinned down by machine gun fire from the town. Apparently there was some infantry east of the town and the tanks were ordered to fire only when infantry officers pointed definite targets. Then an infantry officer ran up and said that his men along the creek to the right of the road were pinned down by machine gun fire. However, the tanks were cramped within a narrow region. Canalized by St. Genevieve Hill on the left and the creek on the right, the tanks were forced to work down the road in columnar formation. The two leading, sprayed the area with machine gun fire. Croxton sighted a pillbox and placed three shots in it. The infantry then claimed that the tanks were firing on their own men. The tanks then passed through the infantry and tried to deploy to the right of the road. All along this road the tanks were vulnerable to observation and fire from Mt. Toulon and Mt. St. Jean. Croxton’s turret gun had hit a tree along the road and the traversing gear had broken. However, the platoon continued to deploy as four tanks. The platoon followed the road to Belleau. There they crossed the bridge and deployed in a field just beyond. The infantry were at least one mile behind, and Lt. Croxton had not been told the infantry objective. Deciding to save the platoon, Croxton recrossed the bridge and returned along the road in column.

On the night of the 15th, 3 companies, “G”, “H” and “I” were pinned in a draw on a hill south of Ville Au Val. A [infantry] colonel decided to load ammunition on the tanks and take the tanks up the hill. The tanks proceeded along the north edge of a wood. They were in columnar formation. An infantry company was met attempting to retreat in an organized fashion. Then suddenly hell broke loose on the tanks. There were only three tanks, 1st Platoon under Lt. Atkins. Two tanks equipped with flat-block tracks were stuck in the mud. Williams’ tank with chevron tracks was able to keep going. The ground was slippery. The colonel said to dismount. The enemy was shooting airbursts with mortars. Williams pulled up in the woods. The colonel was shooting a machine gun trying to cover the tanks mired in the open. Then about 200 yards to the east, a German started opening up with a machine gun. Lt. Atkins’ tank turned over. Starner and Williams were able to pull back. The crew of Lt. Atkins’ tank was saved. Starner and Williams got their tanks up the hill through the forest to the command post. When it was dark, they went to the top on foot to reconnoiter to find a place for the tanks. At 2:00 A.M. the 16th, [Atkins] got the tanks up to the top. The infantry was not there. Many dead Germans were around. Apparently the infantry had withdrawn. On the 14th, 1st Battalion, 317th, had taken Mt. Toulon with few casualties. Lt. Croxton’s [Joe DeLaurentis’s] platoon came up and occupied the hill with orders to hold. It seemed that the other combat teams were too thin for the enemy infiltrated through Ville Au Val and Landremont occupying the hill above Landremont. The battalion at Mt. Toulon was cut off. Orders were received by this battalion to fight its way back from the east. Thus, the Germans would be hit in the rear. The 1st Battalion, [317th] under Major Burnett with the four tanks came back, two platoons of infantry followed by the Assault Platoon[tanks]. The infantry ascended the hill above Landremont too fast for the tanks. The tanks had considerable difficulty reaching the top of the hill.

It was 2:00 P.M. the 15th, Twenty German tanks were sighted moving from west of St. Genevieve into the Foret de Facq. The tanks were dispersed along the hill. Sgt. Jones occupied a finger extending eastward holding the right flank. Sgt. Larkin [Joe DeLaurentis’ tank] and Lt. Croxton were on the crest. They commenced firing. Range: approx. 2,000 yards. Larkin hit an enemy recon. vehicle. The enemy vehicles were moving from left to right into the forest. The tank destroyers, also firing, got nine tanks. Lt. Croxton got one, this on the western edge of the forest. The tank stopped dead. Nobody dismounted. The Exec. Officer, 1st Battalion, called for artillery on the Foret de Facq. A barrage was fired later. Sgt. Larkin backed up from the crest. To his right rear from Mt. St. Jean, the enemy had started firing direct fire. As he backed down from the crest, the air cleaners were[in the back of the tank] hit. He [and his crew, including Joe DeLaurentis] dismounted. He was ordered to mount. Then a battery of 88’s opened up on him. Meanwhile, Lt. Atkins’ platoon was on the crest of the hill south of St. Genevieve (Hill 380). On top of the hill, this platoon had come upon tank destroyers firing into St. Genevieve. The tanks fired some into the same town. Then they moved eastward to the right of St. Genevieve. Only two tanks were in the platoon. This was during the morning of the 15th. That afternoon, a lieutenant informed them of the twenty enemy tanks going into the Foret de Facq. They fired at range of approx. 2,300 yards. The enemy vehicles dispersed. On the 16th, 2:00 P.M., Lt. Croxton with Deem, Grattup and Brown formed the 2nd Platoon. They had been informed that they were in division reserve to be used only in the event of a counterattack. However, the 1st Battalion, 317th was attacking toward Mt. Toulon again. The battalion had had a platoon on the hill above Landremont. The enemy had pushed them off. The tanks were ordered to support the infantry in regaining the hill. The plan was apparently for the attack to be launched along the ridge eastward. Two assault companies would take the hill. The rest of the battalion would move toward Mt. Toulon. When Croxton’s platoon got there, the C.O. said that they were attacking the hill. Lt. Croxton was told to get the tanks on the ridge. It was an impossible mission. Lt. Croxton then said that he would try to support the attack from the road, south of the hill. The tanks would go in column along the road. The infantry then were placed along the road.

There was a three minutes machine gun preparation. The Germans pretended to surrender, ceased firing, yelled “Camerade”, and thus sucked the two infantry companies in. The infantry were pinned down. The battalion C.O. then told Croxton to take the tanks up the hill. The remnants of the assault companies were dug in, and the [infantry] battalion C.O. could not locate them. The idea was to pull the infantrymen back and let the tanks blast out the hilltop. The top was heavily wooded, a deathtrap for tanks. The enemy bazookas would have a field-day. Croxton and Deems got up the hill. Then Deems covered Croxton going through the woods. The battalion C.O. wanted the tanks to crush the woods down. Croxton’s tank proceeded slowly through the woods. It opened up with bow gun and coaxial. Fired one round. The next one jammed. A bazooka hit a bogie. The tank didn’t stop. It turned around and backed down the hill. Then it got hit on the gunner’s side. Finally all got back.

14 Sept l944
France
Location–Near DIEULOUARD–Lt. Croxton’s Platoon was joined by S/Sgt. Larkin’s and Sgt. Jones’ tanks, with S/Sgt. Larkin knocking out a German tank and another enemy vehicle. Cpl. William H. Prewett-Duty to Hospital L.W.A.

15 Sept 1944
France
Location–Same—Pvt’s. Fred J. Kirkley, George L. LaCross, Arthur E. Collins and—Charles L. Baker all transferred from Service Co. to “A”.

16 Sept 1944
France
Location–Same–No change in situation … we remain, adjusting our positions on top of the hill.

17 Sept 1944
France
Location–Same–A platoon of tanks left to give support to the infantry attacking Ville au Val. The weather was extremely adverse…raining always and occasionally foggy. Sgt. George R. Williams Duty to Hospital S.W.A.

18 Sept 1944
France
Location–Near DIEULOUARD–Lt. John W. Croxton-Duty to Hospital, L.W.A. 8 tanks left Bezaumont at 1300 and attacked Morey. Braving intense artillery and mortar fire and clearing minefields and roadblocks, they boldly entered the town of the enemy! Regimental C.P., and completed their mission without any casualties. Pvt. Oris W. Drouin, Pvt. Wayne S, Whitehouse, Pvt. Lawrence Terzo, Pvt. Michael P. Likas, Pvt. John P. Marello, Pvt. John T. Wagner, PFC Ratburn L. Kirtley, Pvt. Paris Dugger Jr., Pvt. Raymond Brisson, Pvt. George E. LaBreck, and Pvt. Robert W. Donahoe all assigned to “A” Co.

19 Sept 1944
France
Location–Near BEZAUMONT– Company cleaned guns.

20 Sept 1944
France
Location–Same–Sgt. George R. Williams, Returned to duty. Pvt. Amadeo Barrica, Pvt. Monroe O. Hardy, Pvt. Martin Kornhaber all assigned to “A” Co. The following were promoted; George A. Eisenman, Cpl. to Sgt.–Mitchell J. Szymanski, Sgt. to S/Sgt.–Woolston H. Foster, Cpl. to Sgt.–Daniel E Mackle, PFC to Cpl.–Martin E. Connell, PFC to Cpl.–Robert L. Kelly, PFC to Cpl.–Alfred J. Prisco, PFC to Cpl.–Vincent E. Zigman, PFC to Cpl.–Thomas J. Barry, PFC to Cpl.

21 Sept 1944
France
Location–Same– Sgt. Szymanski and Sgt. Brown had a field day at Mallery capturing many prisoners and knocking out a “Heine” tank, while on attack with the 317th, Combat Team.

22 Sept 1944
France
Location–Same– T/5 Christopher L. McConnell made T/4. The following Pvt’s. promoted to PFC–William J. Lane, John W. Manning, Mahlon H. Murphy, Alfred J. Swathell, Arthur A. Jedrezewski, Henry L. Coira Jr., Joseph E. Dampf, Edward E. Elkins, Rudy J. Heckard, Francis W. McGuire, Joseph D. McKinney, Edward Haski. All promotions as of 18 Sept. Company left 0830 to support train of supplies of 317th Regt.

23 Sept 1944
France
Location–BEZAUMONT–Departed from Bezaumont at 1830 and arrived at Autreville-sur-Moselle at 1930.

24 Sept 1944
France
Location–AUTREVILLE-sur-MOSELLE -Pvt. John T. Wagner – Duty to Hospital. 1st. Lt. James Adkins- Duty to Hospital, S.W.A. Departed from Autreville- sur-Moselle at 1600 and arrived at Bezaumont at 1700. Company put in Division Reserve with 1st Bn., 318th Regt. Combat team.

25 Sept 1944
France
Location- BEZAUMONT– 2nd. Lt. John W. Croxton-L.W.A., R.T.D., Pvt. Arthur E. Collins-Absent sick to Duty

26 Sept 1944
France
Location–BEZAUMONT– Company in reserve. Maintenance on tanks.

27 Sept 1944
France
Location–Same– Company still in reserve. Maintenance on weapons,

28 Sept 944
France
Location–Same– Company still in reserve. Passes to Pont-a-Mousson. Movies for the Company.

29 Sept 1944
France
Location–Same–Company still in reserve. Red Cross Clubmobile came to area today.

30 Sept 1944
France
Location–Same– Company still in reserve. T/5 Bernard Laughead-Hospital to Duty. Maintenance of weapons.

The end of September left the 702nd Tank Battalion in the vicinity of Belleville, France with thirty-six officers and six hundred ninety-nine enlisted men, plus three warrant officers. Those killed included 1st Lt. Wilford F. Hansen, 2nd Lt. William E. Clark, 2nd Lt. Earl W. Humphrey, 2nd Lt. Casper A. Rudinger, Capt. Francis P. Ford, 1st Lt. Aubrey E. East, T/5 George Kochie Jr., S/Sgt. Frank L. Ream Jr., Cpl. Stanley J. Weiss, Pvt. Joseph A. Cituk, S/Sgt. Albert L. Smith, P.F.C. George L. Stanley, Pvt. Arthur J. Campbell, P.F.C. Max Yancy, P.F.C. Jack A. Kerchner, P.F.C. Francis A. Palmer, Pvt., Milton Hackney, and S/Sgt. Matthew J. Mangiacotti. The September list of wounded and injured included 2nd Lt. Lowell F. Gifford, 1st Lt., George E. Lawlor, 1st Lt. James E. Adkins, Capt. Francis L. McDermott, T/4 Jerome J. Murdoca, Pvt. Irving Klitzberg, Sgt. Frederick E. Riley, Pvt. Early M. Devins, S/Sgt. Herbert Hibbs Jr., Pvt. Wesley F. Yard, S/Sgt. Lazarus L. Turkoff, Pvt. Edward M. Davie Sir., S/Sgt. Delbert L. Gieber, T/4 Emil J. Hosko, T/5 Frank E. Daugherty, Sgt. Harry Kinnare, T/4 Edward J. Zatz, T/5 Thomas J. McCabe, Sgt. Richard R. Reidenbach, T/4 Anthony L. Wishnefski, T/5 Robert C. Trathen, Cpl., John H. W. Eiler, Pvt. John J. Maar, Pvt. Joseph J. Pizza, Sgt. Daniel D. Jones Jr., Cpl. William H. Prewett, P.F.C. Ray F. Trach, P.F.C. William G. Rohn, Sgt. Joseph S. Kocyan, P.F.C. Edward Raibeck, P.F.C. Lloyd Dunmeyer, Sgt. Raymond A. Tehan, Cpl. Albert L. Liccioli, Pvt. Joe Mlinarich, Cpl. George Sidella, Sgt. Shakel N. Corey, Sgt. George R. Williams, Pvt. Anthony L. Garguilo, T/4 Earl W. Rex, Pvt. Norman A. Otto, T/4 Robert D. Estes, Cpl. Daniel J. Durso, Sgt. Edward J. Baroni, T/5 Joseph Opiary, P.F.C. Walter E. Smith Jr., Cpl. Hugh E. St. Clair, S/Sgt. Julian B. Griffin, Pvt. George F. Gearhart, Sgt. Joseph M. D’Andrea, and P.F.C, Shalmer J. Stephens.

Those listed as Missing In Action included, Sgt. Emery J. Cornier, Cpl. John O. Stewart, S/Sgt. Dillie R. Smalley, Pvt. John W. Kiker and P.F.C. Benidict I. Seeberger. Men listed in this way in the 702nd Tank Battalion were as a general rule, those men who were so badly destroyed that they could not be positively identified from one another. The officers knew who was in each tank, and if a tank was hit by a 88mm or a souped-up 75 mm, or a panzerfaust, and the unlucky crew was blown apart, an attempt was made to identify the remains, but in many cases this was not possible, and the entire crew would be placed on the M.I.A. list. They weren’t really missing, but unless individual bodies could be identified, they were classified as missing. However, their grieving buddies knew their fate. One man that was an exception to this rule was Captain Robert L. Smith. The reader will remember that previous to the Moselle crossing, Capt. Smith of Company “A”, led a recon. party across the river to pick out a suitable spot for his tanks to cross. A fire-fight broke out and all of the group was killed except for Capt. Smith. The intrepid Captain was taken prisoner by the Germans and spent the remainder of the war in a German prisoner of war camp. In the Battle of the Moselle River Sector, most of the 702nd Tankers distinguished themselves in action. Many a veteran of that battle zone remembers seeing the Moselle River run red with blood, literally.

Those men decorated for their distinguishing actions were:

S/Sgt. Jack J. Smith – On the morning of 12 September, 1944, Staff Sergeant Smith, over and above the line of duty, performed with complete disregard for his own personal safety in exposing himself to concentrated small arm and machine gun fire, while attempting the successful evacuation of a wounded infantryman from the battlefield. Awarded the Silver Star.

Tech. 4 Christopher L. McConnell – On the evening of 19 September, 1944, Tech. 4 McConnell successfully evacuated to safety under heavily concentrated enemy machine gun fire, two wounded and unconscious men. Awarded the Bronze Star.

Pvt. Albert K. Pritchard – On the evening of 19 September, 1944, Pvt. Pritchard successfully evacuated to safety under heavily concentrated enemy machine gun fire, two wounded and unconscious men. Awarded the Bronze Star.

Major Richard K. James – In controlling and coordinating tanks with infantry, he displayed leadership and initiative. The results of this clear thinking and sound judgment, contributed to the successful operations of tank and infantry. Awarded the Certificate of Merit.

Captain Carl A. Nordstrom – The exceptional common sense, tact and sound judgment were of inestimable value in the coordination of infantry and tanks and the tactical planning by which severe enemy resistance was overcome. Awarded the Certificate of Merit.

For the entire 80th Infantry Division, the battle casualties were 569 killed in action, 2,397 wounded in action, 685 missing in action. A total of 1,748 Prisoners of War were captured by the 80th Division. 497 American dead were evacuated. 350 German dead were evacuated and 3 “Other” dead were evacuated.

 

1 Oct 1944
France
Location–BEZAUMONT-Company in reserve with 1st Bn., 318th Combat Team.

2 Oct 1944
France
Location–BEZAUMONT (80-29)–In reserve as above. PFC James L. Long Duty to Hospital, not W.I.A. 1st Lt. F.L. McDermott promoted to Capt. as of 1 Oct., 2nd Lt. J.M. Croxton promoted to 1st. Lt. as of 1 Oct. The following men transferred to “C” Co. by V.O.C.O. PFC Henry L. Coria, PFC Richard R. Kincade, PFC Joseph R. Fassl, Pvt. Michael P. Lukac.

3 Oct 1944.
France
Location–BEZAUMONT (80-29)–Still in reserve. T/4 Paul A. Vetter reduced to Pvt., without prejudice. T/5 Robert Trather Hospital to Duty. Received the following replacements; Pvt. Bartlett Nichols, Pvt. Rocco Pellegrino, Pvt. Ted Nalley, Pvt. Francis Lemay.

 

4 Oct 1944
France
Location–BEZAUMONT (80-29)–Still in reserve. T/5 Robert Weis- Duty to Hospital, PFC James L. Long- Hospital to Duty. 2nd Lt. Bernard W. Dickheiser transferred to Service Co.

5 Oct 1944
France
Location–BEZAUMONT (80-29)–Still in reserve with 1st. Bn., 318th. Regt. Combat Team. -T/5 Michael Firman- Duty to Hospital, not W.I.A.

6 Oct 1944
France
Location–BEZAUMONT (80-29)– Company in reserve with 1st. Bn., 318th. Regt. Combat Team. 2nd Lt. Maurice McNeal joined Co. today. We saw a U.S.C. Show at Ville-au-Val today.,

7 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same– Still in reserve. These men hurt in “peep” accident today; S/Sgt. Hernon Sasser, PFC Theodore Blew, PFC Edward Elkins, all Duty to Hospital.

8 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same-Town of Bezaumont until 2000 then Co, moved to new assembly area at Ville-au-Val. Tanks left at 0600 for attack. Took objective. Shelled town of Nomeny with 75mm H.E. and 30 cal. Passed over 200 prisoners to infantry. 3 tanks hit land mines on the attack. T/5 Bernard Loughead K.I.A. when his tank hit a mine. When crew was abandoning tank, he jumped on a mine which blew his head and legs off. PFC Rudy Heckard, while dismounting same tank, was hit by shrapnel. Duty to Hospital

9 Oct 1944
France
Location–VILLE-AU-VAL( 83-27 )–Tanks attacked in the vicinity of Nomeny at 0500. Killed a number of enemy. Three tanks were lost in the mission. Sgt. Joseph Murphy- K.I.A. PFC Edward Elkins-Hospital to Duty. The following men Duty to Hospital; Sgt. Gerald Starner W.I.A., Cpl. Robert Kelly W.I.A., T/5 Nicholas Massington W.I.A., T/5 Mahlon Murphy W.I.A., Pvt. Rocco Pellegrino W.I.A., Pvt. John Marcella W.I.A., Cpl. Thomas Barry W.I.A., T/5 Robert Trather not W.I.A., Pvt. Lawrence Terzo K.I.A.

10 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same– Tanks stayed in assembly area because of weather conditions. Capt. McDermott did some recon on the 3 tanks that were lost 9 Oct 44. No results. Company saw movie, “See Here Pvt. Hargrove”.

11 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same– Tanks stayed in assembly area today. Seven German planes flew over our area and fired on us. We opened up with our 50 cal. anti-aircraft guns. No one hurt.-Cpl. Robert Kelly-Hospital to Duty, T/5 Nick Massington-Hospital to Duty, Cpl. Martin Connell-Duty to Hospital

12 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same–Company put in Div. Reserve. Saw two movies; “Never a Dull Moment” and ” Ladies in Washington”.

13 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same– Company left Ville-au-Val and arrived at Atton at 1600. Co. now in Reserve with 317th Regt. Combat Team. Rain today Pvt. John Marcella-Hospital to Duty. Sgt. William Murray- Duty to Hospital with fever.

14 Oct 1944
France
Location– ATTON (83.2-34.3)– In reserve with 317th. C.T. Rain today. Four men on pass to Nancy. Father Hart held Mass for men. T/5 Albert Swathell-Duty to Hospital, stomach pains.

15 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same–Tanks in position for indirect firing. Father Hart held Mass for men in Atton. Rain today.

16 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same– Tanks used for indirect firing with 512th F.A. S/Sgt. Gratopp and S/Sgt. Marx Larkin were Observers. I.H.S. interviewed me for data concerning the crossing of the Moselle River. Rain today.

17 Oct 1944
Location–Same–No changes on tank deployment. Rain again. Laundry went in today. Capt. McDermott interviewed by I. H.S. T/4 Christopher McConnell and Pvt. Albert Pritchard awarded Bronze Star on 15 Oct ’44.

18 Oct 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.2-34.3)–No changes on tanks. Rain today. M.P. Band from 80th. Div. put on a show for men at tank assembly area.

Atton, France (Map Coordinates 83.2-34.3)
October 18, 1944

My Precious Darling LeLa,
This is your sad sack boy friend still somewhere in France. I should have a lot to say, Honey, because I haven’t written for such a long time. I’ll try and give you all the dope from the way I gather it and when I tell you how sorry I am for not writing, you’ll just have to believe me, Gorgeous. I haven’t been writing to you, My Darling, or to my family until a few days ago when we started this rest period. Have you been following the 3rd Army lately, Honey? All the time I wasn’t writing I’d receive your sweet letters and feel kind of bad because of your faithfulness. My opinion of your letters will make you feel kind of good, I hope. Your going places in a big way, Honey. Keep up the good work and get in good with that teacher (I forgot her name). If you go to college, Honey, I’ll wait, but don’t change from Miss LeLa Bush to somebody else because I love you just the way you are. I don’t expect to see home again for sometime anyway, Darling, so just keep your chin up like I told you, Little Girl. I haven’t changed any precious. Twenty years old doesn’t make much difference. I’m coming back to you. I still love you, LeLa, and everything I said still goes.

I haven’t even forgotten the apple pie deal with your mother. “I’ll bring the apples.” No kidding. Eddie should be able to play our song by now, Honey. You fixed those songs on paper up pretty well, Angel, but I’m adding more to it. I guess you can tell this is your paper, Honey. The candy went down very easy, so here’s a big kiss and a million thanks for being so sweet. I like your paper, Honey, and the airmail stamps I put in the tank someplace. I’ll have to find them. I’ll find them in somebody’s pocket probably. My mother wrote and told me I had my name in the paper with another fellow, with a story about our tanks. I did talk to the A.C.P. guy, but never thought it would be put in the Philadelphia Bulletin. They even called up my sister and asked her all kinds of questions about my life before I came into the Army. My sister said the story went something like this: During a battle somewhere in France a small group of tanks and Infantrymen were surrounded by Germans during the night. The next morning all the other tanks except one withdrew. The one tank that was left with their crew were helping some wounded fellows when a German tank shot out by surprise and started to shoot shells all over the place. The crew ran for cover and later saved their own tank, but the German tank was K.O.’d by a tank destroyer. Well, Honey, that was our crew and our tank. Front page news is history making, my sister says. Your picture is still safe, Honey, and I was thinking of it more than anything else in the tank. I can always get new clothes and a new tank, but no picture like the one I’ve got.

During the rest, Honey, I’m reading the overseas edition of the “Apostle”, the life of St. Paul. They’re pretty good books, Honey. What type of reading do you like? I remember in one of your letters that you didn’t enjoy a Saturday night party, Gorgeous. I think I told you before you’ll spring out of your kiddish ways before I get back to you. We’ll both be grown ups, Honey. Two years makes a big difference. We’ll have lots of fun, not only on Saturday nights, but every night. So just keep away from those (as you call them) cheap things that happen at parties and when I get back to you we’ll make up for it. I am as lovesick as you, Honey, but remember that law which says, “First love for God, then love for country, then love for family”? That’s the way it goes, Lovely, and we can’t do anything about it. I also know how you feel when I stop writing. I’m so happy when I receive your letters I can’t express it. So, Honey, I’ll write and try not to be a sad sack, but a little more cheerful with what I say. Say “hello” to the folks for me, Darling. It won’t be long before I’ll be seeing them again. I’ll just ask you to keep dreaming those dreams, Honey. Be my little darling, honey, sweetheart and everything and I’ll love you , love you, love you, love you, love you forever and ever. So long for a while, Gorgeous. Thanks again for the package.
I love you with all my heart,
Joe
P.S. Big kisses by the millions! “LeLa I love ya”

Lela comments: It had been along time since I’d had any mail from Joe, but tonight when I came home -there was this letter waiting on the piano. I noticed that the envelope was thicker than usual which meant a long letter, I hoped. It was a newsy letter telling of a battle that he’d been through and how it was suppose to have been printed in the Philadelphia newspaper. He reminds me of the apple pie deal again with my mother, and my sister playing our song. Joe’s birthday was September 11; he turned 20. He tells of reading, “The Apostle” the life of St. Paul while there in France, and remarking it was a pretty good book. I don’t know what he’s referring to when he says that in one of my letters I didn’t enjoy a Saturday night party. Must have been a school thing but I didn’t like to be told that I’d “spring out of my kiddish way”. An important sentence that I have never forgotten was this one: “. . . but remember that law which says, first love for God, then love for country, then love for family?” That tells me who Joe is, what kind of person, his values, his motives. I love him dearly, without reservation. Joe is every girl’s dream.

19 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same–No changes on tanks. Rain today. Pvt. Rocco Pellegrino Hospital to Duty. C.O. on pass to Nancy with 1st. Sgt.

20 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same–Ten men went 70 miles to see a demonstration of tactics on pill-boxes. Five men on pass to Nancy today. Red Cross Clubmobile came to tank assembly area –“Dry Run” Tank no. 16 left at 1500 hours to have mine-sweeper put on. T/5 Alfred Swathell-Hospital to Duty Cpl. Martin Connell-Hospital to Duty. The following promotions as of 17 Oct ’44; Tech Sgt. John Suglia made 1st Sgt- T/4 Harold Ault to Tech Sgt.- T/4 Joseph Peterson to S/Sgt., T/5 Harry Jones to T/4- T/5 Felix Chmiel to T/4- Cpl. Carl Gerber to Sgt.- T/5 Charles Brobst to T/4 – PFC Jubal Owens to T/5 – PFC Joseph Dampf to Cpl.- PFC Paul Vetter to T/5- Pvt. Frank Rose to Cpl.- Pvt. John Quinn to T/5- Pvt. Kenneth Preston to T/5.

21 Oct 1944
France
Location–Same– Tanks used for indirect firing. T/4 Felix Chmiel Hospital to Duty 2 1/2- ton truck rammed into our kitchen and our 2 1/2 ton truck. No casualties. Men went for showers today. Rain today. Five men on pass to Nancy. 1st. Sgt. Suglio took a shower today too! T/5 Joseph Lanfranco to T/4 as of 17 Oct. ’44.

22 Oct 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.2-34.3)–Tanks used for indirect firing. Unidentified object came over area. Shot down by A. A. guns. Men went to church in town. 5 men on pass to Nancy. Tank no. 16 detached to Co. “A” 305th Engineers.

23 Oct 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.2-34.3)–Tanks used for indirect firing. Pvt. Robert Walsh —(20214219) transferred from Service Co. as of 21 Oct. Sgt. George Eisenan received his tank today.

 

 

The Draft Notice Showing Joe Last On The List-Many Of These Men Ended Up In The 702nd

 

Atton, France
October 23, 1944
My Lovely, Darling LeLa, BIG KISS
As I sit here by the fire and by our little home (a tent), all I have to do is think of you, my Darling. We’ve known each other quite some time now. By the way, Honey, do you remember the exact date we met? I forgot, but that’s because I love you so much I can’t think of anything else. In one of your letters there was one sheet of paper and you sounded very worried and upset. You also wanted my street address. I know what you were thinking, Honey. I’m not going to tell you not to worry because I know you will. But, Honey, don’t imagine too much when you don’t hear from me. Please? I have it all fixed up if anything should happen, Gorgeous. Another fellow named Joe will write and tell you everything. As for dancing, Lovely, you’ll have to teach me when I get back to you. I never went to a barn dance, but I have a picture in my mind what they’re like. The food we get is pretty good, Honey. We don’t do our own cooking anymore. I’ll cook a G.I. dish for you, precious. Outdoors, too. My field experience isn’t any too good but I promised you I’d do it for your birthday. I have a present in mind for you, too, Honey. Only you’ll have to wait. I have a good idea how old you are, Sweet, but by the time I get back you’ll be at the solid age. Your being in school gives it away. If I knew what grade you’re in, I’d hit it exactly. A lot of girls don’t stay in school as long as you are, Honey. I don’t take you for a common girl, Honey. Be a good little honey, LeLa. Keep busy if you can and remember you’re first with me and I’ll be back to you as soon as I can. I’m going to write another letter after we eat, Honey. So long, my precious Honey. I love you.
Joe
“LeLa I love ya”

Lela comments: Joe reassures me that a friend named Joe will write and tell me if anything happens to him. This did ease my worry a bit because when those long dry spells happened between letters my imagination would run rampant. His mind is occupied with the future and tries to keep us both thinking in that direction.

 

Atton, France
October 23, 1944

Hi ya, Beautiful,
For dinner we had C-rations, coffee, bread & butter. Just a light lunch, Honey. It’s getting pretty cold over here now. Something like Kansas, I suppose. Ah, if I were with you the weather would be the very last thing that we’d think of, Honey. Christmas is coming, Lovely, so it your birthday. Would I like to celebrate them both with you. Em-um! Well, a poem and a few pictures with the Season’s Greetings will do the job until I can meet you face to face and give you a real present, won’t it, Honey? I haven’t written home yet, but I did receive a V-mail from my mom with what she had to tell me. I don’t think I am going to know my family when I get back. They’re all growing up; the kids, I mean. And Mom and Dad are getting older looking, I suppose. I guess our car is shot to pieces, Honey, but we’ll get a new one. What kind do you like, Precious? If we’re going to have a dog someday, Honey, what kind is it going to be? You can answer that in a letter or we can wait until the day we go for a long talk, in the quiet spot. Remember? Do you still want to know my life history, Honey? Well, Sugar, this life is just off the beam over here. So we’ll forget about this part when I get back to you. All I want to do is say, I love ya, LeLa. Still my honey? I’m your Joe! So long my precious Baby. I’ll be with you every minute of the day, LeLa. So just keep your chin up, Darling.
Joe
“LeLa, I love ya.”

Lela comments:Joe speaks of the cold and how it might be like it is Kansas–they live in a tent and eat C rations–talk of missing home, yet Joe remains upbeat and talks of his family growing up and older and our future. He tells me to keep my chin up and I hope he still can do the same.

24 Oct 1944
France
Location– ATTON ( 83.2-34.3 )-Tanks used for indirect firing. Six men on pass to Pont-a-Mousson. Pvt. John Metar-Hospital to Duty Cpl. Wm. Prewett -Hospital to Duty. Acting Platoon Leader William E. Murray-Hospital to Duty.

25 Oct 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.2-34.3)–Tanks used for indirect firing. Pvt. Rocco Pellegrino to grade of PFC. Received three new replacements today; Pvt. J. Woln (36786999), Pvt. Clifford C. Zinn (38592781), Pvt. Louis A. Warden (32600204).

26 Oct 1944
France
Location– ATTON (83.2-34.3)–Tanks used for indirect firing. T/5 Michael Firman awarded Purple Heart. Men went for showers. Company up to total (T-0) strength today. Award went in for Silver Star for Pvt John Maar today. Ten men went to 305th Engineers to see a demonstration of a new modification on tanks for use against pill-boxes.

27 Oct 1944
France
Location– ATTON (83.2-34.3)–Tanks being used for indirect firing. Sgt. Chas. Gerber drew his tank today. Four tanks went to 317th Combat Team to give classes on tank tactics with infantrymen. 1st. Lt. Croxton in charge.

28 Oct 1944
France
Location– ATTON (83.2-34.3)–Tanks used for indirect firing. Four men on pass to Nancy. One man, Van Fossons on pass to Paris. Men saw a U.S.O. show today.

Atton, France
October 28, 1944

My darling LeLa, X
Hi ya, Honey, how’s my sweetheart? Anything interesting going on around home? Nothing more than the usual thing is going on over here. The last few days we’ve spent filling sand bags to put around our tent. They act as a windbreak mostly. Well, I still have two letters from you that I read over and over, not only because I want to answer your questions, but also because I like the way they’re written. My morale hits 100% every time I read this line of yours, “My Joe, you just have to come back to me.” Solid, ‘eh, Honey? Sure I’m coming back to you, Precious. As soon as this thing is over with. I admit I feel lost when I start thinking about you, Honey. Sometimes I feel like getting up and start walking back. I’d walk it too, lovely, just to be with you again. Anyway, Sugar, I’ll always love you, you know if I love you I’ll come back to you, so we can put that much aside and never worry about it. Let’s not try and think of anything else, Honey, because time will take care of the rest. I don’t know just how a girl worries, Honey, or I’d try to make this sound a little a more cheerful. Our love is sweet even now, Honey, and it’s going to be brighter when we’re together again. That’s why it’s worth holding onto. So, just like real lovers do, we’ll stick it out until that day comes. I’m glad you follow the news on the radio, Honey. If it sounds good and makes you feel better knowing that we’re winning that’s all the better. Right now it’s like a football game, we’re on the goal line, but the game isn’t over, that’s all. I have some Christmas cards that were issued to me to send out, Honey: I’m writing my own verse on the one I’m sending to you. Maybe next Christmas I’ll do better. I don’t expect much from home, Honey, so don’t you go sending anything either, because there isn’t much that I need, as Uncle Sam takes pretty good care of his boys, so they say. Well, Honey, I’ll close now, but I’ll be thinking up another letter for you right away, lovely.
With all my love,
Joe
“LeLa, I love ya! “
All this space for kisses, Honey!

Lela comments: It made me happy to know that I gave Joe happiness by my letters that I send him. Joe’s comparing the war’s status to as being similar to a football game— . . We’re on the goal line, but the game isn’t over”, was a good comparison. The news that we were listening to at home was upbeat and sounded like we were winning. But like Joe said-it wasn’t over yet.

29 Oct 1944
France
Location– ATTON (83.2-34.3) Tanks used for indirect firing. Pvt. Robert Sharp assigned to “A” Co. from 80th Div. PFC John Ferry Duty to Hospital-Trouble with his nose. Men went to Mass in Atton today. Triebel spent the day with the Company.

30 Oct 1944
France
Location– ATTON (83.2-34.3) tanks used for indirect firing. Tank recovery went to have a new modification put on.

31 Oct 1944
France
Location- ATTON (83.2-34.3) Tanks were used for indirect firing. Men were paid today.

A total of 1,504 prisoners were captured in October. 376 American dead were evacuated, 226 German dead were evacuated, and two other dead were evacuated. During static phases and whenever possible during active operations, motion pictures, Clubmobiles, USO shows and Social Service entertainment’s were provided for the command.
1 Nov 1944
France
Location– ATTON (83.2-34.3) Tanks used for indirect firing. 129th Ord. checked all of the 75’s today. Four tanks left at 0600 for 7th Ord. to have modification on grousers put on. C.O. and 1st Sgt. made recon up front.
2 Nov 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.2-34.3) Tanks being used for indirect firing. Six tanks left at 0700 for 7th Ord. to have modification on grousers put on.
3 Nov 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.2-34.3) Tanks used for indirect firing. Four tanks returned from 7th Ord. last night. C.O. heard speech by Gen. Patton. Four men went to Nancy on pass.

 

Atton, France
November 3, 1944

My lovely, Honey, LeLa,
Hi ya, sweetheart! How’s my Honey? I don’t have much to do today so I’ll get this letter out before something comes in. It’s almost time to eat: the fellows are talking about the food we get and wondering what we’re going to get for the meal. The food hasn’t been too bad so far. I haven’t received any letters from you for a week, but I figure I haven’t been writing either. In your last letter you said that you’d been crying. Is that anyway for that lovely, sweet face of yours to act? I want to see a big smile in your next letter, Honey, and no sad talk either. Saturday, Honey, we took showers and then went to a barbershop and got all fixed up. The boys looked tops after that and we really felt good. Now, we’re back in our tents again playing cards. It was the first time I had my hair combed in weeks. I really surprised myself, eh, Honey? I tried to talk a lady into taking my picture at some studio but her limit was 24-hour service and I couldn’t get it. I’ll keep trying though, Honey. Some guys are stationed in the town and really have it made there. When I think of all this messed up stuff, I just say to myself, “Will I be glad to get back to LeLa.” Well, Honey, it’s time to eat, but I’m not through writing so a big kiss for awhile then some more pages for my Honey.
Big Kiss
Love,
Joe

Lela comments: It’s almost unbelievable the condition and way these boys must be living. Joe mentions getting a shower, a haircut and he hadn’t combed his hair in weeks. He talks about , “when he thinks of all this messed up stuff”, referring to the war and living conditons no doubt-for Joe to complain it had to be a major reason.

Atton, France
November 3, 1944

My darling LeLa,
Another month, Honey, almost a year now that we’ve known each other, and yet, we’ve only been together five or six times. There haven’t been any changes made between us, Sweetheart, so that proves that we really do get along. When we’re together again, Lovely, it will be super Deluxe and always a good time. Just you and me always. Do I miss you and your cute ways, Honey? I just keep thinking of your charming actions, and “boy”, could I kiss you now. As a matter of fact, Honey, every time I looked at you I wanted to kiss you, and I guess I did get more than my share. All that amounts up to a sweet love for you, Honey, And I’ll never stop loving you that’s a sure thing. The only thing I’m hoping, Precious, is it won’t be too long before I get back to you again. I think a year is plenty hard enough to be away from a sweet Honey like you, and I’m not only thinking of myself, Honey. This is one GI Joe that can see how a girl like you shouldn’t be kept waiting, and a lot of others like us that have to wait. Appreciation isn’t the word for what I’m thinking, Honey. I just love you for it, like I love you for everything else. Your sweetness, Lovely, will always go with me. I know you’ll keep your chin up, Honey, but I keep asking you to keep it up anyway.
Just for a while, Gorgeous!
All my love forever,
Joe
“LeLa, I love ya”

Lela comments: Our anniversary of meeting will be in February but now in November is a good part of a year. Who wouldn’t wait for someone like Joe. He’s one in a million.

The A Company Diary states: “Town of Atton; tanks doing indirect firing. Men went to church in Atton. Five new 42 ton Ford tanks were drawn today. [Note: these were a beefed up version of the Sherman tank.] T/5 John Manning, P.F.C. John Maar, Pvt. George Le Breck and Acting Platoon Leader William E. Murray -The above men received the Bronze Star today.”

4 Nov 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.2-34.3) Tanks doing indirect firing. Four tanks and Recovery vehicle to 7th Ord. for grouser modification. Lt. Adkins and ten men went to pick up five new tanks.

Atton, France
November 4, 1944

My precious, darling LeLa,
Hi Ya, Honey! Here it is Sunday and another week gone. Time sure goes fast around here. We cleaned up the tank a little, and I also looked at your picture. It really got around and has been through a lot, but, it’s still in good shape. You must have been keeping yourself busy lately, Gorgeous, – the wedding must of been swell, too; that’s the day, eh, Honey? Probably the biggest day in anyone’s life. I would have liked to see how lovely you looked. I guess I’m missing everything. I hope that you’ll send me a picture of yourself, even though I still owe you one. I can see how happy you must of been, Lovely; if you’re thinking the same thing I’m thinking. Someday we’ll get our chance to be happy, Gorgeous, and I mean happy. You asked me once if I believed in mixed marriages: You must have been half asleep that night on the bus when I told you the answer. If a person is good then they’re good, Honey, church or no church, but going to church helps a person to remember and understand better, “You know”, “I love you.” So , you might go out to California with your father and Eddie for a visit, but don’t like the idea of leaving your mother alone. You’re thinking the same way I’d think, Honey, but there’s time to think it over yet, so just wait to decide. I’ve never been to California yet, but I have hopes of seeing it with you, too, Honey, and nobody else. That punch you had at the wedding was really made up, Honey: I could use some whisky myself, but not to get drunk on–just a warm up as it isn’t too nice over here, anymore. No, Honey, I don’t think Philadelphia is the place for our honeymoon, but we’ll wait until we go to our quiet spot to talk it over. I talk to your picture, too, Honey, but so do all the boys as we don’t see skirts often over here, but, don’t let anybody kid ya, Honey, they’d do the same thing if they were in your place and you’d laugh at them, so would I. It’s just natural. If all I have to do is say, “I love you”, and write more often to make you feel better, Honey, then you’ll get your wish, I love you very, very, very much, and I’ll write every chance I get if not sooner.

I don’t write to anybody, but you and home, Sweetheart, and as a result I don’t often hear from anyone except you and my folks. You’re all that I need anyway, Precious, and I’ll be back to you soon, I mean it, I’ll come back to you and I’ll love you forever. You’re still my Honey and always will be. That sort of answers all your questions, Lovely; I’m not going to ask you to keep on being happy, I’m going to tell you, Sweetheart, so that the next letter you write will be of cheer and lots of it. I believe in you, Darling, so you’ll believe in me, won’t you? I haven’t even mentioned Julia or Carter, yet, Honey, but I’m wishing them lots of luck and happiness. I can’t wait until I’m with you again, either, Honey. It sure will be swell. You said about the only thing you could tell the people was that you’d have to wait till after the war: I wish you could have told them something else, Honey, but I won’t forget it. You’re waiting for me and you’re doing a swell job. So, Honey, I still can say I love you. You’ll be my Honey someday for good.
Just for a while, Honey.
All my love forever, and ever.
Joe
“LeLa, I love ya!”

Lela comments: Joe comments on the wedding in our family and I could tell he was sorry he missed it. He made a comment that he was missing everything. Comments on “mixed marriages” were referring to religious issues, Catholic and Protestant. Joe was Catholic, I was not a heathen, I believed in God, but I’d never been baptized.

5 Nov 1944
France
Location– ATTON (83.2-34.3) Tanks doing indirect firing. Men went to Church in Atton. Five new 42 ton Ford (V-8 engine) tanks were drawn today, T/5 John Manning-PFC John Maar-Pvt. George Le Breck-Acting Platoon Leader William E. Murray, all these men received the Bronze Star today.

6 Nov 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.9-34.3) Tanks stopped firing indirect fire at 0800. T/5 Michael—Firman-Hospital to Duty C.O. discussed plans of attack with all tank Commanders today. Two 105’s attached to Company “A” today, Pvt. Arthur Collins replaced PFC John Kinslow in Lamb’s 105mm. today. Cpl. Arthur Van Fossen took over his new tank as tank Commander, today. C.O. attended a meeting at Bn. C.P. Band concert was a dry run.

7 Nov 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.2-34.3) Tanks doing indirect firing. Officers received liquor ration today. Both C.O. and Lt. Croxton had a good time and were sober (?) after it was gone.

8 Nov 1944
France
Location–ATTON (83.2-34.3) Tanks left area at 0500 to establish a bridgehead. All tanks left area. Bridgehead established at 1430 and vehicles proceeded to assembly area. Lt. McNeal and T/4 Treasure and PFC Long were standing rear a truck when an enemy shell exploded near it. T/4 Treasure was killed, Lt. McNeal and PFC Long were wounded.

9 Nov 1944
France
Location– On Attack near Moselle River–Tanks were replenished with gas and ammo and proceeded on attack. Results were excellent. There were no casualties. Many prisoners were taken. Tanks proceeded beyond Raucourt in attack. In order to get gas and ammo to tanks 1st. Sgt. Suglio made personal contact with Gen. Summers of 80th Div. and got priority over the 6th Armored Div. to cross bridge and was personally conveyed by Gen. Summers and later complimented by him.

10 Nov 1944
France
Location–RAUCOURT ( 88.3-37.2 )–Tanks left for Secourt at 0700. Trains arrived here at 1630. McGuire fell off tank and hurt his back. Duty to Hospital

11 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–BECHY (100.8-44.3) Trains left Raucourt at 2200 on Nov 10th., arrived here at Secourt 0600 11 Nov, then left for Luppy and had to pull right out after arriving. Town was heavily shelled. Our tanks came back to Bechy from this side of the Saar River. Polin’s tank stayed there until it was pulled out by the Recovery vehicle.

12 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–BECHY (100.8-44.3) Tanks stayed here until trains arrived then pulled out. Three men to Hospital with colds. Polin’s tank was recovered. Cusick shot through chest by 30 cal.

13 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–HAM-SUR-NIED (105.8-44.4) Tanks stayed here all night. Pulled out at 0900 for attack. We waited here with Trains. Seven men to Hospital with colds and bad feet. Three “Huns” came up to our men and surrendered. Our men captured a German Half-track. We are now using it for a supply truck. New Maintenance Officer came in today and four replacements. Blew-Hospital to Duty

14 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location—HERNY (108.9-45.4) Tanks stayed in Many all night. Seven tanks then came to Herny. Five stayed at Many. Results of attack excellent. Trains stayed at Herny. 88mm shell fell in front of building. Two Service Co. men wounded by shrapnel and Dale was also wounded.

15 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–HERNY (108.9-45.4) Tanks left for attack at 1000. 7 from here and 5 from Many. Sgt. Brown was sick so he didn’t go with his tank. German H.T. running, waiting for paint now.

16 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–HERNY (108.9-45.4) At 0900 Germans shelled the town again wounding a number of men and killing Tech. Sgt. Ault. Gas truck and trailer were lost to a direct hit by a mortar shell. We moved from there to the other end of town. Two men back from Hospital and one man to Hospital. Six tanks in Many and six here.

Herny, France
November 16, 1944

My precious darling, LeLa,
It’s been eight days since I’ve written to you, Sweetheart, but we’ve been at it again, so I just couldn’t write. I have a big, beautiful cold, Honey, and I’m really tired, but just thinking of you and being able to write to my Honey keeps my mind off everything. About four days ago, I received your pictures and the write-up in the paper about your sister’s wedding. You know something, Miss Bush, you’re really the stuff, is that smile that you’re wearing in the picture for me, Honey? When you said it would be nice if I were there to take you out afterwards, I just sat there and thought about it all day. Well, Angel, our day will come. Your mother, dad and everybody looks swell, Honey, and the write -up is worded perfect and sounds really good, which makes me wish I were there. When I take a good look at your father, Honey, I felt kind of light, no kidding, and maybe surprised. He’s every bit a man, isn’t he? Your sister looks pretty good, but your charm, Honey, can’t be beat. I’d love to see you again, Sweetheart. It’s really been a long time and I’ve missed you every minute. I received a letter from my sister, Marie. She’s the oldest, Bernice is the youngest. In her letter she asked about you. Her husband is in England and she hears from him almost every day. My sister knows just about how often I write, and said if she didn’t hear from Dan, (her husband), as often as she does, that she’d go crazy. So, she wonders how you’re getting along. At first she didn’t believe a girl could stand me, but I guess she sort of changed her mind. You know me, Sweetheart, I try not to let anybody read my mind, and that much less take their advice on love. How do you feel about it, Honey? So you think that anybody but the two who are in love know their feelings? I’m talking too much, I guess, Honey, but I wish you could see me sitting in the tank looking at your sweet picture; just thinking and asking myself a lot of questions. I’m still coming back to my Darling, that’s the thought, Honey, after that we’ll do the thinking together. It’s getting dark now, Gorgeous, so I’d better get this letter out. Oh, yeah, he’s still president, isn’t he? I wish I could vote, Honey, when the fellows argue, I can’t open my trap. Or, somebody shuts it for me. I still love you, Sweetheart, more than anything, everything and etc. My beautiful little Honey is and always will be my Sweetheart.
All my love,
Joe
Tons of kisses
“LeLa, I love ya!”

Lela comments: The phrase used by Joe: “We’ve been at it again” this set my hair on end. He’s referring to being in the battle I suppose or moving about or both. And he doesn’t feel good, he’s got a cold and he’s tired. Dear Lord, I wish he could come home and get some rest. And this phrase, “. . . oh, yeah, he’s still president isn’t he?” A referral to Roosevelt no doubt. In my opinion Roosevelt was a great President, maybe the greatest, and I probably wrote as much to Joe. No matter how much authors try to distort his image I will always say he was great. When I was in grade school we had a chance to go see President Roosevelt at the big stadium where he spoke. Schools were let out for this occasion and my dad drove us there. Also I would listen to his fireside chats as a little child and feel comforted. Children need that feeling of security that I felt from our President’s words and tone of voice.

17 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–HERNY (108-9-45-L) Six tanks came back from Many. Sgt. Starner- Ferry-one replacement-Sgt. Martin and Lt. Gifford all Duty from Hospital. Town still being shelled as usual.

 

The A Company Diary states: “The company returned to Herny on the 17th. Except for a small battle at Elvange, ‘A’ had no further action and on the 23rd was relieved from attachment to the 317th and moved to Carbonnages. This was in preparation of the attack on the Maginot Line. During this whole period, there was no combat losses chalked up against the company, the only casualties were among mess and maintenance personnel due to mortar fire. The company’s gas truck was knocked out in Herny, but the unit obtained revenge when they captured an enemy half-track loaded with 88mm ammunition and manned by one officer and 14 enlisted men. This vehicle had followed a friendly TD gun into the town. Captain Francis L. McDermott commanded the company throughout the operation.”

 

According to the “A” Company diary, Lt. McNeal, T/4 Treasure and P.F.C. Long were standing near a truck when an enemy shell exploded. T/4 Treasure was killed and the other two men were injured. On the ninth, the company diary reported that in order to get gas and ammunition to the tanks, 1st Sgt. Suglio made personal contact with General Summers of the 80th Division, and received priority over the 6th Armored Division to cross the bridge and was personally convoyed by General Summers and complimented.

 

18 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–HERNY (108.9-45.4) Two “Jerry” planes came over area and one was shot down. Town still being shelled. All tanks in Herny now, ready to roll. Eight replacements arrived today. T/5 Jedzrewski transferred to Service Co. as cook, T/5 Palmer from Service Co. to “A” Co. cook. -Ferry- Hospital to Duty. Reported here with slip which put him in Class 2 Duty so he was sent back to Bn. medics.

19 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–HERNY (108.9-45.4) Tanks ready to roll. S/Sgt. Bell to Service Co. for rest. Town not shelled today.

Herny, France
November 19, 1944

My Lovely Darling LeLa,
Hi ya Beautiful. How’s my precious little Honey? I have just enough time to write to you, Sweetheart and let you know just how everything is. You could never guess where we’re resting, Honey, but it’s the nicest place we’ve been in a long time. We have a back room in a nun’s home in the middle of some French town. The sisters are just like ours back home; always smiling and helping somebody. The cooking is the same however; still rations. All we do is talk, Honey. I was listening to the fellows talk last night and thought of something that might interest you. (or us) One fellow said, “I wish I had some ice cream.” Another said, “I could use a bathtub.” And the last guy said, “I wish I could hit my old bed again.” Tell me, Honey, are we or aren’t we fighting for the little things of life? No kidding Honey, all I’m wishing for is being back with you. I just got another letter from you, Darling. You said you haven’t heard from me for three months. You also said you did something about it and hoped it wouldn’t make me angry. What did you do my little Sweetheart? If you’re wondering why I don’t say much about the war, Honey, it’s only because I feel better when I hear less. I do wish it was over just as much as anyone else, only to get back to you, Gorgeous. Nothing else means so much to me as to be near you, always with you and loving you forever. I have a lot more pictures to look at since you sent the last one. At the front the other day I took them out and looked at them. The best one of all is you, Eddie, & Virginia. You look the sharpest, Honey, and would I love to see you standing there like that when I’m around. I wish there was something I could do to keep you from worrying, Honey. Maybe if I get my hands on some French perfume I’ll send it to you for Christmas. You don’t know it, Darling but when I can’t write I’m thinking of you anyway. I take your picture out and just think, and think and think. I can’t say just when I’ll be heading your way, precious, but I’ll be heading your way. You can bet on that. I love you, my Darling and always will. You’re every bit of life, and it’s on paper and in writing. Here it is again, Lovely, if you don’t quite get it. “Darling you’re every bit of my life.” That’s all I’m going to do when I’m with you again; propose, propose, propose. Six times a day, Honey. I might sound too lovesick, Beautiful, but I love being lovesick over you.
My Darling, I love you
Joe
“LeLa I love ya”

Lela comments: When I hadn’t heard from Joe for 3 months I wrote to the War Dept to find out his status. I was worried sick. My answer came back about the time that Joe and his mother wrote to me with explanations. What stuck with me most in this letter was the wishes the guys made, especially the one who wished he could hit his old bed again. What a simple wish but it speaks volumes.

20 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–HERNY (108.9-45.4) Tanks all ready to roll. Cpl. Krum Transferred from “C” Co. to “A” Co. Following men on detached service from HQ Co.; Aylesworth, Sintich, Brooks, Johnson, D’Aurora. 2nd Lt. McNeil from Hospital to Duty. T/4 Dale awarded Purple Heart. Tanks and trains left Herny for MANY at 1400, trains following. Arrived at Many at 1500.

November 20, 1944

Hello Sweetheart,
Back again, Honey! Yesterday I didn’t quite get a chance to mail the letter I wrote so I’m adding another page today. It’s still early in the morning, Darling, and how I would love to be eating breakfast with you. All day I’ll be thinking of you, my Sweet’s, and I hope I get a letter, but if I don’t I’ll write one anyway because I’m behind so far in my letters to you. I forgot to tell you, Gorgeous, that yesterday we had chicken. Bill and I killed four chickens. What a fight we had in the coop after we trapped them. We traded a German Artillery horse for them, but still the C/C thought we stole them. The C/C is the French (Civil inspection Commission). We had to pay 600 Francs, but Bill nor I paid a cent. One chicken we gave to the Sisters, one was sick, so we ate 2. We still feel like shootin’ the rest of the chickens but they’d probably shoot us if we did. All I can do is think of you, Honey. It’s almost Thanksgiving, and you’ll have Turkey, I’m sure. I wish I were sure that we’re going to have it. I’ll miss this Thanksgiving, Honey, I could see myself taking you to a football game. I’ll close now, Honey, but I’ll write again later. I love you with all my heart every minute.
Joe
“LeLa, I love ya”

Lela’s comment: What a scene that must have been, Joe and Bill cornering 4 chickens–the one that died probably died of a heart attack.

21 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–MANY (Q 11-45) Lt. Croxton and Platoon Sgt’s. went on recon mission to Faulquemont, across River under Artillery fire. Sgt. Grattop took up prone position in manure pile. Tanks all ready to roll, at edge of town. S/Sgt. Bell, Sgt. Brown and Cpl. Connell back from resting at Service Co. Pvt. Nalley-Hospital to Duty.

Many, France
November 21, 1944

My Darling LeLa,
I just couldn’t write yesterday, Sweetheart as we moved from our room at the sister’s home. It was nice while it lasted, Honey. Sweetheart I’ve been thinking of Thanksgiving and counting the days. But I’ve been doing more thinking about Christmas. I’d love to send you something, Honey, but it looks like all I’ll send is my love. The same goes for you. Send your love and save everything else for the day I rip-roar back to you. Last night, Honey, we made a bed of straw and slept rather well. We got our rations yesterday, too. Not much but it was good. The biggest kick was getting cigars. Everybody looks like Ned Sparks in a uniform. In your last letter you said you were listening to our song on the radio and “Come out wherever you are.” Did you ever hear “I Walk Alone”? It’s the talk of the front line soldiers, Honey, and I’d like to hear what it sounds like. The radio is a good morale builder, Sweetheart. But you’re my song, music, and everything. I just finished writing a letter to my folks, Honey. They seem to be doing ok from what I hear. How’s your mother, dad, sisters and the new couple doing? How’s your hands; any better? The clipping you sent about the wedding said Carter and your sister will make their home in Wichita. Anywhere near your house, Honey? Or closer to town? You know I haven’t forgotten the kind of house you want, Honey. I can picture it as clear as day, Sweetheart; and the dog, too. That’s the life, Honey & I love you for thinking that way. It’s pretty cold over here, Honey. How is it in Kansas? It seems like just yesterday you were talking about your sunburn, now look at it. Summer, winter, spring, and fall, Honey, I’ll always love you with all my heart.
So long for awhile Beautiful
All my love,
Joe
Plenty of kisses & hugs for my Honey
“LeLa I love ya”

POEM
Christmas Greetings to you, Sweetheart!
Even though we’re far apart; Let’s hope that next Christmas
Will bring us near; Full of laughter, fun, and cheer!
This Christmas, Darling, Won’t seem right, unless my heart, is with you, that night.
I’ll be with you, My lovely one; That’s one present That’s sure to come.
Merry Christmas to you, Sweetheart, from the very bottom of my heart.

– END –

The Christmas Card Joe sent was issued by the 80th Division, and featured a Santa riding in a Jeep. Above the cartoon of Santa that says 80 Christmas on the bumper of the jeep holding Santa and GI Joe, my Joe has printed, “this is just a G.I. issue. And below the cartoon he has printed, “G.I. wish I could kiss you!” Love, JOE

Lela comments: My Christmas poem from Joe came as a nice surprise. Joe, as usual was making the best of being alone and away from home by writing from the heart.

22 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–In the Field– Tanks in Reserve with 317th. Combat Team. Trains with tanks, setting up to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.

23 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location–MANY (Q11-45) -Tanks in Div. Reserve with 317th C.T. Dining room set up for Thanksgiving dinner. Overhead ate dinner at 1500 and then relieved tank crews for their dinner. Menu–9 turkeys, fresh potatoes, canned fruit, turkey dressing, fresh bread, coffee and a cake baked by S/Sgt. Bell. T/5 Barr to T/4- Pvt. Hodson to T/5, Pvt. Sharp to PFC- Pvt. Zinn to PFC, all effective 21 Nov ’44. After dinner tanks left Many and arrived at Faulquemont at 1730. All the trains left the next morning.

24 Nov 1944
France, Alsace
Location FALQUEMONT (Q 17- 49) -All the tanks arrived safely and the kitchen set up in one of the homes. The cooks put up a complete chicken dinner. Lt. McNeil went back to Service Co. to rest for a while. Cpl. Doyle and Pvt. Cornhaber-Hospital to Duty. Thornton-Duty to Hospital

25 Nov 1944
France
Location–FALQUEMONT ( Q 17-49 ) Tanks all left for the attack at 0700, but did not get anywhere. The first time they tried the fields were too soft and they started to bog down. They tried a different way but ran into mines. The third time they tried to get around they ran into an awfully big tank trap that ran for miles so they came back to Faulquemont at 1700. T/4 Barr-Duty to Hospital. Sgt. Deems to our Bn. Medics. All men upon returning, received a portion of liquor from the C.O.

26 Nov 1944
France
Location–FALQUEMONT (Q 17-49) -The tanks left for Teting at 1530; arrived at 1700. The trains arrived at 1800.

27 Nov 1944
France
Location–TETING (21-51 ) One Platoon of tanks left at 0630, for the attack.-The remaining Platoons left for the attack at 1030. All the tanks had to clear the woods by shelling it with 75rnm. H.E. and 30 cal. until they came to a large long tank trap at which they had to for the Engineers to Bridge the ditch before the attack, the whole company stayed at and slept in a German concentration camp. All had wonderful beds. The camp was really the finest in every respect. (Note: Obviously an Army Kasernes, not a concentration camp. This error was realized when we came to Buchenwald. M.S.). Sgt. Gerber received his tank from Bn. Maintenance.

28 Nov 1944
France
Location–MACHERN: (Q 30-56) Tanks left for attack at 0430. Met very stiff opposition- Four tanks were hit by enemy fire. First one was Croxton’s, which was hit nine times. While abandoning the tank, T/4 Schuk twisted his knee. Sgt. Deem’s tank was hit next. Preston, the Driver was killed instantly. While dismounting, the crew was fired on. Sgt. Deems-W.I.A. in the abdomen. Connell was able to walk back to the Medic with his wound. McKinney was K.I.A. when halfway out of the “bog” hatch. S/Sgt. Larkin’s tank was hit twice by a direct fire weapon. He was hit in the forehead with shrapnel. [Larkin & Joe’s tank Rollin Rhino burned, and with it, burned Lela’s photo, which bothered Joe more than the loss of the tank.] Sgt. Gerber’s tank didn’t suffer any casualties from being hit. Lt. Croxton’s tank was brought back by T/5 Winbrow when fog settled in low over the fields. 1st Sgt. Suglio went up to the high ground and brought back Sgt. Deem and PFC Kirtley to the Aid Station. Lt. Gifford was sent out at 2000 to stop a counterattack.

29 Nov 1944
France
Location–SENGBUSCH (Q 33-57) Lt. Gifford’s Platoon attacked (code name: Fairhaven.) (French name not given) and encountered a German tank. Fired at it three times, point blank. The shells bounced off the enemy tank and it pulled away, out of sight. Lt. Gifford kept firing into the town. C.O. went out on several recon missions. The tank Recovery went to pull Sgt. Deem’s tank out and was hit by an A.P., knocking it out. Standing were Lt. Britten and T/5 Wimbrow, both were hit by the enemy fire. All tanks pulled back to Machern at 1800, in Div. Reserve. Both Brittan and T/5 Wimbrow-Duty to Hospital.

30 Nov 1944
France
Location–MACHERN (Q 30-56) The whole Company is together, here in this town, in Div. Reserve with the 317th Combat Team. One Platoon of “D” Co. is back with us.

1 Dec 1944
France
Location– MACHERN (Q 3056) All were paid today. No changes, still in Division Reserve.

2 Dec 1944
France
Location– MACHERN (Q 30-56 ) Company all together in town. Sgt. Jones and Pvt. Whitehouse-Duty to Hospital. Lt. Springer, Lt. Gray, T/4. Robert Blue and Pvt. Clair have joined our Company.

3 Dec 1944
France
Location–MACHERN (Q 30-56) “C” Co. tank attached to us, Sgt’s. Lamb’s and Gerber’s tanks came back from Bn. Maintenance today, PFC Maar and Sgt. Brow-Duty to Hospital with bad colds. Company still in Div. Reserve. C.O. had meeting with all tank Commanders concerning tomorrow’s attack. Sgt. Gray-Duty to Hospital as of 23 Nov ’44. All men at Ord. Paid. Capt. McDermott received Silver Star on 30 Nov 1944. Sgt. Polin received Bronze Star 30 Nov 44. S/Sgt. Szymanski received Bronze Star 22 Nov 1944, Sgt. U.P. Jones received Bronze Star 30 Nov ’44, Pvt. Collins-Duty to Hospital with cramps in stomach.

 

Wichita, Kansas
Sun. Dec. 3, 1944

Dearest Darling,
Hi sweetheart! Mm- Kiss X I love you. Gosh, it feels good to be writing to you again. Our aristocratic relatives are here (in the front room). My, they are a bore to listen to. They arrived at 1:30 A.M. this morning. We expected them at 4 P.M. yesterday but a trainload of bombs exploded in New Mexico and their train had to be re-routed. Mom is sending you a Xmas card and I didn’t have anything to do with it. I believe she’s real fond of you, Joe. Joe, I really love you so much I’d be willing to give up anything for you. I’ve already given up the idea of college. I think I’d hate it anyway. Oh, Honey, if I don’t get you back I’ll either die or become an old maid. The news isn’t so good now, is it? I thought maybe you would be marching into Berlin on Christmas but I guess those Germans will fight until there isn’t anymore. Kitty got a hold of Grandma B’s yarn and got it tangled all over the house. More fun. I’m pretty tired, Honey. Last night after I got off work I cleaned house. It seems as though the family has come to depend on me for the housework (ahem). Mom told me I would make a good housewife. (Hint, hint) Well, Honey, I guess I’d better go to bed. I love you Sweetheart, please love me.
Love forever & ever,
LeLa

Lela comments: When I review this letter I’d written in 1944 I see a lot of immaturity and hope that Joe will be patient with me for making such comments as “our aristocratic relatives”–and a “bore to listen to”. I wouldn’t call them aristocratic, maybe citified, would be a better term. They lived in New York City prior to WWII, and then moved to California where they thought it might be safer. Grandma B. was Grandma Bush who was my dad’s mother. Her maiden name was Siegfreid. That part of the family changed the spelling from Siegfried for some reason. As a matter of note: During WWII an important name in Germany was the Siegfried line.

December 4, 1944
Machern, France (Q 30-56) Tanks left for attack at 7 a.m. Lieutenant went in place of Sgt. Brown as platoon leader and tank commander. Tanks crossed bridge before noon. First Sergeant Suglio and T/5 Rider viewed PFC McKinney’s body today, and it was pretty badly mashed up.

December 5, 1944
Machern (Q 30-56) Tanks came back to Machern after completing their mission. Captain McDermott from duty to the hospital-wounded in action. Glantz, Barr, Mahlon and Murphy from hospital to duty. Lt. Gifford too over command of A Company today. D Company tanks returned to their own company area. Boys came back from pass to Paris.

Wichita, Kansas
Dec. 5, 1944

Dear Joe,
Your letters always have a way of surprising me. On my way home I think, “Now I wonder if I’ll get a letter”. Usually there isn’t any, but when there is- Oh boy! The one I received tonight was dated Nov. 16. In answer to your question, the smile in the picture was for you, Darling. I was very happy that day because I was thinking of us & our day. Oh, brother! Daddy is rather big isn’t he? His temper has been pretty good since the wedding. Maybe he realizes that we’re growing up and are forming our own opinions. The relatives left this morning at 9:30 A.M. I was rather surprised but we’ve been threatened with floodwaters again. The whole North end is under water again like it was last spring. I can’t figure how Marie thought a girl couldn’t stand you. It’s just the other way around to me. How do you stand me? You know, our family has names corresponding to yours. My grandfather’s name is George Joseph, my sister is Rose Marie, my aunt is Bernice, my cousin Billie Mae in New York is married to a Dan. Billie Mae was a nightclub & radio singer & Dan was the bartender in the nightclub. These wicked people. Tsk, tsk. Of course, only the people in love know their feelings. Only those two know what is best for them & their feelings for each other. Tonight I am invited to a surprise party for one of my girlfriends. There won’t be any of those boys there so it won’t turn out like the other. Its six now and I still have to get my algebra so I’d better hurry. Carter is here now waiting for Julia. Every time I start to write he starts trying to talk politics. Mean man. Honey, I guess I’d better close. I love you, Sweetheart, more & more & more. Believe me.
Love, LeLa
I love you, Darling. Mm- Brother.
Kisses XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Merry Christmas, Joe.
Love forever & ever.

Lela comments: My statements and comments in this letter that I’d written early in December were in answer or referral to Joe’s letter that I’d received that was dated November 16. He mentions Marie in that letter as being his older sister and saying she didn’t know how a girl could stand him. I guess that’s just sibling talk but I took offense to it. When I speak of family names being similar I didn’t know at the time that Joe’s mother’s maiden name was George. My grandfather Triboulet’s mother was a George before marriage. How interesting.

December 6, 1944
Machern (Q 30-56) Men did first echelon maintenance on tanks. Lt. McNeal came back to the company after resting up in Service Company. Lt. Gifford and 1st Sgt. Suglio saw Capt. McDermott off on his trip back to the States. He wasn’t too badly hurt.

December 7, 1944
Machern (Q 30-56) T/5 William F. Hughes transferred from C Company to A Company by verbal order of the commanding officer as of today. T/4 Orlando N. Barr from duty to hospital with stomach trouble. All tanks put on new grousers today. 50 Caliber machineguns were fired for test today. All in good shape. Company is getting ready for move to Lachambre, France tonight. T/4 Paul Robertson relieved from duty to A Company and sent back to Service Company as of today.

Wichita, Kansas
Thursday, Dec. 7, 1944

Dear Joe,
Did I ever get a buzz tonight. Oh brother. Four lovely letters from you, Sweetheart. I came in and looked on the piano and thought they were all mine returned & I got so disgusted. Mom & Eddie asked me what was wrong, then I looked at the address & they were all from you, “Sigh”. Honey, I’m not crying any more. I just cry when I don’t hear from you and everything about war reminds me of you & I get scared. What kind of cards do you play? No one I know knows how so I’ve never learned either. When you went to that barbershop did you have whiskers, too? They didn’t give you a G.I., did they? I like to comb people’s hair, so I’ll do it for you when you come back. We’re together in our thoughts already, Joe. When my schedule or assignments get mixed up I say I’ll be glad when I’m out of here & Joe comes back. Summer school & senior subj. We’ve known each other ten months. Gosh! You said there hasn’t been any changes between us, Joe. You’re wrong. I have much more feelings & love for you than the last time I saw you. Right now I would marry you this minute if you wanted me to. Did you recognize the date? It seems like this war has taken up my whole lifetime, but it has only been 3 years. Probably be 2 more only I hope not. You’re wonderful, Joe. Have I told you yet I love you? Wait ’til I tell you in person. The radio is relating the story of Pearl Harbor now. I remember that time we were out at my grandmother’s & everyone got excited, etc. The blood bank has been established in our gym for the week so today the biology class took a tour in it. It’s really interesting. One of my girlfriend’s father (our grocer) is in the Third Army. Today they received word from the Army that he has been wounded. They were pretty upset over it. Joe, is Bill the friend that you were with out at Shadowland? I remember you thought he could dance pretty good, but I never met him. I’ve got a big English test tomorrow over “Thus be it Ever” so I’d better close. Goodnight sweetheart,
Love forever & ever,
LeLa

Lela comments: My referral to our grocer, being in the 3rd Army and wounded was my friend, Peggy’s dad. I was surprised when Mr. Scott went to war since he had 3 children. This news upset the whole neighborhood because we thought the world of that family. He came back, though, to run the store a few more years then he went into politics. In this letter I have asked Joe if Bill was with him at Shadowland. No doubt I’m referring to Bill Beck who helped Joe capture the chickens and was in the picture of the tank crew.

December 8, 1944
Lachambre (Q 27-53) Tanks in reserve, all maintenance done on vehicles. Men all took showers today. 100-Hour checks pulled on tanks. All weapons cleaned. Grousers put on remaining tanks. All tanks cleaned inside and under turret baskets. Company arrived at Lachambre at 6 p.m., December 7, 1944.

December 9, 1944
Lachambre (Q 27-53) Guns were checked by 501st Ordnance. Men still cleaning tanks. 2nd Lt. Prestridge from C Company visited A Company for a few hours. (Note: Lt.’s Springer, Gray, Still & Prestridge all came to the 702nd Tank Battalion together and were good friends. Prestridge & Still in C Company and Gray & Springer in A Company paid visits back and forth when possible.) Men getting haircuts today. Three hot meals served men. Officers received whiskey ration. Duffle bags were picked up. Buckowski and Pvt. Burgerhuff joined A Company today. German Underground Resistance Movement Extract read to all of company.

December 10, 1944
Lachambre (Q 27-53) Sgt. Polin’s and S/Sgt. Szymanski’s tanks left for 501st Ordnance to have their 75mm guns fixed. Lt. Croxton went to Battalion to check on furloughs. Five men and one officer went to Nancy on pass today. Men went to mass today at village church. Padre held mass for battalion. Commanding Officer had meeting with Major James this morning. Men received clean laundry today. Col. Talbot visited the company. Men paid on supplementary payroll today. We had showers again.

December 11, 1944
Lachambre (Q 27-53) Men went to dentist today. Commanding Officer and five men went to Nancy on pass. Red Cross Clubmobile was in our area with coffee and doughnuts. Fifty men went to see a U.S.O. show at St. Avold in 317th Infantry Regiment area. Preparations being made for a party that is to take place tomorrow. Five men on pass to Nancy.

Lachambre, France
December 11, 1944

LeLa My Darling,
Here’s that lonesome soldier boy of yours again sweetheart, just thinking of you and all those little thoughts only you and I share. If I started this letter off a little different honey, don’t mind it. It’s just because I promised myself I’d write you a letter with everything I had to make up for lost time. I never get tired of thinking of the girl I love no matter how much I have on my mind, for honey when I think of you, I’m more than happy. With all my thoughts about you darling, I’ll never be able to express how much I miss you. I know you’re waiting lovely, and understand so much, even though you’re not here seeing all this mess. That’s one thing out of a million that I love you for. Here it is almost Christmas. Of course darling, you know what I’m thinking. You’re going to look sweet, so sweet, Honey that this is one Christmas I’m really going to miss. I’d love to be there helping with the tree; and be able to present you with a gift followed by a big kiss would finish me for the rest of the day. This won’t be our last Christmas, Honey. We’ll be together on the next, and the next, and all the rest that follow.

Honey, I have what might be a surprise to you, but it’s more of an indirect surprise to me. Remember I asked you to send me your love for Christmas. I didn’t know then that I’d get near enough to a town to buy you a little something, but as our tank is in Ordnance getting fixed up, we happened to get a pass to a town that wasn’t off limits. It might not get to you before Christmas sweetheart, but it’s something you can remember this Christmas by, from me to you honey. We also had a few pictures of our crew taken. It’s not very good of us or me, but nothing’s too good over here. If we had more time honey, I would have had one taken just for you. If I get another chance honey, it will be done. My darling, I love you so very much, there’s no end to my feeling. I sure wish that I could fit in this envelope so it could carry me right back to you. Sweetheart, I don’t know, but no matter how long this war lasts, or no matter how long we’re apart, I’ll always love you with all my heart. The few times we spent together made my love for you life-long, and no other one but you will ever appeal to me as you do.

I have to hurry this letter honey, but I made up my mind to write my sweetheart and the whole German army isn’t going to make me stop. I wish that I had a lot to say honey, but nothing ever happens worth talking about. I don’t think I’ll ever write another letter after this war precious. All I’m going to do is talk to you and spend every minute with my darling. As long as I’m away though, I’ll write you lovely. Everyone at home is feeling okay and wishing the war to end. That’s all they ask me when they write; “When’s the war going to end.” “Sooner or later” is the only answer I can think of. How’s everything with your folks honey? It isn’t too cold for you yet, is it? Keep your beautiful little chin up honey, better days are coming. You can tell by this picture it’s not too warm over here. Before I end this letter gorgeous, I want you to know that you’re the sweetest little darling a fellow far away could have. You know me well enough Honey, to figure my remembering it while I’m over here and never forgetting it when I come back to you. Your sweetness and true blue love you’re holding for me, I could never be too thankful for. I love you with all my heart, every minute.
Just for a while honey,
All my love,
Joe
“LeLa I love you”

Lela comments: To read the love and wishes in this letter is sad, knowing how much he’d like to be back in time for the big Holiday of the year, Christmas. Everyone should be home for Christmas. He’s been gone so long. I was wondering what kind of Christmas he would have, if any.

December 12, 1944
Lachambre (Q 27-53) Five men went to Nancy on pass. Beer and chicken party was held by us and it was a success. Col. Talbot, Maj. James and Capt. Cohen were guests. Instead of making a speech, the colonel sang us a song. He was pretty good too. Red Cross Clubmobile girls also attended the party.

December 13, 1944
Lachambre (Q 27-53) Five men on pass to Nancy. Tanks putting on a demonstration for the 317th Combat Team of the 80th Infantry Division. Infantrymen rode in tanks, buttoned up, and they liked it a lot. Pvt. Hillig and Pvt. Hask from the hospital to duty.

December 14, 1944
Lachambre (Q27-53) Five men to Nancy on pass. Tanks taking men of the 317th Regiment Combat Team for familiarization “buttoned-up” rides. Sgt. Williams and T/5 Kramer from duty to the hospital. Williams broke arm at Ordnance and Kramer has a hernia. General Courts Martial Order No. 50 read to all the men of A Company. Three tanks came back from Ordnance.

December 15, 1944
Lachambre (Q 27-53) Five men on pass to Nancy. S/Sgt. Lazarus L. Turkoff 32107148 originally from C Company, from duty to the hospital. Men finished with “buttoned-up” rides for men of the 317th Regiment Combat Team today.

December 16, 1944
No Entry Recorded

December 17, 1944
Bining (65-49) Left Lachambre, France at 12:45 p.m. Arrived at Bining, France at 5:30 p.m. All went well. One tank had trouble with gas line. Sgt. Van Fossen’s tank is back from Ordnance.

December 18. 1944
Bining (65-49) Sgt. Szymanski back from Battalion Maintenance with tank. Five men to Nancy on four-day passes. A German plane flew over, the men shot at it.

December 19, 1944
Bining (65-49) Left Bining at noon. Lt. Atkins was hurt when his tank skidded into a tree one and a half foot thick. Lt. Atkins from duty to hospital. Accident occurred at Saarlabe (Q 48-44). Tanks gassed up at town of Machern. Tank pulled 16-ton truck, which was towing an 8-inch gun, out of a ditch. Tanks left Machern at 5 p.m. Sgt. Talun, in Lt. Atkins’ tank, fell out of formation at St. Avold. Thirteen tanks arrived at 10 p.m. Lt. Gray’s tank fell out of formation along the way. Esch, Luxembourg

December 20, 1944
Gonderange, Luxembourg-The tanks left the town of Esch at 6:30 a.m. and came to the town of Gonderange at 9 a.m. Gassed up and awaited orders. Remained in town this day.

December 21, 1944
Gonderange-The Company got up at 7 a.m. Pulled out at 1 p.m. and arrived at Beggen, Luxembourg at 3 p.m. Gassed up and performed first echelon maintenance on tanks.

December 22, 1944
Beggen (P 84-14) The Company moved out at 12:30 p.m. Arrived at the town of Rollingen, Luxembourg (P 83-28) at 1:30 p.m. The 105mm Howitzer remained at Beggen with engine trouble.

December 23, 1944
Neiderfeulen, Luxembourg (P 79-41). The Company got up at 7 a.m. and moved from Neiderfeulen to the town of Berg at 2:45 p.m. The tanks were attacking. The trains remained at Berg. Leszcynski in trying to unload his .45 caliber automatic, shot Ferry and himself in the leg. Both men from duty to the hospital.

December 24, 1944
Berg (P 81-36) We left Berg at 11 p.m. and arrived at Neiderfeulen at 11:45 p.m. The overhead got up at 7 a.m. The tanks attacked at 3 a.m., losing one tank. Three tanks bogged down in woods. Crews disassembled all guns. Tanks were pulled back at 9 a.m. The town was shelled very heavily. Cpl. Zigman was wounded in the eye by shrapnel. Cpl. Zigman from duty to hospital. The trains came back to the town of Berg. They left Neiderfeulen at 6 p.m. and arrived in Berg at 6:30 p.m. The tanks went up on the hill at 7 p.m. as roadblocks. Sgt. Van Fossen’s crew took six prisoners, one captain and five enlisted men.

December 25, 1944
Berg (P 81-36) Overhead got up at 6:30 a.m. and made breakfast for the company. Tanks were attacking. “Peep” took rations to tankers. Lt. Gray wounded in leg, from duty to hospital. Ammo and gas trucks serviced tanks. Trains stayed in Berg. Tanks attacking at 10 a.m. Town of Kehmen now burning. The infantry got into Kehmen but withdrew the second night. Tanks knocked out three pillboxes, getting quite a few prisoners. DeLaurentis, Duggan and Tondreau are M.I.A. They returned three days later.

December 26, 1944
Berg (P 81-36) Trains left Berg and arrived at Neiderfeulen at 11 a.m. Tanks attacking Kehmen. Trucks went up with ammo. Sgt. Foster’s tank was knocked out and Sgt. Szymanski’s also. Talun’s tank came back, being hit by only an H.E. shell, which knocked off a few blocks. Larkin’s tank had engine trouble. They all returned to the town of Neiderfeulen. Kirkley, F. MIA, McConnell and Hale-MIA.

December 27, 1944
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town of Neiderfeulen. Tanks were on high ground outside of Kehmen. Town was heavily shelled that night. The kitchen truck was hit in the gas tank and radiator by shrapnel. Tanks remained on high ground all night. T/5 Manning, Pvt. LeBrick, and Cpl. Dampf from duty to the hospital.

December 28, 1944
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Trains stayed in this town. Four B Company relieve four A Company tanks on the hill. One A Company tank and four B Company tanks remain on hill all night. 1st Sgt. Suglio took dinner up to the boys on the hill. On the way back, he picked up three prisoners. Larkin’s tank remained on the hill with the four B Company tanks. Ammo and gas trucks went back to the town of Berg.

Phila. PA.
Dec. 28, 1944

My Dear Lela,
Received your letter and very glad to hear from you. Certainly glad you liked the gift from Joe. Do you get letters from Joe? I mean, often, as I only hear from him about once a month, but I can understand he doesn’t get time to write. I only pray that the War will soon end, and he gets back safely. He sent a picture of himself and the crew and he looks as though he’s been putting on a lot of weight. It doesn’t look so much like him. Just the same, I was glad to receive the picture. Lela I’m going to ask you to send me a picture of yourself, just a snapshot will do. As I don’t want to put you through too much trouble getting a picture taken if you don’t have any. And if you’re ever near Phila., don’t forget to stop in to see me, after you get in the city call me on our phone and I can meet you, at the station. That way you won’t be all confused. While here writing I’m listening to the news on the radio, Joe’s Army, which I believe is General Patton’s 3rd Army, is doing pretty good for themselves. Although I just hate the thought of what Joseph must be going through, still we can’t do anything about it. I must stop writing, as it’s almost dinnertime and the family wants to eat. So I’ll say: So Long & Kind remembrance from each of the family and I’m
Mrs. M. De Laurentis

Joe’s Christmas Gifts To Lela: A Heart-Shaped Bracelet, A Bracelet Made Of Luxembourg Coins, A Lock of His Hair And Some Luxembourg Paper Money (Not Shown)

December 29, 1944
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Mackle’s tank came back from Battalion Maintenance. Sgt. Millstone came back with the retriever. New officer, Lt. McAllister joined the company. Five tanks in holding positions on the outskirts of Kehmen all night. Five tank crews relieve men on hill at 6:30 p.m. Maintenance building hit by shell, killing one man and wounding three others from T.O. Sgt. Grey from hospital to duty. Town heavily shelled last night.

December 30, 1944
No Entry

December 31, 1944
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town all day. S/Sgt. Bell from duty to hospital with stomach trouble. Five tanks on hill on outskirts of Kehmen in holding positions. Breakfast taken to the men on the hill at 9 a.m. At 6:30 p.m. the five tanks returned to Neiderfeulen. The roads were covered with ice, taking about two hours for the tanks to get to town. Town was shelled at noon and at 4 p.m. The supply truck was hit by shrapnel. The windshield was broken and one tire destroyed.

Best Friends-Joe DeLaurentis And Bill Beck

 

Joe’s Tank Crew, On Leave In Nancy, France
Seated-Joe DeLaurentis And S/Sgt. (Later Lt.) Marx Larkin
Standing- Pvt. James J. Tondreau, Cpl. William C. Beck, And Pvt. Jack Duggan

January 1, 1945
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Tanks, Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town all day. Frank E. Martin from duty to the hospital due to wound in left eye received during shelling of town on December 29, 1944. S/Sgt. Larkin takes over as Platoon Leader. Beck, Breslin and Grey take over positions as tank commanders. Town shelled at 10 p.m.

January 2, 1945
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Tanks, Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town all day. Officers receive whiskey ration. Pvt. Ted L. Nalley from hospital to duty. Town shelled lightly at 2 a.m. Tank crews perform 1st echelon maintenance on vehicles and clean guns.

January 3, 1945
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Tanks, Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town all day. The company had a turkey dinner today. Town shelled at night. Men performing 1st echelon maintenance and cleaning guns.

January 4, 1945
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Tanks, Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town all day. Lt. Gifford attended meeting. Larkin, Gratopp, Foster, Hildebrand, Szymanski and crews leave for Battalion to pick up five new tanks with 76mm guns. Tanks in Battalion Maintenance, with crews cleaning guns and combat stowing tanks. Town shelled at 4 a.m.

January 5, 1945
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Tanks, Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town all day. Town shelled very heavily at 2 p.m. and at 3:30 p.m. T/4 Schweiger hit in arms and legs by shrapnel-from duty to hospital. T/Sgt. Chmeil brought company medic to the scene. Lt. Gifford and 1st Sgt. Suglio lend helping hand evacuating the wounded man. Five new tanks expected to arrive tomorrow.

January 6, 1945
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Kitchen and Maintenance stayed in town all day. Trains moved up to Neiderfeulen from Berg. Town shelled very heavily all day. Eight tanks and one howitzer moved from Neiderfeulen to highway south of Heiderscheid. Men sleeping in house waiting for orders to move. Five new tanks arrive in company today, with 76mm guns. Each of the new tanks remain in Neiderfeulen. Men completing work on them. One old tank also remains. Sgt. Polin’s tank to Battalion Maintenance. T/5 Massington and Le Brick from hospital to duty. Lt. Gifford’s tank returned from Ordnance. Maylie, Harris, Drouin, Burns, Poor, Kelley and Worden all return from Ordnance to company. Chow is taken to the tankers by “peep”. Pvt. J.W. O’Brien, Cpl. J.G. Edwards, PFC C.F. Atkins, T/5 Ben Cairo, PFC L.E. Zeisner and Pvt. F.J. Murray transferred from Headquarters Company to A Company. Sgt. Hildebrand from duty to the hospital-injured head in tank accident.

January 7, 1945
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town all day. Four new tanks and Lt. Gifford’s tank join rest of company south of Heiderscheid. 1st Sgt. Suglio taken sick and goes back to Battalion Headquarters. Pvt. Reid joins company from the infantry. S/Sgt. Gratopp takes over as acting 1st Sgt.

January 8, 1945
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town all day. Pvt. Winterton joins company from the infantry. Officers received liquor ration. Tanks south of Heiderscheid waiting for orders.

January 9, 1945
Neiderfeulen (P 79-41) Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed in town all day. Sgt. Foster’s tank, with “blade” arrived in company today. Pvt. Bufford joins company from infantry. 1st Sgt. Suglio returned to company from medics. Men painting lime on tanks for camouflage.

10 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location–NEIDERFEULEN–(P 7941). Maintenance trains and kitchen stayed all day. PFC George R. Hench, PFC Albert J. Amendola, Pvt. Tom B. Mitchell, Pvt. Mickey Zinkovich, PFC Edward F. Mittlebronn and Pvt. Earl F. Travis all joined Co. “A” today, from the infantry. T/5 Denham reduced to Pvt., misconduct. The following men are promoted to Corporal; PFC Edward Haski, PFC Joseph J. Quarttucio, Pvt. George R. Strossenberge. The following men are promoted to Sgt. as of 2 Jan. 1945; Cpl, William Co Beck, Cpl. Thomas F. Breslin, T/4 Thomas H. Hildebrand. The following men are promoted to Technician 4th Grade, as of 2 Jan 1945; T/5 Nick DiAlesandro, T/5 Jubal W. Owens. The following men are promoted to Technician 5th Grade as of 2 Jan 1945; PFC Theodore G. Blew, PFC Robert L. Sharp. Sgt. Williams returned to Co. from Hospital.

11 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location–NEIDERFEULEN– (P 7941). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. PFC Jutras-Duty to Hospital (rheumatism), Sgt. VanFossen-Duty to Hospital (stomach). Tanks still south of’ Heiderscheid waiting for orders.

12 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location- NEIDERFEULEN– (P 7941). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Sgt. Rice and crew leave for Bn. Maintenance to pick up new Ford tank.

13 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location– NEIDERFEULEN– (P 7941). Trains. Maintenance, and kitchen stayed all day. Sgt. Rice and crew return from Bn. Maintenance without new tanks It was a “dry run”. Cpl. Eiler returns to Co. from Hospital after about 4 months.T/5 Firman back from Ord. with tank, S/Sgt. Larkin receives Commission as 2nd Lt. and is transferred to Co “B”. 2nd Lt’s., Clark F. Shaulis and Ivan W. Walker transferred to Co. “A”.

14 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location– NEIDERFEULEN– (P 7941) Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Pvt. Liskiewicz -Duty to Hospital. Pvt. Heckard- Hospital to Duty. Sgt. Williams tank goes to Bn. Maintenance. Catholic services were held in the town. Retriever reported to “D” Co, at 0830. Pulled in a Co. “D” tank that had rolled down a slope. Pvt. Denton joined Co. from infantry.

Neiderfeulen, Luxembourg
January 14, 1945

My precious darling LeLa,
Hello, Sweetheart! “Surprised?” hearing from me ought to be a surprise since I haven’t written since last year. I really tried though, Honey, but after you finish reading this letter you’ll feel better and understand more. Before I go any further, Honey, I still love you, Gorgeous, with all my heart, and miss you very much every minute of the day. You’re in for a few shocks, Honey. Some are good, and some are bad. Our tank, [in the actual handwritten letter this word, “tank”, was blacked out by the censor), was destroyed in action. That’s the easy way of saying it, Honey. Your picture and everything else except a gun and me are gone. I really feel bad about it, Sweetheart, everybody’s Okay, and we have another tank already, but no picture. All my writing paper and pen, letters, and etc. are also gone. Nice Christmas and New Year this was, but, it’s not my last one, Honey. When I get back to you everyday will be Christmas. I suppose you know about where I am, Honey, (somewhere in Luxembourg anyway). Really getting around these days. Maybe I’d be getting back to you if some of those big shots in Washington would keep their mouths shut. I received a lot of packages from relatives, and from home, Honey, also a swell, super package from you. I wish I could kiss ya. Much snow in Wichita, Honey? Plenty over here.

Our tank is all white and really cold. Before I forget, Honey, that candy, “Divinity fudge” (I think) was really good. You can stop looking for it now, Honey, (reference to the bracelet you sent, and “yes”, I have it on and it just fits. Looks good, Sweet’s, thanks! You probably have the bracelet I told my mother to send to you by now. I haven’t seen it but I hope you like it, Honey. I received about four letters from you since Christmas, Honey. One had all songs in it. I like that, Honey. I forgot a lot of things just looking over what you fix up. I sure miss the radio a lot. I had one in my car, and it was always on. Only if you were beside me it would have been perfect. In one of your letters, Honey, you sort of shut your father up by saying there’s no harm in just thinking about love. It seems like all they have against you is your age. How old are you, Honey? Tell me, it won’t make any difference I promise; because I’m still considered a kid in a lot of ways. I don’t think of anything, or listen to anybody, Honey, because I can’t think of anything but getting back to you.

After I’m with you again, Sweetheart, things will work for out for themselves. Because I love you and that’s all that counts, if you feel the same. I feel pretty good, and have you to thank for it, Honey; I’d be half crazy if I didn’t have you. If somebody doesn’t end this war soon, I’ll get back my own way. Oh, yes, Sweetheart, those shocks I was telling you about in the beginning of this letter, some have yet to come, so say you love me no matter what and also say you’ll always be my Honey. You know that time waits for no one, and all the time I’ve known you, almost a year, I’ve told you a million times that I love you, and always will. Every time I said those words I meant it. You’re only one sweet LeLa, Honey, and that’s the only LeLa for me. So, when surprises come, if they do, just think twice and to yourself, Honey. I guess I shouldn’t even ask that, because I know you will. I just love you so much, Sweetheart, it hurts, and I’m only thinking of you. I wouldn’t dream of doing anything to hurt you, Lovely, or our love. I want you to trust me as much as you love me. If this has you puzzled, Honey, let me know, but if you know already do the next best thing. I love you, LeLa!
Your Joe
Always
“LeLa, I love you”

Lela comments: I was so relieved to hear that Joe had received the ID bracelet that I’d sent to him for Christmas. He had only written one letter during the month of December and that was the one on the 11th. It was a long wait in between and it was stressful. The newsreels at the movies showed the deep snow that the infantry and the tanks had to wade through. Joe says his tank was white and cold–it’s impossible to imagine how cold. Enough to get frostbitten feet, I’m sure. This was the most sad letter that I’d ever received. Between the lines I felt he was really tired, wanted out, and wanted to come home. Joe’s comment on the candy sent to him by my mother was Divinity; I’m surprised he liked it because I found out later that he didn’t care much for sweets. I heard the other guys liked it a lot. The bracelet: the bracelet I gave Joe that Christmas was an ID bracelet. I racked my brain trying to figure what to give him–it had to be a fairly small size to fit in the package and something not frivolous that would get in the way. I walked the snowy streets of downtown Wichita on a winter night. The stores remained open on Saturday night. The stores were lit up with Christmas lights, all red and green, blue and gold: their colors reflected on the snow outside. That memory of shopping on Wichita streets has been one of my treasures. When I saw those ID bracelets I knew that was the right gift. I had no idea about the possible “surprises” that Joe spoke of. He sure had a lot of explaining to do when he got home.

15 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location-NEIDERFEULEN– (P 7941). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Five new tanks tested their guns today. Each tank fired 2 rounds. The shells landed somewhere in Germany. Preparations are being made for indirect firing which is to start tomorrow. Town bombed and strafed.

16 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location- NEIDERFEULEN–(P 7941). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Four tanks in position to do indirect firing. Men taken in for showers today. Lt. Murray visited the Company today on a 48-hour pass. Everyone was glad to see him and remarked how well he looked.

17 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location- NEIDERFEULEN–(P 7941). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Men finishing the showers today. Indirect firing is cancelled. Tanks are alerted for attack. Some of the men are taken to the dentist today. Lt. Murray left today. Lt. Shaulis takes over the 2nd Platoon. Lt. McAllister is appointed Liaison Officer. C.O. and Lt. Springer went on Recon in the vicinity of Kehmen.

Neiderfeulen, Luxembourg
January 17, 1945

My lovely, darling LeLa,
I want you to know, Darling, how sorry I am for writing that last letter the way I did. I was pretty tired, and disgusted when I wrote it, and didn’t mean those things I said about getting back to you my own way if the war didn’t end soon. I’m sorry for a lot more than that, too, Beautiful. If you don’t get what I mean maybe this will refresh your memory. We were standing on your street corner, Honey, and I said in a very sad way that you’re too good for me, and it would be better if I never saw you again. You didn’t know why I said that, then, Sweetheart, but you know now. Then I made a quick decision and called you from the bus station, and told you I’m going to stick to you. Remember, Honey? Well, I did for almost a year, but you had to find out sometime, so I let it go. I wanted to tell you myself, Beautiful, but kept thinking I might not get the chance. I didn’t feel right anyway, and I love you so damn much, Gorgeous, I couldn’t keep it from you any longer. You and my mother must be pretty good friends by now, Sugar. What’s she got to say, Honey? Or is it personal? I keep looking over those songs you sent, Gorgeous. “I’ll Walk Alone” is a good one for me. I’ll walk alone for the rest of my life if I ever lose you, Precious. I have one for you, Honey; maybe it will help you a little. Imagine it being sung by the Ink Spots, but me holding you, and talking like that Ink Spotter does.

Here goes: “If I didn’t care, Honey Chile, that is more than words can say, would my every prayer, Honey Chile, say your very name, and how can you or I be sure that this is love beyond compare, Honey, would all this be fair, if I didn’t care for you?”

That’s the way I feel and think, Honey. I’m waiting for a letter from you, Precious, with your opinion. I know one thing, Beautiful, if it’s interesting to you or not, I don’t know who I’ll be a disappointment to, maybe to myself. Anyway, Honey, Joe Foster is always going to be Joe Foster if law permits it. I’m feeling fine, Honey, and everything’s going OK. I love you more than anything else in the world, and always will. I have a better feeling anyway, Honey, because when I think of you, you’re so close to me it’s just like looking in your eyes and saying, “Do I love you, Gorgeous?” What’s my Honey going to say? When it’s real cold and I’m sitting in the tank I dream that I’m married to you and we have a home of our own, and Honey, you don’t know how much my mind is taken away from the battle front, and off that cold tank. That’s why I get so disgusted, thinking this war is never going to end. It’s so hard to wait for such happiness, Honey; it just blinds all those beautiful thoughts. It’s going to end one of these days though, Honey, and I pray that you’ll still want me, and the good Lord will spare me so I can live a decent life with a lovely wife.

If everything I wish for would come true, Honey, I’d be set. But, it’s just like this war if every bullet hit its target there wouldn’t’ be anybody left to fight. So maybe by taking things as they come there will be a chance for everything to turn out all right. I sure miss that picture or yours Sweetheart, all I have to look at is the small ones of you and the family. They are nice though, and I still say you look like a million dollars –even better. I often wonder if you’ve changed any. How about it, Honey? I’ve picked up a couple of inches, so I’m told. I’m also told that I’ve gained weight. Somehow I don’t feel any different. I was just looking at the pictures, Honey, how’s the family? Your sister and husband back in Wichita and settled down, I suppose. I never did thank Eddie for the Xmas tree, so if it’s not too late tell her thank you for me, will you? That sure was a swell package, Gorgeous, and gift. Honey, I just remembered another thing I should tell you about –it isn’t anything special, but you told me about Johnny, and Tom, and the rest, but I never have told you about the girl I once went with. Her name’s Jerry Ulmer, from Philadelphia.. She knows about me but she doesn’t know everything. She’s forgotten, too, Honey, for good. Nobody like my LeLa anywhere. No love anywhere too great for my LeLa, but I love you best, Gorgeous. I’ll be back again tomorrow, Honey. I sure do love you, precious. Your Joe always, and love beyond compare. Eight pages full of hugs and kisses!
“LeLa, I love ya.”
Joe

Lela comments: Joe referred to the last letter he’d written and seemed to regret writing it. That last letter that was puzzling to me and he still seemed disgusted in this letter with life as he was living it. How terribly, terribly cold it must have been. In order to take his mind off “things” he dreams of such things as being married to me and us having a home of our own, ” . . . and Honey, You don’t know how my mind is taken away from the battle front and off that cold tank.” That’s downright heartbreaking to know that a human being is suffering in that way. It’s inhuman and barbaric for anyone to expect a 20-year-old kid to live like this. His mother was suffering for him, I was suffering for him.

18 Jan 1944
Luxembourg
Location- NEIDERFUELEN–(P 7941). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Second Platoon left at 0700 for town of Kehmen. Mission was to let the Germans know they were coming and to shell the town. Weather was poor. Visibility was very bad. Direct fire and mortar fire was received from the enemy. All tanks returned at 0930. Results were excellent. S/Sgt. Gratopp’s new tank now has a few battle scars. Company is now on a semi alert, to be ready to move on a half-hour notice. Sgt. Hildebrand returned to the Co., today. Hospital to Duty. Sgt. Foster reported to 305th Engineers with the “blade”.

Neiderfeulen, Luxembourg
January 18, 1945

My precious darling LeLa,
Another day, Honey, and what a day; plenty cold and windy. How’s everything, Sweetheart? I’m fine, but just a little hungry as we only get 2 meals a day now. I’ll dig up some rations after I finish this letter, and if there’s any kisses in them I’ll send ’em to you, Lovely. I’ve been thinking of you as always, Honey, and I’ve really got something to think about. Last night after I finished a letter to you, Honey, I started thinking, and it seemed like I didn’t even write, that’s how much I have on my mind, and only half of how much I love you. That’s all I feel like saying; “I love you”. I wrote to my sister also; I told her the same news that I’d told you, that the pictures I had of you, and her, the family, and baby were destroyed. Wishing she would send me some more. I start looking through my stuff, and every time I miss your picture, sometimes I just forget it’s gone, and try looking for it. Then it comes to me. Every time when I had it out somebody would ask, “Who’s dream is that, say she’s alright!” Yep, I was really proud of it, Honey, if some German is looking at you now, which I doubt, I hope you jump out and bite him. I’m sending you some stamps, Sweetheart, the one with Duetsches Reich on it, is the dream of Germany. That guy is the devil’s right hand man. The rest are Okay. I pick up a lot of stuff sometimes, Honey. We’re allowed to send anything that isn’t of military value back home. Anything you have on your mind that you’d like to have from over here, I’ll try and get it for you, Honey. Honey, I can’t think of anything to say that is besides, I love you above everything else I have ever had , and ever could have. Real love can’t be expressed. It just has to be proven. I’ll just keep saying, LeLa I love ya, for the rest of my life. We can’t decide anything while I’m over here, so we’ll have to wait until we can really talk to one another, Honey, and as I said before, go together for as long as it takes to be really happy. I’m sure already. Are You?
I love you, Darling, and always will!
Joe
LeLa, I love ya!

Lela comments: Joe asked me what I’d like from over there–all I wanted was him–I wanted him to come home, forget the French perfume, stamps, money–all nice offers but I wanted him back. I wanted him to be free of that war and all that went with it. I wanted for him to be able to look around and find peace and beauty and the comforts of home, and of his own country.

19 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location—NEIDERFEULEN–(P 7941), Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Marcello – Duty to Hospital (stomach). Pritchard-Hospital to Duty While working with the 305th Engineers, the blade was hit by Artillery fire. It kept going, and then hit a mine, which blew the track off. No one was hurt. Town of Neiderfeulen was heavily shelled last night. Lutke-Hospital to Duty

20 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location – NEIDERFEULEN– (p 7941) Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Retriever left at 1200 to bring in tank-dozer (blade). This was not accomplished due to heavy shelling. Red Cross Clubmobile brought coffee and doughnuts to men today. 2nd Lt. McNeal promoted to 1st Lt. Company had a movie today, “Around the World” with Kay Kayser. R.L. Smith from M.I.A. to captured as of 8 September per Letter, 3rd U.S. Army.

Wichita, Kansas
January 20, 1945

Dearest Joe,
This is Saturday and I’m over at Norma’s house right now. We just heard the President’s Inauguration. She is writing to Gene (the Merchant Marine in San Francisco). We’re going to start taking jitterbug lessons at Elder-Cavaness next Wednesday. We want to learn the “New Yorker”. A bunch of us girls went to see “Meet Me in St. Louis” last night. Their theme song was “Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie, Meet Me at the Fair”. I don’t have to work anytime today so we’re going over for my birthday dinner tonight. I’ll be thinking of you all the time and next year maybe things will be different. Anyway, you would have a hard time keeping the fire going today ’cause it’s raining. Did you ever hear “Come With Me My Honey”? That’s what the radio is playing now. Now they’re playing, “Dancing on the Ceiling”?? Well, I didn’t fail in anything at least even if my grades were kind of low. 3 C’s & a B. Let’s hope for the better. Please excuse my writing, I can’t read it myself. I can’t think of much more to say except I hope I get a letter from you today, but I won’t be too disappointed if I don’t because I realize you’re busy and have so many things to do. The radio is now playing band music. “Onward Christian Soldiers”, I always did love that. There is so much spirit behind it that it seems to give you courage. This day sure looks dreary, it usually does on Jan. 20. Maybe the world is sad at the unfortunate think that happened on that date (me). I have to be leaving soon but I’ll finish this first. Well, Honey, I’ll write later if anything unusual happens today.
So long my Joe,
Love,
LeLa

Lela comments: Those grades weren’t too great but I seemed satisfied with them. I’d take my books (homework) home every night but rarely opened them I was just too tired after work. It was silly of me and immature to say the day (January 20) was usually dreary and maybe the world was sad because I happened on that date–now that was a childish statement even if it was in jest. The dancing my friend Norma and I did was a way to get out and think of other things-besides the war if only temporarily. We thought the instructor was awfully old. He had some white hair and a pot belly, but he was nice, gentleman, I’d say.

Phila.PA
Jan. 20, 1945

Dear Lela,
Letter received, and also your nice picture, which I was glad to receive and thanking you so much, I surely appreciate. I’m sorry Lela, I don’t have a photo of myself, but I’ll try to get one for you in the near future. The reason for me not answering sooner, is that I’ve been sick with a cold a few days, didn’t feel much like writing although I was thinking about you. Lela, I’ve been a little worried about Joseph, as I haven’t any news from him since about the 10th of December, perhaps he has told you how I always worry over him. You can’t blame me, Lela, he is the only son we have and he meant so much to us here. He really was the life of our home. You’re going to think now how about my two daughters, well, I think as much of them only they’re here and I see them, and know they are alright, besides I always am wondering about those soldiers and what they are really suffering. The last War I had my husband over there, of course, I wasn’t married , still I know what war really is. Lela, am I making a pest of myself always writing to you, perhaps you don’t have time to write, so we can make it, that any few minutes you have to yourself you write then if it be that you can’t, I won’t mind. See, it’s different with me, I’m home all day, and have plenty of time to myself. Did I tell you that I told Joe in my letters that I was corresponding, I’m anxious to hear what he will say to that. I haven’t yet received the scarf he sent me from France. Have you received yours? What kind of weather are you having there in Wichita? Here it is very cold with plenty of snow. I sorta like the warm weather better. I’ll close now and will be expecting to hear from you soon again.
I am yours with best wishes,
Mrs. Mary De Laurentis

21 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location– NEIDERFEULEN–(P 7941). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen remained all day. Tanks were alerted to attack this morning but Combat Team of the 318th Inf. took the town of Bourscheid with tanks of “B” Co. 1st Platoon under Lt. Walker, left area at 1430 with mission to take town of Kehmen and protect Engineers who were clearing away mines. Tanks entered town with Infantry and took 25 prisoners. All tanks returned at 2000.

22 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location– NEIDERFEULEN –(P 7941). Tanks left area south of Heiderscheid at 1230. Arrived at (P 7194-70) at 1430. Trains, Maintenance and-kitchen left Neiderfeulen at 1230. Arrived at (P 7194.70) at 1500- Company prepared to spend the night at (P 7194.70) but had to leave at 1700 and arrived at Wiltz (P 7053) at 1800. Sgt. Gerder’s tank to Bn. Maintenance, turret trouble.

23 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location– WILTZ– (P 7053). Company ate chow at 0830, expecting to move forward. 105 Howitzer and crew were detached and sent to HQ Co. Assault Gun Platoon under Lt. Marsh. The 2nd Platoon left Wiltz at 1515 to join the 1st Bn., 317th Inf. in attack. The 3rd Platoon left Wiltz at 1515 to join the 3rd Bn., 317th Inf. in attack. 1st Platoon remained in Wiltz in reserve. Sgt. Keegan returned to Duty from Hospital. Pvt. James A. Brittel joined Co. “A”. 1st. Platoon left Wiltz at 1630, arrived at Erpeldange-Le-Wiltz (P 7154) at 1730. 2nd and 3rd Platoon’s with 1st and 3rd Bn’s., 317th Inf. Regt. on road west of Wilwerwiltz. Remained there all night. Trains, Maintenance and kitchen moved from Wiltz-at 1200, arrived at Erpeldange-Le-Wiltz at 1300. 2nd and 3rd Platoon’s are waiting for a bridge to be put in at Wilwerwiltz,

24 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location–ERPELDANGE-LE-WILTZ–(P 7154). 2nd and 3rd Platoons on road west of Wilwerwiltz, waiting for bridge to be put in. 1st Platoon, Trains, Maintenance and kitchen in this town. Remained here all night. Hardy-Duty, to Hospital, (stomach trouble). Hench-Duty to Hospital, (pain in side).

25 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location–ERPELDANGE-LE-WILTZ–(P 7154). 1st Platoon joined 2nd and 3rd. Platoons on road west of Wilwerwiltz at 0930. Bridge expected to be put in today. Cpl. Janny-Duty to Hospital (Trench foot). Clair-Duty to Hospital, (in trying to thaw out half-track, oil cap flew off and hit him in head). Sgt. William’s tank remained behind. Needs Homolite. Lt. Gifford, Lt. Shaulis and Theodore Blew were wounded by artillery on road to Enscherange, Lt. Shaulis-hit in right leg, received broken bone. Lt. Gifford hit in right shoulder. Blew received minor wounds in left hand and face. Lt’s. Shaulis and Gifford-Duty to Hospital. T/Sgt. Lawrence J. O’Brien and PFC Alvin Orton joined Co, “A” today. S/Sgt. Gratopp takes over as Leader of 2nd Platoon. 1st Lt. Charles F. Marsh assumed command of “A” Co. today.

26 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location– ERPELDANGE-LE-WILTZ –(P 7154). Three Platoons crossed bridge at 2400. The 1st and 3rd Platoons attacked generally East toward town of Bokholtz, 2nd Platoon attacking N.E. toward town of Hosingen. Trains, Maintenance and kitchen moved from Erpeldange-Le-Wiltz at 1300, arrived at Wilwerwiltz at 1400. 3rd Platoon outposted town of Wilwerwiltz. 2nd Platoon remained in town of Holzthum all night. 1st Platoon remained at Pintsche all night. T/4 Clair returned from clearing station where he spent the night after his accident. T/5 Theodore Blew goes back to aid station for a couple days rest. Sgt. Breslin’s tank off road. All guns have been disabled. 3rd Platoon; Lt. Springer’s, attacked during night and took the town of Bockholtz (at about 0400 on the 27th.)

Wichita, Kansas
Jan. 26, 1945

My most darling Joe,
It was a surprise to hear from you, I must say. Your letter was welcome. I am so glad and thankful because you escaped being destroyed along with your tank. Perhaps our prayers here at home have something to do with it. Honey, I am so sorry your Christmas and New Year’s turned out the way it did, but we’re going to make up for it. Joe, what did you mean when you said, “I’d be getting back to you if some big shots in Washington would keep their mouths shut”? Did you think you would get home? I’m glad you liked my package I sent you. I certainly liked the bracelet you got me, too, as I already told you. Joe, is it absolutely necessary I tell you my age? Oh, Darling, I am afraid you would consider me as a child yet and I love you so very much and i know you’re the only one in the world I want to ever love or be a companion to. I guess it’s only fair, though. In one year, 11 months and 5 days, I will be my own boss. Now do you still love me? Joe, I love you and I’ll always, always be your honey, no matter what happens. If there was some way or something to give you so you could be sure, but there isn’t so you’ll just have to take my word. I know you wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, Joe, I believe you and trust you. Joe, you told me to let you know if I were puzzled over those ‘shocks’. I am. Believe me, Honey, I love you and nothing in the world can change it. Did you ever get the poem I sent you? Perhaps that can help express my love. My sweetest Joe, I want you to come back to me and be with me always. I want to stand and walk and ride beside you and look into your sparkling eyes. I want to hold your hand and kiss you and tell you I love you. Someday I hope to become your wife because I know that happiness will develop from such a sweet love and it will mean peace and happiness that will never die although we may. You never need to worry, Joe, about anything coming between us.
Love,
LeLa

Lela comments: I had to wait to find out and to find out about what he meant about the “shocks”–so many questions unanswered.

Wichita, Kansas
January 26, 1945

Dear Sweetheart,
Our classes are finally settled now and I’ll try to make up some letters to you now. Please don’t mind the pencil. I’m in study hall and my pen’s at home. My new classes are much better this year, because the subjects are more in my line. We started swimming third hour, I just love it even though my hair did get wet and I had to put it in pigtails. I received another letter from your mother Tuesday afternoon. Joe, I think I love her already and I don’t even know her but she writes very kind and is intelligent. She hadn’t heard from you since December 10 either and she was a little worried. I can’t say that I blame her. We have a pep assembly today at 3 so we get out early. I have to go home and fix my hair before I go to church. Joe, I sure wish I could have lived in Philadelphia and gone to high school with you. It would have been a lot of fun then, but I guess we’ll have to wait for our fun. Norma and I went down to the Elder-Cavaness Studio Wednesday night and took our dancing lesson. It was fun. He’s teaching us the Lindy Hop and Off Beat and wants to teach us the Rumba. He complimented us, saying we were exceptionally quick to catch on and we could probably learn all the jitterbug he knew in 3 lessons. I hope that wasn’t just flattery because flattery is soft soap and 1/3 lye. This class is cut short so I’ll hurry. So far in free hand drawing we’ve drawn contour drawings of each other, original picture and 3 cylinders and 3 boxes. We have to hand in a contour drawing of someone at home Monday. Well, I’d better close now darling. Even though I haven’t had time to write I’ve been praying for you.
Love forever,
LeLa
P.S. You have good luck wished upon you because I named a candle on my cake for you and your spark was the last to die out. As I was praying on a star last night I noticed another shooting planet in the west. I wonder if you saw it. I love you, my Joe.

Lela comments: Joe’s mother was a great lady-she always made me feel comfortable and I did feel deeply about her worries about Joe.

27 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location– WILWERWILTZ –3rd Platoon left at 1400 and returned to Heiderscheid, 2nd Platoon remained in Lellengen. 1st Platoon remained in Niedhausen. Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed at Wilwerwiltz all day. Tank crews had breakfast and dinner taken up to them. One Platoon from “B” Co. attached to “A” Co.

28 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location– WILWERWILTZ–(P 75.7 558). Trains, Maintenance, and kitchen left 1400 and arrived in Reuland at 2030. 1st Platoon left Niedhausen at 1400, arrived in Reuland at 1930. 2nd Platoon left Lellengen at 1400, arrived in Reuland 1930. Three tanks fell out along-the way. Supply truck fell out at Erpeldange-L-Wiltz, Maintenance repaired it and it continued on its way. Company together, men all sleeping in homes.

29 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location–REULAND–(P 9529). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Sgt. Gerber’s tank still on road. Men cleaning up, all received clean clothes. C.O. held meeting today of all Sgt’s. and above. Company got three meals a day. 2nd Lt. Kenneth P. Hall and 2nd Lt. Maurice E. Friel joined Company today.

Phila. 24, PA
January 29, 1945

My dear Lela,
Your letters received, certainly was nice of you to write as soon as you got news from Joseph. I did receive a letter also on Tuesday from him. He said he was about tired of fighting, he thought eight months of ducking shells was long enough. But he didn’t mention about his narrow escape, of course, I knew he wouldn’t. So thanks a lot, Honey, for telling me. Now I shall pray even more because he really needs all he can get. I do go to mass every morning for him. No sacrifice is too much for me. If only he gets back safely. Yes, Joe wrote one of his kind letters to me so I knew by that he must be feeling downhearted about something. The news is getting somewhat better towards victory. Lela, did I tell you, when my husband brought your letter up to me, I could hardly think why I was getting an Air Mail. I thought perhaps you were coming to Philadelphia to visit us. Perhaps someday you’ll be able to surprise me. Kansas surely is far away from Pennsylvania. Maybe Joe will have an airplane after the war. Then you both could fly here. Do you think you’d like that? The weather looks very promising: clear and warmer, which makes me feel much brighter. Cold and me don’t get along so very good. Joe had just received my letter where I told him about sending you the bracelet. He was anxious to hear from you and how you liked it. Lela, you see, I’m writing on every space that I can, the reason for this is a shortage on paper here. I tried to buy some in town and couldn’t , so tomorrow I’m going shopping and I’m in hopes I can get some. As I do like writing to Joe by Air so I can tell him more news around our neighborhood. He wants to hear all about his boy friends and the family. He surely getting closer to Germany. One of my friend’s son was wounded and his picture was in the paper last night. They don’t know how bad he was hurt.
I’ll close now with best wishes
Mrs De Laurentis

30 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location–REULAND (P 9529). Company stayed all day. Five men, one (officer?) to Luxembourg on pass from 1000 to 1800. Company had physical inspections and shots today, also showers. “A” Company received Commendation from Col. Fisher, C.O. of 317th Inf. Regt., for operations in Luxembourg area. Defensive plan for town made up today.

31 Jan 1945
Luxembourg
Location–REULAND–(P 9529). Company remained all day. 15 men on pass to Luxembourg City. Lt. Col. Talbot, our Bn. Commander, visited Company today. We were to have a movie today but it turned out to be a dry run. Company was paid today.

Reuland, Luxembourg
January 31, 1945

My precious darling LeLa,
Hi ya Gorgeous, it’s been almost a month since I told you that I love you, Miss Bush. Has that been too long, Honey? I know it has, but if you could hear me between the letters, I think you’d understand. I didn’t receive any letters from you for three weeks, but it wasn’t your fault, Sweetheart. The ship had engine trouble or something that’s what we’re told. Anyway, they’re dated December 10,12,14, 16,28, and January 3, and 5. The last one I received was January 2nd—that’s really getting mail in a bunch. I don’t have to ask you how you’re getting along, Sweetheart, by the letters you write tells me that you’re as sweet and as lovely as ever. We’re on another rest period, Honey. This one is rest and work together, work on the tank. The people in Luxembourg are almost like the French, but they are more like German. I’m glad you liked the picture, Honey, I don’t think so much of it, and I might be wrong, but don’t you think I look a little fat? Did you send my mother the same kind of picture you had sent to me, Honey? Thanks a lot, I think it’s swell!

I’m going to answer some of your questions now: One Franc is 2 1/2 cents in our money, Honey —Nice, [Joe notes-how that rhymed]. I’ll send you some when I get paid tonight, not French money but Luxembourg. My cold was better, Honey, until I heard that you’ll take care of it if it isn’t gone. What’s my baby got in store for me? Ahem. “Mind me now” cute Honey. You sound sweet and serious. Gee, I love ya. Now, I’ll ask you, Sweetheart, “are we engaged?” I thought of that so much but never said anything in my letters to you about it. The way we write to each other, Honey, we might as well be. You know how much I’d love to have you for a wife. I’m not going any further with my sayings, Honey, but, someday, when I have you alone I’m going to get real romantic and ask you if you’ll?? —- That’s after I’m back awhile and working, and saving all my dough for us. When I think awhile, Honey, we have a lot to do, “Where are we going to make our home? ” What kind of home are we going to have, and etc. That all takes planning and time, doesn’t it, Sweetheart? And we have plenty of that. I’ll buy you a ring, Honey, but you’ll have to pick it out, because I don’t know anything about rings. (I’m not going to let you know how much it costs, either, ’em) I don’t care how much you say, “yes’, Sweetheart, I’m still going to propose, every time I look at you. I know you’re not going to say yes the first time because I’m going to propose the first night I’m back with you. (so there).

“Serious Now” I’d like to have some of your homemade candy, Honey, but I don’t eat much candy anyways, If you send me some I won’t hate you though, so please do. Darling, it’s almost a year now, that we’ve known each other, but the short time we spent together is what gets to me; we’re not strangers at all and we never broke off once. You don’t understand, Honey, but if you were in the Army, say in my place, and seen, heard, and knew how many ex-sweethearts that were just like us before he went away then you’d say, “We have that something that makes love click.” I sure do love you, LeLa, and how I wish I were with you again. I have a lot more to tell you, and ask you, Gorgeous, but this is one letter, so I’ll start on another one after I get paid and eat. I’m awfully lonesome without you, Sweetheart, every minute. If that isn’t love then I’m not in Luxembourg. Honey, you’re so precious I’ll never be able to express what I really think of such a lovely, charming Sweetheart like you. Until tonight, Sweetheart. So long, Darling! Love, Love, Love! (Tons of hugs and kisses)
Joe

Lela comments: No mail for a month, yet I wrote to him everyday, what a life-only 2 meals a day (rations at that), the coldest winter in history and live in the tank hours on end with no heat. yet, here was this sweet letter to bolster my feelings and him trying to comfort me. Joe is too good to be true. Maybe he’s an angel living in our midst. I think some people do come into our lives and do the work of angels.

Reuland, Luxembourg

January 31, 1945

LeLa, my Darling,
Everybody is back in the house again after eating and getting paid. The boys are counting their money out and wondering how much they should send home. For supper we had bread and jam, coffee, soup with rice, and a box of rations. The people in the town we’re staying in are really different than anybody we ever stayed with. The women stay in the house most of the time and the men run around outside, taking care of cows, chickens, and etc. They’re very religions, too, but the best part about it all is they have no concern or interest in the outside world. Just neighbor for neighbor working together. Their style of living never changes, they’ve lived the same way in the last war and their kids will be doing the same thing 25 more years from now. If a writer were here, he could write a pretty interesting book on these people and the war. I sat up just a minute to look at your picture, Sweetheart, after I look at you I know what to write about. You’re very adorable, Honey, in case you don’t know it. Should I say more, Beautiful or save the sweet talk for a letter. I can write love letters to you, Honey, because of your charm and loveliness, even your sweetness is enough to write a letter on. How I miss you Darling, but oh, how I love you. That’s what I’ll do, Sweetheart, after this letter I’m going to write you a love letter, and nothing else, but love talk will be in it.

I promised you some Luxembourg money, Sweets, well, I really have no use for it because there’s no place to spend it, and even if there was I’d still send it home because I’m going to need it for something better after the war, and Honey, there’s nothing better than you. The big 100 francs is $2.00 in our money, and the lady on the front is tops in this country, the people love her, and how. We call that big note a saddle blanket, really big, isn’t it? The ten Franc note is worth about 12 cents in our money. That’s all I can send in this letter, Honey, but I’ll send some more in the next one. We’re only allowed to send so much at a time. Their money isn’t so hard to understand, Sweetheart, if you figure their way and don’t try to compare how much you have in American money. English money is about the trickiest, but the same thing goes, just figure it the English way. I’m seeing the world, the people, and everything for nothing, but Honey, they can have it, I’ll take you, (see how precious you are to me) more than that I love you, Honey a 100,000,000,000 Francs worth.

I hope everybody in the family is fine and healthy. Thank Eddie again for the prosperous New Year wishes; she’s a nice kid sister, Honey. How is her name spelled? Eddie or Edie? You spell it Eddie and she spells it Edie? Now Miss Bush, I’m going to tell you something about your dreams, that is what little I know about them. You said in one dream you throw a glass down because I was talking to another girl, (just talking is all), Honey, you do love me! Your dreams tell me how much too, and I’m so happy!!! They also tell me I’d better be careful whom I speak to if I want to keep my precious LeLa. Darling, LeLa, you can dream 24 hours a day but your Joe won’t ever do anything to hurt you or make you angry. I had a dream too, Sweetheart, you, strictly you. No kidding. Everybody dreams sometime, Honey. Wartime dreams, you know. It was in your house and I was a civilian again, (ahem). You were looking your best, which is gorgeous, and every time you’d look at me, you just look and not say a word. I didn’t say anything either, Honey, but I winked, and winked, and wanted to kiss you, (was my face red when I did). You can guess the rest, Honey, I woke up kissing the floor. Well, Angel, I guess I’ll close, but that love letter follows so, I hope you enjoy looking at the money. I think I told you that I’m fine, but I’m going to keep my cold so you can take care of me, Beautiful. How I wish that were true. I love you, Honey, very much, can’t wait ’till I’m back with you again. What a beautiful doll to be with!!! So long, Sweetheart! Tons of kisses! All my love forever, and ever,
Joe

Lela comments: I wasn’t very proud of my actions in the dream I had described to Joe–it seemed to make him happy but I think it pictured me as being jealous–heaven forbid. Joe describes the people of Luxembourg, the ones he’s become familiar with, as being unaware of the world outside. While Joe thinks that is great, I can’t quite feel that way about it. The US remained isolated from the problems in Europe for too long. Too many lives were lost as a result. I know the problem is more complex, but the way I see it everyone should be involved and not let things get out of hand.

 

1 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location–REULAND (P 9529). Company remained all day. 15 men on pass to Luxembourg City. The movie again proved to be a dry run, projector is broken. 20 men to a U.S.O. Show today. Lt. McNeal left Company to go to Service Co., transferred. Men performing 1st and 2nd echelon maintenance on vehicles.

 

Reuland, Luxembourg
February 1, 1945

My gorgeous, darling LeLa,
I didn’t write the love letter last night, Sweetheart, but today, the 1st, I’m off to a fresh start, and I promise you it’s going to be a fixed up affair. This month should be bright for us, Honey; it’s the month we met, and a year we’ve known each other. That night we’ll never forget. It probably seems like ten years to you as it does to me, but love is life long and goes on even after life. I’ll tell you how this past year of loving you made it more worthwhile than if I didn’t have my precious Darling. Your love, Sweetheart, followed me everywhere, having you on my mind all the time kept me thinking of the future, which I can say now, that without you, Darling, I might not be thinking of anything so pleasant. Being over here for a reason and being over here without a reason makes a big difference, Honey. I know when I get back you’ll be waiting for me and making a new start, so I can forget the past and think only of you and how happy we’re going to be. One year of loving you, Sweetheart, and years and years more coming makes me happy, the longer I can be with you the better. The things that surround the word, “love” are what we’re going to have, Gorgeous.

Did you ever stop to think how sweet it would be to have a home of our own, Honey, I know you have, I can see the picture as plain as day: Listening to the radio with you on my lap, you know what I’d be telling you, how lovely you are, what a sweet wife I have, am I a lucky guy, and etc. When I come home from work I’d fly at you with a big kiss every night and hold it for the rest of the evening. We’d go out every weekend visiting or riding in the car. I’m always thinking of that sort of things, Honey, but none of ’em would be the way they should be without you. That’s why the word “love” doesn’t say what it means, Sweetheart. We know what we want and love is going to get it for us. There’s always one problem, Honey, and that’s children, so I’m going to let you tell me about that, Gorgeous. How many would you like to have, Honey? Which do you prefer first, a boy or a girl? I like kids, Honey but I’m not so much for a big family. How about you? All kidding aside, Sweetheart, children aren’t anything to joke about. They’re nice to have, but hard to keep. I guess you’ll agree with me, Darling, that our kids will get the best of everything, and the most out of it. You were brought up swell, Honey, and I’ll never stop thanking my mother for what she’s done, so I guess we realize it, don’t we? So, that’s love, Sweetheart. When we get to that quiet spot we’ll be able to say our minds, Darling. I only hope it isn’t too long before I’m back with you again, Sweetheart. If I get out of this one, and have to go to the Pacific, well, that will sort of change things, but I’ll see you before that, Gorgeous.

Everyday means a lot to me, Honey, these are the best years of my life, and probably of yours, too. That’s what hurts, Sweetheart, I don’t know how I’d feel if I had to stay away from you three or four more years. If you had to wait that long I don’t know what I’d do. I’d love you as much as ever, Sweetheart. I’ll always love you, but that isn’t the idea, just time wasted you might say and our happiness, too. We won’t worry about that though, not yet anyway. Gosh, Baby, I love you. I’d like to be holding you now and telling you just what Dan Cupid is putting into my head. He’s telling me that you’re my gorgeous dream girl, and your charm, and sweetness can’t be beat. He doesn’t have to tell me, I know it, and my love, you know, can’t be beat. One question you asked that I haven’t answered yet, Honey. My hands are big, and I like to draw, as a matter of fact, Sweetheart, I was planning on buying a good set of paints and an oil canvas, and someday painting your picture. It would take me months, Honey, but I think I could do it. Playing the sax and trumpet has nothing to do with it, (re: big hands), I just picked that up. I’ll play for you though, Sweets, and you’ll sing after you hear me, “not to brag, Honey”. Who wouldn’t sing to “Long ago and Far Away”, “I’ll Walk Alone”, if they’re not too old???? I know a lot of songs, Honey, hot on the trumpet, and solid on the sax. Oh, oh. I sure like the Ink Spots, I have seven Uncles that sing in a church choir, and when we use to have a family party they could make like the Spots and were really good. “It’s a sin to tell a lie”, their favorite. Would you like to meet my family, Honey? I mean all of them, they already know you, and seen the pictures you sent mom.

Well, Baby, it’s time to tell you that your Joe thinks you’re the loveliest doll in the world, and loves you more than anything else in the world. Someday, We’re going to church together, Honey, since you’re going now. I’d like to show you something in a church that hardly anybody thinks of when they’re there. It might interest you, Sweetheart, I don’t know. Gee, Honey, I have so much to tell you, ask you, and places to take you, I can almost start walking back to you so they’ll come true. My love is growing deeper and deeper for you everyday, Darling. You’re so lovely that sometime I wish you were here beside me and never could be taken out of my sight. As you say you wish you were here, and I wish the same, I wish I were with you. Just one look at you, Honey, and all would be heaven, a kiss, and I’d hold it forever. Someday, Darling, we’ll be together, and we can think back on these things and then we’ll make up for it. Maybe we’ll even take off for dream land, and forget the world, the past, and future just for a while: Only thinking of ourselves, and all the things we love for. What would you say to this, Darling, if I were to carry you off and keep you like an angel would be heaven for me. You’re heaven, anyway, Precious, good, sweet, and lovely. I just can’t say that you’re my girl, Honey, even when I’m telling somebody about you. You’re not a girl to me. You’re my beautiful darling, LeLa, and that’s all. I’ll tell you again, Sweetheart, that I love you very much, so much, much, much, much. Every minute I’ll be thinking of you, and calling you, my darling. I love you, precious, with all my heart and will love you forever and ever and ever. So long, precious! Pages of kisses, too! Love, love, love & more love,
Joe

Lela comments: Precious Joe, how he was eager to come home. The news on the radio sound pretty good and many people are saying that the wars almost over. He does a good job of filling his mind with family, music, and me and our future. He does a good job of soothing my worries and all the while he is living in agony.

2 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location–REULAND–(P 9529). Company remained all day. Men had showers. 15 men on pass to Luxembourg City. One man on pass to Paris, (Sgt. Williams). Red Cross Clubmobile in Company area today. Men performing 1st and 2nd echelon maintenance on vehicles. Fire broke out in gas dump but was brought under control in short time.

3 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location–REULAND–(P 9529). Company remained all day. Lt. Col. Talbot visited the Company. Men had showers and went to U.S.O. Show. One tank returned from Bn. Maintenance. We had ice cream for dessert after supper. Movie started at 1700 but projector broke down again. 15 men on pass to Luxembourg City. C.O. attended a Company Commander’s meeting.

4 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location–REULAND–(P 9529). Company remained all day. 15 men to Luxembourg City on pass. Ice Cream again, with supper. Company ordered to leave Reuland for Diekirch at 0800 tomorrow. C.O. attended a Company Commander’s meeting. Sgt. Ellsworth’s 105 Howitzer attached to “A” Co. Sgt. attached to “A” Co. as relay.

5 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location–DIEKIRCH–(p 8642). The 3 Platoons left Reuland at 0800 and arrived in Diekirch—at 1000. Trains, Maintenance, and kitchen left Reuland at 1000-and arrived in Diekirch at 1400. Company Commander on-Recon mission this morning. 2 105mm howitzers, & one tank (75mm) left Diekirch at 1515 for Ermsdorf to do indirect firing. Rest of Company remained at Diekirch . PFC O’Brien -Duty to Hospital, (cold).

6 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location–DIEKIRCH–(P 8642). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Five tanks (76mm), left Diekirch at 0830, arrived 93.1-43.4 at 0930. Six tanks (75mm) left Diekirch at 0830, arrived 91.2-38.5 at 0930. Sgt’s. Breslin, Beck, Williams and Rice took their tanks to the 501st Ordnance to have Rocket Launchers put on them. Sgt. Ellsworth took his 105mm. howitzer to Bn. Maintenance for repairs. Tank Retriever to 501st Ordnance for repairs. One tank (76mm) brought back to Co. Maintenance for repairs. (Gun wouldn’t go back into battery after firing). Repaired and sent back. Cpl. Prewett-Duty to Hospital (head caught in recoil of gun). Five tanks (76mm) pulled back to Bettendorf for the night. Breakfast and supper taken up to tank crews. Ammunition taken to 76mm. tanks. Pvt. Donald L, Webster joined Co. today.

7 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-DIEKIRCH–(p 8642) Trains, Maintenance, and kitchen stayed all day. Five tanks (76mm) left Bettendorf and returned to hill (coordinates- 93-1-43.4 for direct fire on enemy pillboxes. Sgt. Rice returned from 501st Ordnance without. Rocket Launcher installed. Ammunition taken up tanks (75mm) doing indirect firing. Sgt. Rice went back to 501st Ordnance to have Rocket Launcher installed. Five tanks (76mm) returned to Diekirch at 0900.

Wichita, Kansas

February 7, 1945

My Dearest Darling,
Tonight I’m expected to study pretty hard for a geometry test so I’ll send you some love songs. Maybe you can figure out some tunes. Anyway, most of them express me to you. Tomorrow we go to church and I shall pray very much for you. Saturday night I begin working at the “Sandra”. It’s kind of exciting to begin something new. Not nearly as exciting as meeting you again. I’ll be so excited I won’t be able to speak, so forgive me. You know something, Honey? Our days are getting longer. It’s just turning dark and it’s 7 P.M. You know I love you, Darling. I love you so very much. With Spring coming I feel more lonesome. Tonight it is so warm our door is open. Well, Sweetheart, I’ve got to study so I’ll send my love in print.
Love forever and always,
LeLa

Yellowed newspaper clippings containing song lyrics of the following were enclosed: YOU’LL NEVER KNOW (from the Twentieth Century-Fox Production “Hello Frisco Hello”), THE LAST ROUND-UP IN OLD BERLIN by “Cowboy” Jack Patton, HELLO, SWEETHEART, HELLO by Hal Richards and Nancy Martin, AN EVENING IN PARIS, by Ray Black and Mack Davis, TUMBLING TUMBLEWEEDS by Bob Nolan, OH! FRENCHY by Sam Erlich and Con Conrad, SATURDAY NIGHT (Is the Loneliest Night in the Week) by Sammy Cohn and Julie Styne, ANY DAY NOW, by Paul Cunningham, Ira Schuster, and Jack Rosenberg, JUST YOU WAIT AND SEE by Lee Pearl, Art Berman and Harry Lefcourt,

Lela comments: I was going to start a new job as usherette at the Sandra theater in downtown Wichita. I wouldn’t work as many hours which was good and I needed the change. I mentioned in my letter that I would be going to church to pray for him tomorrow, which must have been Friday. St Mary’s Cathedral held Novena services during the war for our military and to pray for peace. I wasn’t Catholic but Norma, my friend was, so I’d accompany her, her mother, and her 2 aunts to church every Friday night. I looked forward to the service. We sang songs in Latin and I sang along loving every minute of it. On one occasion a woman in the pew across from us had an outburst of crying and sobbing. I wondered if she’d had gotten bad news or more likely the stress and worry that went on and on may have gotten to her. We felt badly for her but didn’t know anything we could do about it.

8 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-DIEKIRCH-(P 8642). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Sgt. Ellsworth returned to Co. from Bn. Maintenance Sgt’s. Breslin and Beck returned from 501st Ordnance with Rocket Launchers installed. Sgt. Polin’s tank came back to Co. Maintenance for repairs. Five tanks (75mm) in town of Ermsdorf all day, remained there all night. 105 howitzer at 91.9-40.6 tanks attached to 313th Field Artillery. PFC Kerkhof joined Co. from 318th Inf. Regt. Maintenance Sgt. and Co. Commander at Bn. Maintenance to witness demonstration of Rocket Launchers. Five tanks (76mm) remained at Diekirch all day. Men performed 1st echelon maintenance and cleaned guns. Sgt. Williams returned to Co. from pass to Paris.

9 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-DIEKIRCH-(P 8642). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. PFC Denton-Duty to Hospital with infected tonsils. Lt. Col. Talbot visited Company today. Sgt. Breslin’s tank to Bn. HQ to test Rockets. Sgt. Starner’s name turned in to Bn. HQ to leave on furlough to States 12th Feb. Four tanks (76mm) left Diekirch at 0830, destination 93.1 – 43.0, to fire direct fire at enemy pillboxes. Five tanks (75mm) left Ernsdorf, destination 92.4-40.3, for indirect firing. One tank (76mm remained in Co. Maintenance for repairs. Two 105mm howitzers at 91.9-40.6 to do indirect firing. Ammunition taken up to howitzers. Sgt. Gray’s, tank to Ordnance for repairs. Sgt. Polin’s tank also to Ordnance. Lt. Friel’s tank to Bn. Maintenance. Breakfast and supper taken up to tank crews.

Phila. PA
Feb. 9, 1945

My dear Lela,
Your letter received which I was glad to hear from you. I waited to hear from Joe before writing to you, but I haven’t yet received any letters, which is almost four weeks. I realize he is in this big fight they are having now or else he would have written. Lela, I feel so good to hear that you are making a novena for Joseph on Friday. Surely all the people’s prayers must help him through. I am making one to the Immaculate Conception on Thursdays. See, I have my son-in-law in England, which is my daughter Marie’s husband. He has been over about six months longer than Joe – although he isn’t fighting -he trains boys after they come back wounded & can’t fight anymore. He teaches them work suitable for them in combat duty. Joseph told me in my last letter that boys were getting furloughs to get home for 30 days, and he was wishing it could have been him a lucky number. He thinks six months fighting is enough for any soldier. He said no place like home sweet home, and if he ever gets back they will have an awful time getting him back again. Lela, some people has a rumor around that Germany has already given up and willing to make peace. I don’t know whether or not that is true but I am in hopes it is—– although I shouldn’t think the battles would still be going on if that is true. Lela, thanks a lot for wanting to send me paper, but I did get some in town the other day. I guess once in awhile they run out of it, and they call it a shortage. The weather here is getting nice, ice and snow is almost gone now, and looks much like we’re going to have some rain today and that will take it all away which will suit me just fine. I will stop now and write Joseph a letter, I try to write everyday, but once in awhile I don’t have time–that doesn’t happen often. So I say so long and remain with best wishes to you and all, I am
Mrs. De Laurentis

10 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-DIEKIRCH-(P 8642). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Four tanks-(76mm) left Diekirch at 0715 for direct firing on enemy pill-boxes from 93.1-43.0. Four tanks (75mm) doing indirect firing from 92.4-40.3. Two 105mm howitzers with 313th F.A. at 91.9-40.6. Four 76mm tanks returned to Diekirch at 1630 and remained all day and night. Sgt. Rice returned from 501st Ordnance with Rocket Launcher installed. Pvt. LaCross, Pvt. Hickman, Pvt. Liskiewicz returned to Company from Hospital. Breakfast and supper taken-up to men in tanks.

11 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-DIEKIRCH-(P 8642). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Four tanks–(76mm) remained in Diekirch all day. Men cleaned guns and performed 1st echelon maintenance. Our tanks (75mm) at 92.- 4-40.3 doing indirect firing. Two 105mm howitzers at 91.9-40.6 with 313th P.A. C.O. held a meeting of Platoon Sgt’s. and Platoon Leaders to discuss plans for attack tomorrow. Payroll signed today.

Diekirch, Luxembourg
February 11, 1945

My precious darling, Le La,
We’ve been having long, dull days over here, Honey, which only makes me think of you and dream away my time. The mail has been coming in pretty good lately, four letters from you, Sweetheart, two days ago, a few from home and all dated in January. Of course, Sweetheart, I’ve been thinking of your birthday, too, the only thing I can think of to send to you, Honey, is a poem, but my poems have to be on a clear sunshiny day, and my thoughts at their best. I really missed all those holidays without you, Honey, and now I’m going to miss your birthday. Remember I said I’d cook you a birthday dinner when I get back, the reason for that is, my wife isn’t going to do anything on that day but enjoy herself. So, Honey, I guess you can figure on a good time, even a party, as I know you like parties. I know your age, I think, so you don’t have to say anymore about it. We can forget it, can’t we lovely? So, your mother said that in my picture I look like a bad little boy who is full of mischief. Don’t tell her this, Honey, but I’m 5’11” tall, that isn’t little and I don’t think I’m bad with a Sweetheart like you, but I don’t think so much of the picture either, so I have to get some more taken to make up for it.

As for that Gangster deal, Honey, maybe it’s me, but I can’t recall saying that. Are you sure, Sweetheart, that I wasn’t talking about something else? Maybe if you would of laughed, Sweetheart, I would have laughed with you, and seen how silly it really was. Do I like that! “I’m a meanie.” Well, Honey, by the way you write, I take it that your schooling is coming to an end. Is it your last year, Honey? You seem to do all right at your job too, Sweetheart, how many times have you received an increase in pay since you started? When the boss thinks he ‘s going to lose a good worker, he does everything to keep her around. Not meaning you, Sweetheart, but you are good, , I’ve seen that the few times I spent in there. As for me, Honey, I wish you were a schoolteacher, only because I’ve forgotten so much since I’ve been in the army. You could help me, but it wouldn’t take me long to learn what I need to know, so you can still think of that home we’re going to have, and everything else. Before I start on your letter and birthday poem, Honey, I just want to say that; Darling as precious as you are, I love you ten times as much. Love you every minute of the day, and as you only think of me I only can think of you. I haven’t heard, “My Heart Sings”, but Sweetheart, without music, my hearts always singing, “As long as I Have you”. I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you! “So long for awhile, Sweetheart”. Tons of kisses, and tons of hugs, and I love you! All my love Forever and Forever and Ever,
Joe
“LeLa, I love ya'”

12 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-DIEKIRCH- (p 8642). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Ammo taken up to 105mm howitzers. Four 76mm tanks remained at Diekirch all day. Lt. Friel’s tank returned from Bn. Maintenance. Four tanks (75 mm) left 92.4-40.3 at 1600 and arrived in Eppeldorf (P 9239)at 1700. Attached to 512th F.A. Two 105 howitzers left 91.9 -40.6 at 1600, arrived at Eppeldorf (P 9239) at 1700. Attached to 512th F.A. Sgt. Starner left on furlough to the U.S.A. Sgt. Lamb, Duty to Hospital, stomach. Breakfast and supper taken up to tank crews. Sgt. DeLaurentis to Bn. Medics for feet.

Wichita, Kansas
February 12, 1945

Dearest Joe,
Hi, my sweetheart. How are you? I’m fine ’cause I’m in love with you. Kiss X. Today is the day that I’m going to remember forever. It’s Lincoln’s birthday all right, but more important, it’s what I would say is our Anniversary of Love. Honey, have you heard that you’re coming home in about March? Walter Winchell said that last night – 1st, 2nd, & 3rd for 30 days coming over and 30 days furlough. I sure hope it’s true because I love my baby. I began working at the Sandra Saturday night and I really like it. The other girls are nice and a lot of fun. Sunday I worked one to four then 6 to 10. We ate at the Holly again but we’re going to eat at Woolf’s next Sunday. These pictures look like they might interest you a little so I’ll send them. St. Mary’s is the church I go to Novena at. Municipal is were we usually go swimming. The pictures showing Douglas Ave., shows the 1st National Bank where I used to work– remember, across the street is the Holly and next to it is Candyland where we went once to get a coke — the first date. The Lassen on the Market side is where we (you & me) caught the bus and then the school I go to. This letter will get a little heavy so I’ll close now. Love forever & ever & ever,
LeLa
P.S. Am I still your honey?
P.P.S. Darling, I lit another candle and prayed for you to come back. Maybe our prayers are being answered.

Lela comments: I think that February 12, 1944 was the night at Shadowland when we met–so, today, the 12th of February, 1945 will be our one year anniversary. Little did I know as that young impetuous creature of last year that I would be madly and seriously in love with the man of my dreams one year later.

13 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-On Highway North of Ermsdorf (91.4-39.1). Five tanks (76mm) and three tanks (75mm) with rockets,- left Diekirch at 1030 and arrived 91.4-39.1 at 1130. Trains, Maintenance and kitchen left -Diekirch at 1100, arrived at 9l.4-39.1 at 1200. Four tanks (75mm) left Eppeldorf (P 9239) for indirect firing -at 94.6-41-5. Two 105mm howitzers left Eppeldorf (P 9239) for indirect firing from 92.5-42.1. Breakfast and dinner taken up to men. A limited amount of P.X. rations were received and raffled off to the men.

Wichita, Kansas
Wednesday, February 13, 1945

Dearest Joe,
Hi, G.I.! I received a letter from your mother yesterday, which was welcome. Tonight was skating again and tomorrow we learn the Rumba. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin’s pictures were on the front page tonight showing them in the Crimea on the Black Sea and listed their 9 points. Mr. Muehler, the florist that rides the bus with me every once in a while gave me ten pretty roses this afternoon for Valentine’s Day. Norma thinks Gene will be coming home soon because they’re transferring 200 Merchant Marines into the Army. Some people have all the luck. My cousin in the Anti-Tanks of the 3rd Army was wounded and sent to a hospital. His folks received word today. We aren’t going to California this summer. Dad had to take his vacation in March. He says he’s going to St. Louis. ?? Things are so mixed up these last few years. It’s hard to understand anyone or anything. The weather today was wonderful. No one wore coats and our trees are budding. Did you hear the Russians captured Budapest? It took them 14 weeks. We read in “Time” that as soon as it’s over in Germany the men will be transferred to Pacific bases leaving much equipment in Europe. The sports writer in the Beacon is already discussing baseball. I probably won’t get to go so much next summer because I’m going to work at night. I wish I knew a lot to write about, but I don’t, I guess because nothing’s going on that’s worth mentioning. It’s practically 10:30. Eddie’s learning chords of ‘Boogie Woogie”. Ah, yes. Americans now have 1/3 control in all European countries. I think that is a good thing, if we had only stuck to the League of Nations before. Really I’m so tired I don’t know what I’m writing. I’d better close now.
Goodnight, sweet dreams! Tomorrow is another day.
Love, LeLa

Lela comments: This letter that I’d written didn’t really say much. Mrs. DeLaurentis had written to me and I told Joe that she had. She was a person who dearly loved her family. I mention to Joe what I think is newsworthy–things that I’ve read in the paper about the war. I don’ t know if he hears much from where he’s at.

14 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-BEAUFORT-(P 9538). Four tanks (75mm) left 96. 6-41.5 at 1030, arrived at Co. C.P. on highway N. of Ermsdorf (91.4-39.1) at 1130. Two 105mm howitzers left position 95.2-42.1 at 1030, arrived at C.P. (91.4-39.1) at 1130. Tanks attached to 317th Combat Team. Company left position on Highway N. of Ermsdorf at 1300 and arrived in Beaufort at 1430. Lt. Friel transferred to HQ Co. Lt. Cass transferred to “A” Co. Lt. Col. Talbot visited the Company today. Men received breakfast, dinner and supper. S/Sgt. Syzmanski and Sgt. Breslin left for rest camp. T/5 Manning-Hospital to Duty

Beaufort, Luxembourg

February 14, 1945

My precious darling LeLa,
Time sure is going fast, the 14th already, Honey, and I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start. I was going to write to your mother and thank her for the nice Valentine card, but I thought I’d write to you first as this is all the paper I have left. I can get some more easily, but then I’m out of stamps. This is your paper I’m using, Honey it came along with the envelopes and another letter. Your Valentine card was lovely, Sweetheart, thanks a lot. All I can send you are kisses, and love from this awful E.T.O. If I were with you, though, I’d buy you the biggest heart in town. Honey, I’m sorry but I just couldn’t get that letter I promised off in time for your birthday. So this will have to be it. So far, Honey, I’m not so bad, feeling Okay, and loving you more everyday. Nothing on my mind except you, lovely, as you thought something was worrying me. What made you think I’m down in the dumps? Sometimes when I look around me I see red, but I never write to you when I feel that way. Knowing I still have you cheers things up a little. I’d better not write on the other sides of these pages or you won’t be able to make it out. Of course, you’re still my honey, LeLa, “always was, always will be.” You really get some funny dreams, Honey, some nice, some not so nice, anyway, Darling, that one where you saw heaven is “OUT” as far as I’m concerned. It would be nice to go to heaven, Honey, but not yet. I know that you’re an angel, Honey, but I want you down here for a while. You tell of going to church makes me feel “so, so” and “so, so” something anyway, Darling. Every time you write that you’ve been to church, it just hits me. “I just love ya”. Getting back to your birthday, Honey; What does my Darling want? You asked for love, Honey, you have all my love, at present that’s all I have, so, another “Poem” coming up. It might be a little dry, Sweetheart: we do love each other, and for one year now, so there’s two celebrations we’ll make up for. Maybe another year from now I’ll be reading this same letter, to you, Sweetheart, and Oh! I’ll hug you to pieces.
Joe

P.S. Wish I could now.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DARLING

I don’t suppose I should complain, I just can’t find the guy to blame.
My loved one is so far away; I missed and couldn’t enjoy her day.
It’s you Sweetheart, I’m speaking of, and just a darling I’ve always loved.
If I were with you on that day, just what do you think I would say?
“Come on Sweetheart, let’s celebrate, it’s your birthday, and we have a date.”
Then I’d take you in my arms, kiss you, and tell you of your charms.
This birthday, Darling, won’t be your last, ’cause the next one’s going to be of class.
I’ll be there you can bet on that with ton’s of love and a civilian’s hat.
Yes, Darling, you know I mean it when I say: All my love, in every way to you, my Darling.
A happy, happy birthday!

*************

Tell your mother thanks for the card. Just for awhile, Sweetheart, All my love,
Joe
LeLa I love ya
XXXXXXXXX For your birthday, Honey.

Lela comments: There couldn’t be any birthday gift in the world that could top this verse written by Joe. I have come to depend on all of his letters so much. He has helped me in so many ways. I have more self-esteem, I hope I haven’t let all the compliments go to my head too much though. One thing he’s really done for me is to give me pure, unadulterated love, consistently, and without qualification.

15 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-BEAUPORT-(P 9538). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Men cleaned guns and performed 1st echelon maintenance on vehicles. C.O. discussed plan of attack with Platoon Leaders. Platoons left Beaufort at 1700 and arrived 98.5-39.2 at 1800. Sgt. Gerber’s tank goes to Bn. Maintenance for repairs, returned to Co. at 1930. Company fed three meals.

16 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-BEAUFORT-(P 9538). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Platoons located at 98.5-39.2.-remained there all day. Sgt. Ellsworth’s tank to Bn. Maintenance for repairs. PFC Jutras-Hospital to Duty. All men in Co. had Red Devil painted on helmets. Company received three meals today.

Wichita, Kansas
February 16, 1945

Dearest Joe,
Hello, my Dearest, how be you this fine day, or is it fine? To tell you the truth today is freezing cold. I lit another candle for you tonight at Novena. I pray for you all the time. Now isn’t that proof of a pure love? We have been having pretty bad news lately. Our doctor was about to die last week, my girlfriend’s grandfather is in the same condition and now it’s my Grandfather Bush in California. Don’t forget, Honey Dove, if you want another picture let me know. I had my hair cut again, but it isn’t short, just real curly. Last night the show changed at the “Sandra”. Now it’s “Hollywood Canteen”, — Jimmy Poosey and etc. — Alexis Smith, Bette Davis, Joan Leslie, Joan Crawford, Eddie Cantor — [something I can’t read, looks like un da. etc.]. Jack Carson and Jane Wyman sing “What are you doing the rest of Your Life?”. It’s pretty good, and really drew a crowd. Joan Leslie sang, “Good Night, Sweet Dreams, Tomorrow is Another Day, Good Night, Sweet Dreams, Sweetheart”. An English teacher sent for me today while I had on my gym shorts so I have to go trailing up in the building to see what she wants. She sent me into her office where there was a Mr. Cooper from Stephens College in Mississippi. Did I feel funny? I had to answer a bunch of questions then he is going to call Mom and get an appointment. The war news sure sounds good now. Since there is going to be an Allied Nations meeting in California in April many people think Russia will go into war with Japan. I hope so. It would sure shorten the war. I get to sleep tomorrow — oh boy. Then work at 5. I’m pretty sleepy right now. Although I haven’t written to you so often, you’ve been on my mind all the time. This month reminded me of a year ago and you’re very close to me. Sweetheart it looks like I’d better be saying “Goodnight — Sweet Dreams” XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX X= unknown quantity. Let X = kiss. I love ya, my Joe, Oh, hurry back my Darling.
Lela

Lela comments: The job at the Sandra was still new to me so I didn’t mind seeing the same show over and over. I did feel so close to Joe at this time. Maybe because it was our anniversary month and I was remembering how we met and how we fell for each other like a ton of bricks.

17 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-BEAUFORT-(P 9538). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen stayed all day. Sgt, Gerber’s tank joined rest of tanks at 98.5-39.2. Three Rocket tanks left 98.5-39.2. at 1330 for position to fire Rockets on enemy. Men fed three hot meals today.

18 Feb 1945
Luxembourg
Location-BEAUFORT-(P 9538). Trains, Maintenance and kitchen left Beaufort at 0800, arrived 98.5-39.2 at 0900. Ten tanks left 98.5-39.2 at 0600 to go into attack position with 317th. Combat Team. Lt. Walker’s tank hit on right side by A.T. Gun. T/4 DeLaurentis, and PFC Tondreau killed. Cpl. Daniels, and Cpl. Edwards, S.W.A. S/Sgt. Turkoff’s tank was hit on right side by A.T. Gun, between turret and hull. Shell lodged in turret ring preventing turret from turning. Tank goes to Ordnance. 26 rounds of Rocket Ammo taken to Lt. Springer’s Platoon. Sgt. Williams, while backing tank into better position, had tips of three fingers on right hand cut off when hatch fell on hand. Duty to Hospital.

According to the 702nd Tank Battalion A.G.O. records: “Company “A” reported to Headquarters, 313th Field Artillery Battalion on 5 February. Two of it’s platoons plus one section of 105mm assault guns were placed in indirect fire positions to reinforce the fire of the Field Artillery. The remaining platoon fired direct fire missions on pillboxes located across the Our River from positions southwest of Hoesdorf. The company continued carrying out the above until 14 February at which time the unit was attached to the 317th Infantry Regiment and assembled in Beaufort, prepared to move across the Sauer River at Dillengen on Regimental Order. The company moved across the river 15 February to an assembly area in the vicinity of L008420. The company remained in this assembly area until 18 February while the company officers conducted route and employment reconnaissance within the Regimental Zone of Advance. At 6:00am, 18 February, 1945, the company attacked north from the Sauer River in support of the 317th Infantry.

The morning of the Eighteenth, two tanks away from Joe’s “Rollin’ Rhino” sat Sgt. John W. Pertschi of Philadelphia, Pa. Feeling that he might die at any moment, John took out a book he’d picked up for it’s blank pages, which would make great writing paper. He wrote a letter to his mother Dorothy. If he was going to die, he wanted to say goodbye. He wrote:

Feb. [18] 1945
Time 05.00
If I Sgt. John Pertschi of Phila. should never return from this attack please send this book to my Mother. Mom we are in a hell of a spot and I want you to know just how I feel. All the years you saved and tried to make a chance in life for me. It just seems to be worthless, I don’t think I’ll get back. But I really do love you very much. You see we left the T.[tank] area with 10 tanks to try to cross the Our River. The infantry is just ahead and getting everything. I can hear them as they get hit. On my right I can see two tanks burn. I am just waiting for the next one to get us. But we were told to hold and cross the river. The rain and snow has made the river rise 10 feet above. Every time something moves they open up with the 88’s.From our side we have been firing everything we have. But what good is it when they are in pillboxes? It is 06:00 and dawn is coming up. My bow gunner is about out of his head. In the past hour we have moved about a half mile. We are now on the river bank, I can see a man running around the other side. 07:00 The bridge is in. My orders are to move up. We are over and they got the bridge dead center. If we can’t get help soon we’ll have to swim for it. I am now in the gunner seat trying to write. The Gunner is on look out, I have a flashlight which is hard to write with. Mom we are going to fight our way back and swim for it. The Doughs are getting it right and left. We can hear the Jerries massing tanks. So please pray for me if I don’t come out. I love you so very much I can never put it in words.
Please send this book to:
Mrs. Dorothy Pertschi
3064 N. 7th St
Phila 33 PA
U.S.A.

John Pertschi

One of the two tanks John described as burning was Sgt. George Williams’ tank, nearest him. It had backed up in an attempt to get into a better position after the first tank got hit, and it was hit as well. Sgt. Williams’ finger-tips were chopped off when the commander’s hatch slammed shut. His crew was unharmed and bailed out. “Black John”, the company mascot was riding in Sgt. Williams’ tank that day. The human crew pushed him out of the tank and he was machine-gunned by Germans as he hit the ground. The human crew escaped. The other tank was in the lead position, nearest the bridge spanning the Our River at Bollendorf, Germany. From the wooded hills across the river in Germany, an 88mm had hit “Rollin’ Rhino” dead-on in the welded-on extra armor plate on the right side. Instead of boring a neat hole through the tank as most armor piercing projectiles would, and exploding inside, this round exploded between the outer and inner armor, cracking a large section out of the side, and blowing it inward. The huge chunk of steel slammed into the crew inside. Lt. Ike Walker was spared because he had left the tank to go discuss the attack plans with the commander of another tank. Cpl. Howard Daniels, Jr. and Cpl. Jack Edwards were wounded badly in the lower parts of their bodies. PFC Jim Tondreau and Sgt. Joe De Laurentis were killed instantly. Sgt. Tom Barry remembered Howard Daniels, Joe’s Gunner returned fire on the German position, and continued firing the crippled tank’s cannon until Lt. Ike Walker forcibly pulled him from the hatch. With his lower body crushed, Jack, his Loader in similar shape, and Joe and Jim dead below him, it had to have taken super-human resolve to continue trying to kill the unseen enemy who had just killed his crew. In the early morning light, the men of A Company could see Jim and Joe’s bodies lying face down on the ground as the medics hauled Howard and Jack away, never to return. Tom Barry later saw Howard at Camp Pickett General Hospital. Howard had grown up in the same Philadelphia neighborhood as Tom and Joe. Howard was in a body cast from his arm-pits to his ankles. He had been pretty badly hit. Tom was at the convalescent hospital recuperating from his wounds in another part of Camp Pickett. At one point, he had to go to the general hospital for treatment. Walking down the hall, Tom met Al Swiegert from A Company. Al told Tom what room Howard was in, and Tom went to see him. Howard was in fairly good spirits, considering his poor condition. Howard eventually learned to walk with a cane. No one from the 702nd ever saw Jack Edwards again.

It was at the left end of the bridge over the river in this photo, that Joe’s tank was hit by a hidden Tiger tank on the hill to the bottom right of the photo, out of view here. Joe died instantly, and never knew what hit him. His tank gunner, Howard Daniels suffered both legs crushed from the same impact that had killed Joe and PFC Tondreau. Despite the hellish pain that he had to have been in, Howard Daniels found the strength to rotate the tank turret, and fire a return shot at the Tiger Tank, knocking it out.

 

 

The 702nd Tank Battalion, Company “A” diary entry for January 9th, states that lime was applied to the “A” Co. tanks, for camouflage. The entry for the thirteenth noted that S/Sgt. Larkin received a commission as 2nd Lt., and was transferred to Co. “B”. Also on that date, 2nd Lt. Clark F. Shaulis and 2nd Lt. Ivan W. Walker were transferred to Co. “A” from Headquarters, Third U.S. Army. Three months later, the B Co. Journal reported: “11 April, ’45 – Bad news today. At 8:00 A.M. Lt. Larkin was killed in the attack on a wooded area, believed to be cleared of anti-tank guns. His four tanks were going up to relieve the infantry, who were pinned down. The tank was hit a glancing shot, the projectile hitting Lt. Larkin. His death was instant. He was an excellent leader, all the men were close to him, we regret his loss very much.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four days later, in the early morning hours of February 18th (European Time) Joe DeLaurentis was killed crossing the Our River at Bollendorf. He died instantly.

 

58 years later, Lela wrote: It was in March, maybe about the middle of March when I came home after a late shift at the theater. The South Main bus swung around the corner and headed south as I hurried across the street toward home. I was in a hurry to see if there was any mail from Joe. It had been quite a while since I’d had a letter. The house was dark and still. Everyone had gone to bed or wasn’t in yet from an evening out. In the dim light I saw something on the piano. I was dismayed to find that it wasn’t a letter from Joe but a note to me from my mother. I wondered what this was about. I went into my room and turned on the light. The note started something like this:

 

“Dear Lela,

A lady named Mary called tonight and asked me to give you this message. Joe was killed on February 18, as his tank crossed into Germany. It was a freak accident of some sort.”

 

My mother heard me cry out and came running into my room. Her eyes were large and frightened as she told me that she just couldn’t tell me in person . I questioned her a bit about who Mary was . . . “a lady who lived on Smythe Street near Lawrence Stadium in Wichita” was all she knew. Part of me wanted to disbelieve what I’d been told, but in my heart I knew that it was true. Never in a million years did I think I’d get news like this in a message from my mom. I did not want to go on living. I wanted to die. I felt cold inside and out and had no interest in anything. I told my mother, “no”, she didn’t need to stay with me.

 

Joe died on February 18th, I had that dream that night and wrote to tell him about it the next day. ” . . . Last night I dreamed you dropped by our house in your tank to say Hello, then were gone. I ran after you, but couldn’t reach you and I cried like a baby. Then I heard you consoling me, saying you’d be back.” I firmly believe that Joe was allowed to come to me in my dream one last time with the message that he’d be back . He didn’t come to say “goodbye” because he wouldn’t use that term ever in his letters. He came to comfort me, to help me, to let me know that this was not the end.

 

Wichita, Kansas

February 19, 1945

 

Dearest Joe, my Darling,

Tonight I received 3 wonderful love letters from you. Honey, they really hit my tender spot. How is your cold? Still got it? Maybe on purpose? Don’t worry, Darling, I’ll fix it. It was nice that you could rest. Perhaps you’ll get to come home for your next rest. We do have a lot to do, Honey, but that is something to plan for, live for. While we’re waiting we can dream and think alone until we can plan together. Of course, there’s no harm in asking questions about the other’s likes and dislikes. For instance, where would you like to live? Philadelphia? Wichita? Some nice place where we could start all over again?

 

I didn’t think you ate much candy. Merely instinct. I remember you said you didn’t like sundaes once. Those people must be rather queer and behind times, there in Luxembourg. You’d think they’d learn after 2 wars that they should take an interest in their government and world affairs if they want to keep out of wars. Honey, your letters are all love letters and I love them. Thank you for the Luxembourg News and the money. You are a swell Joe. Eddie’s name is spelled ‘Eddie’. She has always spelled it Edie, but I’ve always spelled it Eddie. It’s like Eddy, a boy’s name. We all came to the agreement it should be spelled Eddie. Darling, you doubt I love you? I do love you! Please, please don’t doubt it. Last night I dreamed you dropped by our house in your tank to say hello, then were gone. I ran after you, but couldn’t reach you and I cried like a baby. Then I heard you consoling me, saying you’d be back. I’ve thought about our having a home of our own a lot of times, Honey. That is going to be happiness. Agree?? When you said “Listening to the radio with you on my lap,” — Oh, brother — sounds like heaven. That’s where we’re alike, Darling. We both think of peaceful, simple, loving things that we hope to obtain someday. I hate parties and stuffy things. You’re right about children, my Joe. They’re a serious problem and should be thought about more than they are sometimes. Three has always seemed like the right number to me. How about you? It has always seemed to me a boy is nice to have first. There’s one thing, I would prefer not to have any children for 1 or 2 years after we’re married. Is that all right with you? Yes, our kids are going to be brought up right and with the best of everything.

 

That quiet spot we are going to speak our minds in is sure getting interesting. Pop just walked in. You should have seen the look he gave me with your letter spread out in front of me. I’ve moved into the bedroom. Snooky (our dog) just poked her snoot in. You’re quite talented, Joe. Poems, drawing, sax, and trumpet. Do you sing or tap dance? I tried tap dance once and I hated it. I love to sing, but can’t. Isn’t it too bad? You asked me if I would like to meet your family. — All of them. What does that include? Well, especially your mother and father and it would be nice to meet the others. I should enjoy it very much, but especially your parents. My pictures sure get around, don’t they? I think they must be a swell family, especially your mother. She is very nice. My mother thinks so, too. I’ll be looking forward to that date at church. You know I like to learn things new, Honey, so get ready. You sure can write long letters. Wow and good reading, too. Honey, this better be the close for tonight. You know, Joe, my darling I love. Yes, it’s true.

Love forever and ever and ever,

LeLa

Kisses

XXX

 

Lela comments: I was positively elated to get those 3 letters –when I took them from the piano I felt like giving it a big hug–but, better not, someone might be looking. As I wrote my reply (above) I mentioned to Joe that I’d had another dream, in the dream I cried, the dream really didn’t make sense: Joe driving his tank to our house on S. Water . Dreams are hard to figure out sometimes.

 

Wichita, Kansas

February 24, 1945

 

Dearest Joe, my Darling,

I received your letter you wrote January 17 yesterday. In about half an hour I have to leave for work, so I’ll sort of make this reply in a hurry. You seem to be pretty crazy about the Ink Spots. Your interpretation was sweet, Honey. — Thanks for being a good boy. I hope we know each other when you get back. Maybe we’ll both be so fat we won’t. That would be funny. I don’t believe I have grown any more since last year. At least, that’s what I’m told. There is one decided change about me this year, though. Remember how tired I used to be all the time? This year I’ve got a lot more pep and feel more alive since I’m not working after school. I believe I told you, Honey, I like your mother and we seem to be getting along ok. We talk about the weather (this is Spring here, Honey), a little. But most of the time it is about you; when we last heard from you and so on. You know I love you, Honey, and can’t wait ’til you’re back. Are you glad you never went through with not seeing me again? I’m glad you didn’t, Darling, I hope you are, too. Did I tell you “Hollywood Canteen” was held over at the Sandra? Now I’ll see it 24 times — (oo). Next week is “Thunderhead” in Technicolor — about a horse. We went to church last night. That’s one time in the week I enjoy. When I can go do something for you. That’s because I love you. Keep your cold at least a little, or maybe you can have a setback when you’re here so I can take care of it. And how. I imagine I’ll have to start scribbling faster so I can get to work and mail this. Mom is baking a pie. I don’t know what kind. I’ll ask her — It’s apple. Want to come over for dinner tomorrow, Joe? I’m a mean girl for teasing you. — That reminds me — you used to tease me — Do you remember in the show? Well, my Joey, I’ll say good afternoon and write soon. (Poet and don’t know it.)

Love, LeLa

I love you truly.

Kisses by the 1,000,000’s

 

Lela comments: The mail is over a month behind–I bring Joe up to date on the movies where I am now ushering-standing there in the darkened theater after everyone is seated allows one’s mind to roam and of course it did go to Joe. I’d watch those newsreels mainly hoping beyond hope that I’d catch a glimpse of him. I was still worried about his cold and his tiredness. My own tiredness had improved with shorter hours of work. I tell Joe how I enjoy going to church and praying for him. He loves to hear that, too.

 

 

Wichita, Kansas

February 26, 1945

 

Dearest Joe,

I was very surprised to get another letter this afternoon, dated February 11. Remember I told you in my last letter we were having spring weather? This morning snow was on the ground and tonight it was real warm. Honey, did it offend you what my mother said about your picture? You don’t need to be, Darling, she really thinks quite a bit of you even though she doesn’t know you very much. Remember that night you came in Tilford’s and told me you had to go back to camp on a truck, then I saw you that night and you said you didn’t get on the truck. You were with some other guys. I was worried what the Army officer would say and you said you could usually talk yourself out of anything. I got about 3 raises at Tilford’s, but, oh, brother, do you really have to work and it really doesn’t pay when you’re going to school, too. Do you know what kind of work you want when you get back? Listen, I wish I was a teacher, too, ’cause then I could have an excuse for seeing you so often. Today is Eddie’s birthday and we had a dinner for her and etc. Ah, my Romeo, if I could only fling my arms around your neck and kiss you. You’re my sweet, sweet, wholesome, solid Joe and I love you. Sunday us girls went down to Nick’s for dinner. It’s just a little place but it’s clean and cozy. Well, it’s just about time I should start getting ready for slumber. We drew a house in free hand drawing using the vanishing point. When I really get good, I’ll try drawing some for us to look over.

“‘Night” Sweetie,

Love forever,

LeLa

Tons of Kisses and hugs

Here’s a sample

[Lipstick kiss inside hand drawn heart with an X through the center]

 

Lela Comments: I had told Joe in one letter that when I showed my mom his latest photo she had commented that he looked like a mischievous little boy who had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I didn’t know he’d be sensitive to her comments but found out when he wrote back that I could tell her he was 5’11” —he said he’d get another picture taken because that one made him look fat.

 

 

 

From: Mrs. P. Corona, (Joe’s Aunt)

Phila. PA

March 5, 1945

 

Dear Miss Bush,

I am visiting Mrs De Laurentis and understand you have been corresponding with her & also her son, Joe. I don’t know if you have received any news about him but Mrs. De Laurentis has, which of course is not good. Mrs.De Laurentis has been telling me that you and Joe have been such very good friends and from what she says I gather you think a lot of each other. What I am about to say will probably be a shock to you, as it was to his mother. She received a telegram dated February 27th saying he was killed in action on February 18th. She and her daughter had both received a letter from Joe, dated February 5th, the same day they got the telegram. It was a terrible thing after reading his cheerful letters then a couple of hours later receiving a telegram that he was killed. Please do not feel too badly about it as you know that is the ways of war. We never know who or where it will strike next. His mother is very, very much broken up over it, you can well imagine as you know it was her only son. She just adored him. That is only natural I guess. She is such a wonderful person. There wasn’t a thing too much for her to do for Joe. If you had really met her you would find she is like that with everybody. Joe was like that himself. He took after his mother in lots of ways. He was a find young man. Everywhere he went he made friends and was well liked. I don’t suppose I have to tell you that. If you were around him very much you probably found it out for yourself. It seems as though God always chooses the good ones first. I guess that is life. We take things as they come if we like it or not. The only thing left now to do is pray that it is a mistake, which often times happen. By the way there is to be a Solemn Requiem High Mass for him on St. Joseph’s, March 19th. I thought perhaps you would like to know and maybe be able to go to Mass. They have not as yet received a confirming letter, from the government of his death, therefore, this is about all I can tell you, but will get more details later from his mother. It’s too bad you live so far away from her as your being so fond of Joe could have been of some consolation to her at this time. Again, I say don’t feel too badly about it as these things happen every day and are to be expected. Mrs. DeLaurentis and family, also myself wish to send you our condolence.

Mrs. P. Corona writing for Mrs. DeLaurentis

 

 

Phila. 24, PA

March 20, 1945

 

My dear Lela,

Received letter a few days ago-unable to answer sooner as I have been pretty sick since the sad news. Lela, I know just how broken hearted you are over Joe’s death. I know that both of you loved each other dearly. There isn’t one person here who hasn’t felt the sorrow, I really didn’t know Joseph had so many friends who cared so much for him; cards, masses- I’ve received show he must have been loved by them all. Lela, in several of my letters, Joe talked about you in a fine way-he told me you were the girl for him if the War would ever end which he hoped for soon. Once he said he knew I would be good to you, and to him you seemed so much like me, always going to church and lighting candles for him. I felt so happy to know he was having a nice friend that thought so much of him. As you say life is nothing after all death takes away happiness so fast. Lela, I had a high mass said for Joseph yesterday at ten o’clock and that is about all I can do for him. I would liked for you to be here but I knew you were too far away. If ever you care to come down I surely will be glad to have you anytime and also your family. Just write and I’ll see that someone will meet you. I will always write to you when I can and you are always my friend, as you mentioned Joe would want it that way. I feel he is happy in heaven and someday we all expect to be there with him. Lela, I would like you to write and tell me all you can about just how Joe really met death as three days before he wrote a letter to my daughter and it surely was a lovely letter. I can hardly realize this is true. I’m expecting to hear from the War Department and his chaplain father and when I do hear from them I will surely write and tell you. I’m sure one of his buddy’s would know something. Lela, Joe told me in his last letter about he was sending you a poem of his own–I’m wondering if he had it finished before his death. I do believe now that he was really sick and wanted to come home in two of his letters he had a bad cold and he felt a little better when he wrote his last letter dated February 8th & Jan. 31, so I don’t believe he was really over all his cold when they sent him back into action or else he must have died in the hospital. That is why I’m so anxious to hear just where he died. Did Joe mention to you about a few pictures he had taken in Luxembourg. In my letter he said he had six pictures he would send me a couple and you one and hoped they would be nice because he was all washed and hair combed and his soldier dress suit on which he seldom had a chance to wear. I’m in hopes that they forward to me all his belongings soon. Lela, his buddy, Bill Beck, wrote to his mother here in Phila. after Joe’s death and told her to give me a picture of Joe as he thought I would like to have it and didn’t tell her anything about him getting killed. So, now that I’ve told her what happened she said she is going to write to her son and if he can tell her just what did happen there she will tell me. This will be all, Lela, and I hope to get some news from you soon. I’ll remain as ever, Your friend,

Mrs. M. DeLaurentis

 

 

 

Phila. PA

April 16, 1945

 

My dear Lela,

Received letter a few weeks ago, which I was very glad to hear you are in good health. I tried so hard to write to you at Easter time but it seems though holidays are worse with me, and again. I’ve been put to bed. I do wish I could feel better about all that has happened. I know it’s going to take time as you can imagine how much a son means to a mother. The only information I’ve received is a letter from his commanding officer dated 19th of March: Saying Joseph was an important member because by performing his assigned duties with sincere enthusiasm and prodigious energy which made for himself an unforgettable niche in the minds of his officers and men with whom he served. I can get his belongings by corresponding direct to Washington, D.C. Joseph is buried in a National Cemetery in Duchy of Luxembourg and a Catholic chaplain officiated at the burial service and he can assure me he died as he lived, a soldier and a gentleman. I received a purple heart. Memories that will never be forgotten. I have asked my priest here if he can get me more information on his death. So he is going to write to Joseph’s buddy, Beck, and see if he can’t get the name of his chaplain and that way both chaplains’ can write bishops then we learn the real truth. I’m still waiting to hear from you any news concerning Joe. I wish to be remembered to all of your family.

With love to you from your friend,

Mrs. De Laurentis

 

 

Philadelphia, PA (24)

September 9, 1945

 

My dear Lela,

Letter received Saturday & pleased to hear from you again and you are well. Sorry I didn’t answer letter sooner but, Lela, you really understand how things are with me. I just can’t get to feeling like myself. E (Easter?) and Joe has been too much for me to take at one time, although I am feeling much better. Yes, Lela, I have heard about Joe’s friend, Jack (this should be Bill) Beck. His mother & I often call each on the telephone about once every three weeks. The last time I was speaking to her she said that Jack (Bill), will be coming home some time this month and he will be sure to visit me. Then I can find out a few things I want to know. Lela, I only wish it hadn’t happened as it’s a hard cross for us here: it changed our whole home. It was nice for you to take a trip to Newton for a few days. I’m sure it’s good for me, as it takes things off your mind. Lela, I sure do want you to visit me any time. I shall enjoy your company and there are many things to talk about. Let me know and I’ll be sure to stay home. I believe in one letter you asked me to tell you my birthday so you can send me a card. If you still want to know it is on the 21st of May. Many of Joe’s friends are home already from overseas. I often think why I wasn’t lucky to get my son home. This Tuesday is Joe’s birthday, he will be 21 years old. I remember his last birthday he wrote in his letter that he hoped he wouldn’t spend another one like the last one as he had a fierce fight (and a sad sack). The weather now is getting nice and it shall soon be wintertime. Lela, I forgot to mention that my young sister had also some ill luck: she had a son, 15 years of age to die about four weeks ago, which has made everyone sad again. He was the youngest of 2 children, and a good boy. You can very well see why I haven’t been writing much. My daughter’s husband is coming home soon from England, he has a little girl going on two years old that he has never seen yet. Surely, he will be proud of her as she is such a darling. Well, Lela, I hope I hear from you again and tell me what you want me to send you for Christmas because I know if Joe were here he would want it this way. I shall feel hurt if you don’t tell me. Lots of love to you and family from my family and I am,

Mrs. De Laurentis, as always.

 

 

 

Philadelphia, PA

November 11, 1945

 

My dear Lela,

I hope you are in good health. I have been thinking of you and I’ve been so sorry I couldn’t write you sooner. This is the whole reason, I tried to get some real hard work done around the house before all the holidays so, I started with some painting downstairs which took about a month as you know how slow painters have to work they have so many jobs at one time to start and get finished on account of labor shortages. I also had a few rooms papered. It really needed every bit that I mentioned and now that I’ve told you about all of this I do hope you will forgive me, dear. Lela, I believe that you asked in your letter if I have a daughter by the name of Bernice and a married daughter, Marie, yes, they are the only children I’ve had bedsides Joe. Having only one son is why I miss him so much. Did I tell you I received Joe’s ring and a few of your pictures and a couple of cards. It made me feel bad, but I’m glad to have them as a remembrance of him. His friend, Beck didn’t get home. I was talking on the phone to his mother. Thanks a lot for the pictures you sent me, surely a sweet looking young lady. I only hope some day you can pay us a visit. I shall surprise with one of mine some day. I hope your cold is better by this time. This sort of weather is bad for us all–it’s too warm in this time of year. Lela, I’m trying to think what I could get for your Christams gift and its so hard if only I knew what size clothing you wear it then would be easy. Are you just a small girl? According to your picture you can be a 12-14, am I right? I’m going shopping next week and if I don’t within a couple more weeks the stores will be out of everything. As it is they have very little to pick from. It looks as though the war is still on. I hope this will also find your family in the best of health. With lots of love to you from loving friend,

Mary De Laurentis

 

 

 

 

December 4, 1945

 

My dear Lela,

It just seems I can’t get my self together to write to you sooner, always some little thing to hinder me. First, I shall ask how you and your family are doing? I hope well and happy; especially for our Christmas Holidays. Believe me I’ve tried so hard to get Christmas shopping done, and haven’t yet accomplished much. My daughter, Marie’s birthday was yesterday, she was 24 years old, perhaps I shouldn’t have told it. Oh, well, she can still wait a few more years and then go back to 16 years old again. Her husband promised to give her a phone call from London, England at twelve noon wishing her a Happy Birthday, so, nothing done all day but wait for her call. Instead of a call a beautiful bouquet of red roses arrived. Today, she still waits for her phone call. I can’t explain how anxious with joy she feels, but I believe this is something that hasn’t happened for years, it seems, in this house. I’ll write again and tell you how everything is in my next letter. I still like to see others happy, but for myself, I don’t think I can ever be again. Lela, I understand how you feel about Joseph, but it will all take some time before you can forget some of the nice things and memories you both had for a happy future, but with prayer always God shall take care of you and I know he has because of you being a good girl. He never fails. I’m going to send you a prayer, which I received from a dear friend of mine. She told me that it was going to make me feel better, so it did make me feel closer to him. And I hope it is going to help you, too. If you care to keep it that is alright, if not you can mail it back to me after you’re through with it.

 

General Wainwright was here in Philadelphia about a month ago : our school children all went to hear what he had to say. He talked mostly on being a prisoner of the Japs, our Bernice said he surely told some terrible experiences that he had gone through. I’m trying to forget war and all of it’s cruelties: at times I find very hard. I feel like you, Lela, that nothing would be to severe a punishment for them. Although I feel as others do that I still believe another war will follow soon. No, Bill Beck hasn’t come home yet, but I hope when he does he won’t forget to stop over. Lela, I want you to take care of yourself and don’t worry as everything is going to turn out alright; try to make yourself happy and have a nice Christmas. I only wish I could be with you, I’m sure we could chase all the blues away. So many things to talk about. I just feel I know you, not as a stranger, but a friend for many years. Lela, I forgot to mention I don’t want you to spend any money on me. But, what I am going to get for you will be only through love for you and Joe. I must close now as I have so much to do. It wouldn’t take too long if I were able to work like I used to a few years ago.

Love to you and your family from lonely friend,

Mary De Laurentis

 

 

Phildelphia, PA

December 30, 1945

 

Dearest Lela,

Today has been a rainy and dreary, so I thought best to stay home and get caught up with writing. I’ve been trying to answer your letter for some time. You said that your mother and sister had been sick with flu. Hoping they are all well again. I’ve been sick also but was able to be up and around again for Christmas with my family, although it wasn’t such a happy one. I tried to make it as cheerful as possible for the rest of the folks. Lela, I can hardly tell you how pleased I was when Bill Beck called on the phone and told me he was home to stay. I never had seen him only what Joe would write and tell me about him. He’s surely a fine boy and friend. He visited me and told me some things I wanted to know concerning Joseph’s death. I felt bad, of course, I didn’t let him know about it. I’m going to write him and invite his family over for dinner some Sunday and he wants to bring another friend that was with them overseas that Joseph knew. Lela, I want to thank you much for the lovely gift you sent me. More than I expected. Hoping God will take care of you and your loved ones. Lela, I had a box mailed out from the store to you with toilet water and perfume as I couldn’t get out shopping on account of being sick so , I hope you have received it and when I get out myself I’ll try getting you something else that I wanted for you. No, Marie’s husband didn’t get home yet, from overseas. She is worried as she hasn’t heard from him since he called up on the plane from London December 4th. I believe he is on his way home and can’t write. Many more of our boys are home. We had lost 21 boys from our parish. It seems there from all families that have only one or 2 boys only and families that could have done so much for sons. Lela, it just had to be, I guess. I will close with love,

From your friend,

Mary De Laurentis

 

 

 

Phildelphia, PA (24)

February 24, 1946

 

Dearest Lela,

Even though it has been such a long time, I haven’t written to you, I have been thinking of you a great deal and hoping to write. I can hardly tell you how much trouble I’ve had since the last time I wrote to you. I do hope you and your family are all in good health and everything OK now that the weather is getting nice again. Lela, I don’t like to talk about my troubles as I feel every one else has plenty, too. But, it seems as though I got mine all in a heap, so I do wish this will be the end for awhile. My husband hasn’t been well since about the month of August, and it has him down that he isn’t able to work very much, only for a few hours a day. The dr. can’t find just what is the real cause of it all. He has been having pain on the side of his hip in almost the same place where he was wounded in the first WW, and we think that it is due to infection of the bone, and which can be cured if taken in time. My daughter, Marie, has been sick and I believe she is just tired of waiting for her husband to get home. He has written her about a month ago saying he was leaving England for home about the first of February. Then she received a telegram saying he would arrive in Indiantown Gap (not certain of word), four days later she gets another saying he missed the ship and will be detained for a month. She just doesn’t understand why and has made herself sick. Her baby was 2 years old on the 21st of February and she was sure Dan would be home as he has never seen the baby. Marie has surely put all her time with Carlann (uncertain of name) trying to give her such good care; it seems hard when the father isn’t around to help raise her.

 

Lela, I could go on telling you much more but I guess I won’t as you wouldn’t understand. I do wish some day I can visit with you and then I could really explain things. If anytime you care to visit me just write and I’ll be happy to meet you and do all I can. I can even get a cheaper rate on your fare from Kansas, as I have a friend working for Penn. RR. All you have to do is tell which way you get here, and I will see you get the tickets. Yes, Lela, we have a few beautiful stores in Phila., also many more buildings that will attract you very much. I can assure you that your time won’t be wasted while here with me. If it wasn’t so far to your home Marie could drive out some time as she has Dan’s car and she drives it herself. Joe gave her lessons before he entered the service. I almost forgot to mention I did have Bill Beck and his mother and sister up to our house about a month ago. They came for dinner and we certainly had a lovely day talking about everything they had done while they were still at camp together with the gang. Bill is a very nice person. I told him about you and he doesn’t remember meeting you but said he heard a lot about you as Joe always talked about you and how much he thought of you. I asked Bill while he was speaking about some boys getting married to girls over there that if Joseph ever thought of any other girl. He said not Joe, as he loved Lela too much to do anything against her. Isn’t that a sweet memory. I try not to wish Joe back again for the simple reason that God loved him too. It will soon be Easter and springtime. It always meant so much when the children were all small. But now it is only another day. I always think of children for their sake I try and make Easter as happy as I can because it brings memories when I was a child. I’m trying to write this letter in a hurry as Marie expects to take me down Jersey for the day. I don’t know if I ever told you that all my family live down in Jersey; only me here in Phila. . We lived here since the end of first War, right after getting married. Well, Lela, I will have to stop now as it ‘s getting around to dinnertime so I hope you all are well and happy. Sending our love to you, and remember me to your family with love,

Mrs. Mary DeLaurentis

 

 

 

Phila. PA

March 6, 1946

 

My dearest Lela,

Your lovely letter received, certainly glad you are all enjoying good health. Me, here also well. Marie’s husband will be in this weekend, as far as we know now. I do hope every thing will soon change, and we have better luck. The weather here isn’t so bad, now, although it is still cold. Lela, I hardly know what to say to you about training in a Catholic hospital, after you’re through school. I’m sure that would be one swell place for any nice girl and hope your father won’t have the say of it. I can assure you that he is making a great mistake not letting you do something you like so much. I also think that your mother should have the say when it is left to the daughter to choose for herself. Really, you have my sympathy, dear. Lela, all I can tell you is go to church and pray to the Blessed Mother, never let anyone stop you. For you are certainly deserving alot of credit. Every year starting March 4th our church has a novena for St. Francis (Xavier) and for many years I have made this novena so this week I am making another. I have written a petition and hoping yours will be granted. I shall remember you in my prayers every day I attend mass, also for your family, and especially your dad. I can well understand people not going to church, but I can’t see why catholic training in a hospital would be against your father’s wishes. Lela, let me know when you graduate as I would like to get a small gift for you. I won’t ask you to come see us as you know I’m going to leave it up to you, as you will be most welcome whenever you make up your mind to see or visit me. Yesterday, my youngest sister’s huband and their 14 year old son came to Philadelphia from their Jersey home to spend a couple of days with me and we all went to see the picture called, “The Bells of St. Mary’s”, at one of our largest movie houses, the Masshum (uncertain of name). It is surely a beautiful place, and the picture was nice, too. Today is our first day of lent, so I must try making some real sacrificing; keep from sweets and all amusement places during lent. Lela, anything you want to know don’t hesitate: I shall be glad to help you and make you happy. With love to you and remember me to your family.

I remain as ever, Your friend,

Mrs. M. DeLaurentis

 

 

April 19, 1946

 

Dearest Lela,

It has been sometime that I haven’t written to you, I really meant to answer your letter sooner. I’ve been awfully busy that I didn’t get time. I do hope that you have been well, and also the rest of your family. Easter is now at hand, and I bet the Easter bunny is going to bring you a lot of pretty clothes and a cute little Easter bonnet. I do like to look at the girl’s on Easter with their colorful outfits on Easter morning. Lela, I wanted to get you a gift but couldn’t think of a thing that you would like, so I’m sending money and hoping you will buy something for yourself. I know Joe wants it this way. I’m certainly proud to hear you are soon getting out of high school grades. I’m sure it is going to get you out into the world doing bigger things in life. Education today is a means of a good job. Let me know if you still want to be a nurse. Lela, I’m still saying a prayer that you will become a Catholic some day. I know from what you have told me that you’re meant to be one, without a bit of exaggeration. I’m waiting for that day to come. The weather here is getting so nice it really makes me feel like going away down the shore where I can go in swimming and take a long rest. Although it would at times make me feel so blue as I can always think of the last trip we took and Joe was along, Marie and her husband. We had loads of fun as when they got together we had plenty of fun. Lela, I forgot to say Marie’s husband is home and they still are here with me, houses are so hard to get they may be some time getting a place for themselves. Our house is big enough but I know all young married couples like to go for themselves. That is the right way to get a start in life –work and build up for yourself. I wish I had more time I could write plenty as I do have so much to say and talk about if only you were near. I dreamed of you the other night and it seemed so real that I awoke as though you were right near–it was a nice dream: you were here and I was trying to make up where I could take you so I could show you around Philadelphia. It could be true perhaps; not just now, but another time. I must close, I’m to meet with my sister in town at 2 o’clock and its almost that now. I will close with love to you and remember me to your family,

Mrs. DeLaurentis

 

 

May 16, 1946

Philadelphia, PA

 

 

My dearest Lela,

Just a few lines, in haste I know I should have written sooner, but you do understand how hard it is when so many holidays come almost together. You wanted to know how I spent my Easter. Why, very well I had seven persons at dinner and after dinner we went out for a pleasure ride stopping at Atlantic City for awhile. Even the weather was nice and we took pictures although I haven’t seen them yet. I still owe you a picture of myself. Before going any further I must thank you for those beautiful carnations you sent on Mother’s day. Most sweet of dear Lela. To my mind you are one wonderful child. I’m sure your mother is very proud of you. I want to thank you for them and I do hope they will bring you many graces and blessings, Lela, I sent them placed in front of the blessed Mother on the altar for a special favor for you. You asked me to tell you how Joseph met death. Bill told me it was while they were on the field getting ready, although there wasn’t much going on at that time. It seemed the Germans had been fighting then stopped so the Lt. told the men with the tanks to getting order as they thought there would soon fight again. Bill said they were all sitting around joking and having a little fun. Joseph had been laughing and saying funny things as he usually would try to keep themselves happy. When the Lt. came over and told him to move ahead so they started around this big hill and the bullets were all coming over, a few minutes later they saw smoke so Joseph’s tank was the only one didn’t get around. Bill said then he could see from his tank that one tank was hit and the Lt. Had about three fellows down on the ground–he heard afterward that Joseph died with the assistant driver. The way Bill explained it that the driver was shot but Joseph was hurt from the plate steel and didn’t think he was shot. I did find out that they were all taken out before the tank burned up and all in one piece. That makes me feel a little better to know they weren’t burned to death anyway. Still I would have liked to see him come home, I see most of his friends around and it makes me feel sad but I’m glad for all the other mothers that they do have their sons although it is hard for me not to have mine.

 

Marie and Dan are still with me. He went back to ship yard again to work but they are looking to buy a home, so I do hope he will have steady work and will be able to go for themselves. Not that I don’t want them here, but it’s just that it is much nicer for young married people to get their own start with a home of their own. This weekend is my sister’s birthday and we’re trying to get a surprise up for her so I’m going to have a gang at our house again. She is the youngest of the family and has the only child is a son of almost fifteen years of age going to high school. Well, Lela if you really like to take up nursing that is just the way to do; stick by and get all the education you can while young, and I would like for you to get into a Catholic hospital. It would be nice to come to Philadelphia for your training. We have some very nice big hospitals. I have a couple nurses in our family and a couple of nephews taking up doctors and they all seem to be doing very well and like it a lot. How is your girlfriend making out with becoming a catholic? Is she married yet? So many girls around the neighborhood are getting married to boys that are getting home from overseas. They are all young ladies that I know most of them since they were only school children, and it makes me feel so I am an old woman. I’ve started our young daughter, Bernice, taking music lessons this is her first one, and she has given me a headache already but I guess I’ll have to put up with it until she learns to play real nice so I can take pleasure in listening to her music. That won’t be for some time yet. Well, Lela, I will close for now and I again thank you and shall always remember you. With love to you and remember us all to your family, I am your friend,

Mrs. De Laurentis

 

 

Philadelphia, (24) Penn.

July 16, 1946

 

Dearest Lela,

Letter received today –certainly a surprise–I held my breath, thinking something was wrong. I’m glad it was good news instead. Surely sweet of you to ask Johnny to find out about Joe’s grave. I’ve been wishing for a long time someone could go and visit his grave and tell me just how it looks where and how he is buried. Some people seem to think they buried two and three all in the same grave, so that has been bothering me as I would like to have Joe’s body here in the States. But, if that is true, I won’t be sure that it is his body, I couldn’t feel contented wondering if it could be someone else. I’ll tell you what to do, Lela, I am sending you place and number of grave so I do hope to get some real good news. Tell Johnny to find out if Joe is the only one buried in with him & if it needs a new cross for his name–perhaps the one on now is sort of old, and if he can get a new one made I will pay him for it at any cost. I really wish I could have the grave taken care of even though I would be willing to pay. Tell him also find out if I can have the body sent home and how I can find out if for certain whether it is his body. And If there is anything else he can find out for me tell him to do so as I’m very anxious for every bit of information. I can find out after I hear from you just what I want to do.

 

Lela, so glad to hear you made such good marks in (unreadable). I know you are going to make a good nurse because I believe you’re just the kind of a person it takes to make a real nurse; thoughtful, kind & intelligent. I’m going to pray for you a lot from now on. Lela, I can feel for you how much you thought of Joe. Well, most everybody thinks a lot of him and they still speak of him being nice and even beautiful. But, you must realize a girl with your ambition shouldn’t go through life lonely or even lonesome. But, make up your mind to make friends as I think Joseph would want it just that way. I’m sorry, Lela, for that trouble you mention about in your letter. I always feel sorry as it must be hard for both parties to decide. I’m sending a gift to you and I hope you will like it as I thought it to be very nice. Although it (can be exchanged) for something else. About going to St. Francis: how are you and the girlfriend going to register for taking up nursing. I just hope you get in some good hospital. And if you go into a Catholic one the nuns are so sweet and much different than any other nurses. I’m sure you’re going to like being with them. Do you still make novena’s? Whenever you stop in a Catholic church say a prayer for Joe & me, too.

 

I went in town to shop with my younger sister –she lives in Laurel Springs, N.J. about 18 miles from here. Every week her and I spend one day together in town instead of visiting each other at home, we shop awhile and then go have lunch and then visit some church. She is the sister who lost her 15-year-old son last year. She still feels terrible over his loss. It’s something that takes time to get over. As I was going to say we went to visit a large church called the Shrine of the Miracle Medal, they hold novenas every Monday from 9 AM to 9 PM. Hundreds of people from all parts of Phila. & Jersey come to make a novena. So, sister & I started one this making our 2nd. Novena calls for 9 weeks in sectionals for one novena, I do hope to get my favor I’m asking for. Lela, it would be nice if sometime you get down to see our shore here in Jersey. I know you would enjoy the swell salt water and swimming and bright sun along with a healthy tan. I bet you would feel like a different girl. I really go down for the good it does for me, and also Bernice, it keeps her from catching cold in winter. This year the prices on rental and food was quite high but I didn’t mind that as long it does good. People today try getting all they can because they know people made money during War and they try to get all they can. Poor soldiers sure getting a beating after all they done to win the war, although they haven’t yet won just right. I never will forgive those people for taking our young youths to do their fighting while the older ones had a lot of fun in the back lines. It never felt fair to me right from the start. God only, will ever know what it has made of me and Dad. Thanks for asking about Dad. He is much better than he has been. Dr. says his trouble was all from the wound he received from the first war.

With lots of love to you & family, I am your’s,

Mrs De Laurentis

 

The remains of my son were interred in the United States Military Cemetery,

Hamm, Luxembourg,

Plot F, row 3,

Grave 57

DeLaurentis Joseph F.

S.N. 33,596770

 

 

Comment: Mrs. DeLaurentis writes about Johnny finding Joe’s grave etc. I think I had mentioned to her that he was going into the Air Force and if he was sent to Europe he would look up Joe’s grave. He wasn’t sent out of the country although he was activated during the Korean crises and we were so afraid he’d have to go there. Johnny had met Joe and had made me a small tank -which he may have yet-I’m not sure.

 

 

 

 

Philadelphia (24) PA

December 29, 1946

 

Dearest Lela,

Did you have a nice Christmas? I hope so. This year Dan was home so that made our Christmas nicer, but, of course, not exactly the same as before the war. I don’t think it will ever be again. The Poinsettia you sent me is beautiful. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it very much. Lela, I sent you something useful, but that was not really the gift intended for you. It was like this; I bought something for you, and when I went to box it to mail, I found it was damaged, was I angry. I wanted you to have something from me for Christmas. So, I sent you the apron, but you really haven’t the one meant for you, but will receive it just as in the near future. So that is the whole story. Lela, about the picture of the grave. The woman that took that one is going to try and get some more and if so I certainly will see that you get one. I’m very glad to hear that you have a nice boy friend and sure that he will in time take Joe’s place in your heart. I know he would want it that way. You really deserve someone fine. I must also tell you how glad I am to know that you are doing what you really have wanted to for sometime, that is taking instructions. You won’t be sorry. If that is what you want you are doing the right thing, and I don’t think it will be too hard to explain to your parents. I’m only sorry that we are so far apart. Maybe I could help a little. The more you learn about it the better you will like it. Lela, don’t know what date your birthday is but I hope Marie has her baby on that day. Please let me know the date of your birthday, would like to have it very much. Will close now with lot of love to you, also wishing you and your family and George a HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

PS Please excuse pencil writing as I’ve lost my pen during Christmas, but I’m sure I’m going to find it again.

Mrs. DeLaurentis

 

 

Postmarked: April 1996

Dear Mrs. Eitel:

I hope what little I can tell you will be a little help. I received a Battle Field commission on 12 January 1945 an was assigned to “A” CO. on 13 Jan. 1945. So I only knew Joe DeLaurentis and Joe (should be Jim) Tondreau for a period of about 6 weeks before our tank was hit and both were killed. Cpl. Daniels and Cpl. Edwards were seriously injured and myself not so serious. I radioed Headquarters and reported I had 2 dead and 2 seriously injured. I requested medical evacuation immediately. I knew I had 2 dead, as soon as I could I opened the driver’s hatch (DeLaurentis side) and then the other side (Tondreau’s) . Believe me I never seen anything like it. Both had died instantly from their wounds. When the medics arrived I called for another one of my tanks to come to my position. I gave the tank commander instructions to stay with the crew till they were evacuated and ride back to the company HQ: with them. I then departed with the other tank and continued on with the mission, which I was assigned. That’s the details of the incident. When our mission was over and returned to the company all I could find out was that Cpl. Daniels & Cpl. Edwards had been evacuated to the US and the 2 bodies had been shipped to Luxembourg for interment. From what I can remember from 51 years back I never had any troublemakers in my platoon. I remember the other crewmembers speaking highly of both of them and that I had inherited a good crew when I was assigned. When Fita and I attended reunions many complementary remarks were made about the two of them. I am enclosing a few photocopies of some of the actions we were involved in between 13 January and 18 February, 1945. I hope this will be of some help in enlightening your mind a little.

Sincerely,

Ivan (Ike) Walker

 

P.S. I finished out the WWII war and was sent to Korea. Still in tank corps assigned company commander Tk. Co.. Finished that. Back to Europe, some Stateside assignments and retired as a Major. After retiring, I taught ROTC 11 years in the Denver public schools before retiring for good.

 

 

LIFE AFTER JOE

 

A letter came to me from Philadelphia about 4 days to a week after I’d learned of Joe’s death. I had been wondering if I should tell his mother about the call that my mother had received informing me of Joe’s death. Did they know yet, I wondered. The letter was from Joe’s aunt, a Mrs. Corona, who said that the family had received the news and were wondering if I’d heard also. A few weeks later Mrs. DeLaurentis was able to write to me and would do so periodically for the next few years. She was a dear woman whose heart had been broken. What a pair we were. Our correspondence was fairly gloomy, I’m afraid. She’d hoped that I could come there to Philadelphia but I had no money, and was so certain that my parents wouldn’t let me go that i didn’t ask them. I remember feeling pained that I couldn’t be there for the High Mass they were having for him at his church, St Timothy’s. Everyday I went to school and work walking about like a dead person. I had no interest in anything. Joe was dead. What did that mean to me? When I was a child my little friend died of a ruptured appendix. Her death was my first dealings with death. I did not accept it, I ran and hid and screamed when my mother had told me. Later I had asked my mother what happened when people die. This is what she told me: when people die they go to sleep and never wake up, everything is all black. That was the only explanation of death I knew at the time of Joe’s death. In my mind Joe was gone, completely gone and didn’t exist anymore. We didn’t talk about Joe at my house anymore. If I mentioned anything about Joe I was discouraged from talking about him. I didn’t talk to anyone about Joe with the exception of writing to Mrs. DeLaurentis and even then I was feeling that we might be upsetting one another. In our family we didn’t grieve nor show emotion. Perhaps this was typical of the times, but also I felt because of my age I wasn’t to show grief or sadness. It simply wasn’t done.

 

I continued to go to church with my friend, Norma, and her mother and aunts to the Friday night Novena. We continued to pray for peace and the safe return of the military . None of us talked about Joe again. Going to church helped some, but the job I had at the theater was hard to do. The war news blared the atrocities found in the prison camps, but, the worst thing I had to watch was the Victory in Europe, May 8, 1945. I was both elated and also very sad. We’d prayed for peace and now it was here, but Joe had missed knowing peace by only a couple of months. My old boss at Tilford’s Drug store let me come back to work for him. It was better inasmuch as I was really busy and had little time to think. Today, as I look back I remember feeling like I was carrying a tremendous burden. What all my problems were, I can’t remember, but they were getting to me. Then one day my mother warned me that my father was looking for me. “Why?” I’d asked. She told me that he was upset about me going to the Catholic Church. I couldn’t believe it; I’d been going to the Catholic church for over a year. I hadn’t tried to hide it. Why should I? “Well, ” she said, “someone saw you and told him.” I added this bit of news to my already feeling of being about to explode. Due to my mom’s warning, for a time I avoided coming in contact with my dad, but I couldn’t keep that up. I decided to confront him face on. He said that he had people watching me and they had seen me go into the Cathedral. “I don’t want you to go there, again.” I just stared at him. He continued, “I went down there and talked to that priest and told him not to let you in.” I asked, “What did he say?” “He said that maybe someday I’d see the light.” Then my dad said, “I told him not that light.” He seemed proud of his retort.

 

I answered back, “I’ll soon be 18 and then you can’t stop me.” It’s a wonder he didn’t smack me. I knew full well he was capable of being violent. But he didn’t, and he didn’t have to, instead he let this mental image of people watching me, do the torturing. I was devasted, and humiliated, but he wasn’t through; he continued, “And you don’t need to be running around with Norma anymore.” Norma had been my friend since we were 12. When I had met Norma I was unhappy with my life and with myself. Having a friend made all the difference in my mental state. We understood each other, thought alike and could make great fun out of the smallest situation. How could life become so unbearable and why? I felt entirely alone. The weight I’d been feeling was about to crush me. I didn’t know what to do. I wondered if my dad actually had people watching me like he said. I’d told him that I wouldn’t go to the Catholic church until I was 18 and I intended to obey until then. But, then I began to feel this strong need to go to the Cathedral. The idea of going there was becoming so persistent; I just didn’t understand . Finally I began to entertain the idea that I’d go back just once more. I felt drawn to it. I had to go.

 

In answer to the persistent and compelling idea that I had to return to church, the Catholic church, that my father had forbidden me to enter I compromised the situation. I knew I had to go back and would do so just one more time, but that’s all, until I was 18. This compromise allowed me to feel more at ease, and I began to think about when I should do it. My thoughts were that it would be better to go alone when there was no service going on. Why I decided this I don’t know. I’d never gone into Norma’s church alone. I’d always accompanied her and her family. I was somewhat timid, yet determined about taking this step. I don’t remember what day or what time of day it was when I walked through those enormous doors for the first time by myself. The Cathedral was dark and mysterious looking with deep shadows as if it were late in the day. I looked to see if anyone was in there. I’d rather be alone, I felt, but knew that it was possible that some parishioner could also be there in silent meditation. The votive candles glowed with the colors of red and blue. It reminded me of the night that I’d searched for a Christmas present for Joe and the night was lit with color. I genuflected before entering a pew down front, just as I’d learned from Norma, and slid into the pew. I made the conscious decision to just sit there; not kneel, just sit. I didn’t feel that I was alone so I looked around more carefully wanting to be aware of anyone else was in there. I saw no one. Yet, the feeling of another presence was strong. I just sat there and basked in the peace that I felt, and the beauty of the quiet. I began to feel free. I felt strong. I felt as though my problems had been lifted from me. From that time on I no longer felt the burden that had weighted me down. The problems that I had worried about were still with me, they had not disappeared, but I knew that I was going to be OK and could handle them. It was only about 10 years ago when I shared this experience with some people at the RCIA program at our church that I was told that this experience I had was with the Holy Spirit. It never occurred to me that it was so.

 

Now that I was ending my school days I had to think of what to do in the future. I’d taken courses that would provide the background to go into nurses training and I still had hope that I’d make it. A friend and I made appointments to talk with a Sister at St. Francis Hospital and a lady at Wesley Hospital in Wichita. The latter seemed formidable and not too interested, and the Sister discouraged us both by saying we were too young. We came away from both interviews rather empty handed. And there was always the money problem. I had put the money that I’d saved from my after school jobs of years into US savings bonds. I had no idea what it would cost to enter training but I knew that you couldn’t hold down a job at the same time. All student nurses had to live on the premises and all had to be unmarried. My folks gave me a special watch with a second hand as required by nurses for Christmas, but that ‘s where the help stopped. I had hopes of being able to make it through with the bonds I had and hopefully my parents would help a little. That last thought was dashed when my mother questioned me on how I thought I could pay for training. She let me know that they couldn’t help and added this question for me to ponder: what will you do when you need a new winter coat. Maybe I gave up too easily. I didn’t search for scholarships or anything like that. I wasn’t aware that there might be such a thing. My idea of becoming a nurse was shoved further and further back in my mind.

 

Then I met George, a young kid the same age as myself. He’d left school after 8th grade so he could help his parents financially. We didn’t have much in common other than we were two very young people, both hard working and independent. My dad had told me once that he wanted us kids out of the house by the time we were 18. That thought was weighing heavily on my conscience. George was suppose to be Catholic, but had stopped practicing his religion for some time. We dated, we weren’t in love, but we married for the sake of practicality. I’d been taking instructions from Father Ryan so that by the time of my 18th birthday I could join the church of my choice. I did it for Joe: I did it for myself. God blessed us with 6 beautiful children over the next 11 years. The first 2 were a girl and a boy twins, Rita and George. Then Christine Maria, Mark Vincent, Teresa Jean and Gregory Martin. What a wonderful family life we had. We weren’t “missionary poor” or like the “poor people in China”. but we struggled financially and tried to make do. We had our fun times and our sad times. Today when the children get together they reminisce about different occasions in their childhood, like the time we drove to church and found that Mark wasn’t with us. We drove back and there he was still sound asleep. Today, all holidays are a time for us to reunite and love each other. As I said we lived through sad times also. Probably the saddest was when we lost the little one. Gregory was 7 months old when he became ill. 3 weeks on antibiotics didn’t help. He ran a high fever and that night went into a coma. He lived for 24 hours after we took him to the hospital. He was diagnosed with meningitis. It was so hard to tell the kids. It was hard in all ways.

 

Gregory died about 2:30 AM on Christine’s 8th birthday. As we left his hospital room and headed for the parking lot I wondered how I’d ever be able to walk to the car. I was exhausted from the stress and lack of sleep. Just then I felt this sensation of being lifted up by a multitude of angels, not just my weary body but my whole being. Music, did I hear music? Would it be wrong to say that I felt like God in all His glory was giving us the help we needed to get through what lie ahead. Preparing your own child for burial is the worst thing a parent would ever have to do. Strength was provided through the love of many people. All good things come from God. Those next few weeks were the hardest to bear, especially for Teresa and I. Teresa was only 3 and it was impossible for her to understand why we didn’t have the baby anymore. Our mornings together, Teresa, Gregory and I, since his birth, had been a routine of feeding, bathing and dressing the baby after the school children left the house. Then we’d sit on the couch together and I’d give Gregory his bottle while we watched TV. He’d soon drop off to sleep and I’d lay him in his crib where he’d sleep for an hour or so. That’s when I got my housework done. To fill this void of time, I’d take Teresa to the daily mass at St. Anne’s. A couple of times a week after Mass we’d drive out the cemetery. We missed him so much. It was on one of those days that I came home and began my household chores of cleaning. Habits are hard to break and as I would be cleaning I’d stop to listen thinking that I heard the baby stirring. This happened for weeks after his death. On this particular day, I stopped to listen, but, instead of continuing on with my work, I went into his bedroom. I kneeled down and said a prayer. I looked up and that’s when I saw Gregory. This is what I saw: He was hovering near the ceiling with blue and pink clouds covering his lower torso, his chest was bare and his face was serene. He was not looking at me or for me. He was absolutely very happy where he was. My prayers had been answered. I’d been afraid that wherever he was he might be looking for me. From there after I was able to feel the peace of mind that I needed.

 

The only person I told at the time was the Monsignor at our church. He dismissed it, saying that I saw him because I wanted to see him. I didn’t dispute his word, but I wondered. I continued to wonder for a period of years. What bothered me about the vision was seeing the pink and blue clouds. That just seemed strange to me. Many years later I read about a near death experience and the person telling of their experience saw pink and blue clouds. I felt like saying, “YES”! Now, I know and no one on earth can tell me any differently, that I was able to see Gregory that day because God allowed me to do so. God knows our needs and if we ask, He will comfort us. God provides miracles. For me there were more to come.

 

When I moved from my parent’s house to the apartment on Fairview in Wichita, I had only one piece of furniture to take. It was the Lane Cedar Chest that I’d paid for in monthly installments. That’s where I had put Joe’s 87 letters that he’d written to me from 1944 to February 1945. Just as I’d buried them on the bottom of the chest, so had I buried my memories of that time in my life, which were a mixture of the sweet, the painful, and the exciting. Being a busy mother of large family kept me on the go and with no time to think and remember. As the years went by the memories burrowed deeper and deeper: being replaced by new memories of the days with my children. As the children grew so did the price of clothing and feeding them. It was great to be a stay at home mom but I had no option, I had to go to work. My sister, Eddie, helped me get a job at Boeing where she was employed. The lay-offs were threatening and frightening, but I managed to hang on to my job until 1971 when I was caught in a huge lay-off. Until this time I was raising the kids alone as a single mom working 40 to 60 hours a week. My marriage had finally deteriorated to the point that my only option to keep my sanity was to seek a divorce. Loving my church and faith as much as I did made this decision very difficult. Taking on the responsibility for 5 kids was not an easy choice, either. In 1968, my son, George, the boy twin, was sent to Vietnam. Talk about torture; everyday was a reminder of WWII and for me personally the horror. When I’d go to work it seemed that the people weren’t aware that we were at war. I found this puzzling. Where was the backing and support by the government and the people? No one was rationing, no one was giving up anything, except like in the case of some parents, their child. I’d read about the situation in Nam and became thoroughly disgusted. I was proud that my son felt it his duty to serve, but I would have loved him just as much if he’d gone to Canada to avoid this crazy situation. In order to keep myself from worrying too much I took a few classes at Wichita State University.

 

Did that keep my busy. Working full time, caring for the other children at home, running a house and now classes. I did love it, though. I took Psychology, English and Art History. I’d added Art History thinking it would be interesting and easy. It was interesting but it was not easy. I learned this; I learned that there was so much that I did not know. What a profound statement I’d made to the instructor. She smiled. It was in the Art History class that I learned about the march the students were planning on an afternoon when I was free. (I worked at night). I decided to join them. They pinned a black armband on my arm and we marched. It was a peaceful march. I’m certain that I was caught on someone’s camera but I didn’t care. I supported our troops in Nam, after all I had a son there, I was protesting the fact that they were sent there in the first place. I wondered what the reason for the war was. No one seemed to know. I really resented that not many people seemed to care. Shortly after George returned home from Nam, and before my lay-off at Boeing, I was sent to work first shift. I looked around in my department for a ride since my car wasn’t too dependable. This guy named Ron who agreed to that I could ride asked me to drive every other week. He didn’t tell me that he had 2 other riders who would need me to pick them up also. This set up lasted for about 3 months and then I was sent to third shift. It was a couple of years later that Ron was sent to 3rd shift and we started riding together again. I asked him about Howard, one of the passengers whom I’d met during that time on 1st shift. Ron told me that Howard, his neighbor, was doing pretty good, that he was divorced and had custody of his children. That was shocking news to me. Howard just wasn’t divorce material. He was a nice guy who had a great sense of humor. He definitely was a family man. Ron said, You know what, I’ll have Howard call you.

 

Howard Eitel, the passenger, whom I met on the shared ride to Boeing, had been divorced for several years when our paths crossed again. I’d been divorced for 9 and 1/2 years, and had been the single parent during those years. He and his 2 young daughters, Carol and Kathy, lived in vicinity fairly close to our house on South Vine Street. It was awkward for both of us to start dating; awkward and embarrassing at times. Howard had a sense of humor that made things fun. Money played a significant part in where we went and what we did. That’s where his sense of humor and wit were appreciated. He made delicious spaghetti and I would cook a roast on Sunday’s. We saw a few movies but they were expensive, so TV was our usual form of entertainment. On August 10, 1971, we made a trip to Moab, Utah, with our 2 youngest daughters in tow, and got married by a justice of the peace. This was the first vacation for both of us for some time, and it would be 8 years before we would be able to do it again. Life with Howie, (that is what I called him), was a calming, settling type of living. The adjustments to being such a large family were not easy. There were the ups and the downs, but, all in all it was a stable life, which I appreciated and needed so badly. As for Howie, I’ve no doubt that he has the makings of a hero. Who, but a strong and generous man would marry a woman and take on her 5 children in addition to his own. Both of his daughter’s eventually moved to Missouri to be near their mother, but 4 of my 5 lived with us as a family unit off and on for several more years. We’ve been a family for 32 years this August. After we married I went to work for the American Red Cross in Wichita and stayed there for 4 years until I went into real estate. I was not like many realtors, who lived and breathed real estate. That is what it takes to be successful, you work it day after day and rarely if ever leave for a vacation. For me, I liked working in real estate and enjoyed most people, but my family came first always. My career in real estate was more like a part time job or a hobby.

 

About 4 or 5 years after our marriage, I was sitting in my living room alone and had been dwelling on a problem one of the children was having with employment. I know that I’m a worrier and always have been, maybe it’s a habit. As I was deep in thought I looked up and there was a figure in my living room standing not too far from me. This is what I’ve labeled as miracle # 3. I thought it looked like Jesus, his clothing reached down to the floor and his hair was shoulder length, but his back was to me and remained that way even as he spoke. He said, “Have you forgotten what has been given to you?” I sometimes have questioned that I actually saw him standing there, but there’s never been any doubt that I heard those words that were spoken to me. I am still not certain of what He meant, but , I’ve always known that I’ve been given a tremendous gift , the gift of faith. Faith is a gift from God. I’ve never doubted His existence, never. I wasn’t taught this by my parents. My exposure to religion came while I attended a public school in Wichita, Harry street school. In those days in the ’30’s the school children were allowed to go to religious classes one day a week. We learned the story of baby Jesus, we looked at beautiful colored pictures depicting his birth, and we were given a warm feeling by the women who volunteered to teach us. How can anyone say that could harm a child? That was the extent of my religious training until the age of 18. I have never blamed God for Joe’s death, nor my little childhood friend, Loretta Lee, nor of my own child. How ridiculous to blame Him from whence all good things flow. Men start wars, greedy men, insane men. If it’s God’s will that we die then so be it. Take for example the death of my sweetheart on the battlefield. Many men came home and many men did not. I believe that God, in His compassion took Joe when He knew that Joe could no longer tolerate the horror. Joe wanted to come home so badly, but, maybe even being home wouldn’t have been enough for the weariness and intolerable conditions he’d experienced. Those, with little faith, may say that his luck ran out, but I think it’s not a matter of luck when it comes to God’s decisions. God in all His wisdom knows what is best for us.

 

My mom had the gift of knowing what is “important”. That is a great gift and to be able to recognize truth, and goodness: material things, money, property mean nothing without the gift of knowing what is “important”. It would be quite a long time before I would again experience a spiritual happening, but I did, later, much later. For a time Howie and I continued to go to church. He liked to go with me and never missed a Sunday. I’d been allowed to take part in the sacrament of communion until I remarried but I continued to go to church. There came a time when our plates were too full. As you can imagine life was difficult at times with so many people involved. It was work to keep things on an even keel. Kids were moving in or out, and dating and driving, which means just lots of activity most of the time. Then in the midst of all that, my mother became very ill. She had several surgeries and we’d bring her home to recuperate at our house, or we’d be at the hospital. While she was in the hospital we used that opportunity to work on her house. It made her nervous for anyone to be around when she was there and would always discourage us when we offered. I can’t begin to remember the many hours that Howie put into that place, but, he liked that kind of work, painting and puttering around. It was during one of these extra busy times that we set out to go to church and not realizing that the neighbors’ dog was under our car Howie backed over him. If we hadn’t been so dead tired it wouldn’t have affected us so badly, but we felt dreadful. Howie said he wasn’t going to church. It was the last straw. We were completely worn out. It sounds strange now to make it sound like running over a dog (it didn’t kill him and didn’t hurt him much), could be the reason for never going back to church, but that’s what happened. We were about to begin life in the desert. Howie and I didn’t go back to church for over 20 years.

 

It had become a bad habit for us to skip church on Sunday’s. At first we attributed it to the fact that we were tired and needed a day for ourselves; which was true, we both worked all week and every evening after our jobs we’d go work on Mom’s house. These are the years that I call “being in the desert.” There was no spiritual nourishment, we were running on fumes. Beautiful things happened: the marriages of our children, the births of our grandchildren, but so typical of life, sad things happened also. I was shocked to be told that I had breast cancer. This was something that took some getting used to. Also, our parents passed on leaving a gap in our lives. We began to realize that we were now the older generation; the seniors of the family. A sort of scary feeling, really. While mom was still with us and recuperating I had quickly read a newspaper headline telling of an appearance of the Blessed Virgin in a place with a long name. I intended to read more later when I had more time, but that didn’t happen. Time passed, years passed: when one day I and my granddaughter, Annie were sorting through a stack of coupons I’d acquired and she called to my attention an advertisement to send for a rosary. “A special rosary,” she’d said. She added that it had water from Lourdes in it. Lourdes was a place in France: I’d seen the movie long ago called, “Song of Bernadette,” that told the story of Bernadette, a young girl who was blest with apparitions of the Virgin Mary. I had been impressed. It was a beautiful movie. “Let me see”, said I. Sure enough the ad said that it had the miracle water from Lourdes where Mary had appeared to St. Bernadette, encased within. Although I still wasn’t going to church, Annie and her mom, Teresa, went every Sunday. I asked Annie if she’d like for me to send for one of those rosaries. Little did I know that this was the first step leading out of the desert.

 

I couldn’t resist sending for 2 rosaries. I wanted to see for myself if it was possible for there to be water in the rosary, and if it were true, I wanted one for myself, even though I’d never been a person to say the rosary and wasn’t even sure I knew how. The rosaries arrived and we peered and peered at the place where the water was supposed to be. The one I gave Annie did look like it had a bubble therefore probably had water in it, but I wasn’t so sure of mine. It took a lot of holding and studying before I could make a determination. Over the next few years that rosary would somehow be right where I happened to be looking for something else. Many times I would pick it up and again peer into the glass enclosure to see if there was water in there. I began to notice that when I held it I would begin to have a comforting feeling come over me. I still did not say it nor pretend that I knew how. Just as my husband reached the end of his 41 years at Boeing Co. we had found a place to renovate in Lindsborg Kansas. We needed the peace that this little town had to offer. The quiet and solitude, yet the ongoing activity. The town was alive with concerts, festivals, plays, all sorts of ways to become involved or not, it was your choice. Howie had lived there for 4 years while attending Bethany College after the Navy. It was more like home to him. So, we moved. At this same time of our moving, my 3 daughters asked me to shop with them in a little known area in west Wichita, one day. We jumped out of the car and they headed for a shop called something like April Morning, but I stopped short when I saw a sign that said, “Medjugorje Mir” on it. I recognized it as the name of the place where I’d read about the appearances of the Blessed Virgin to several children. All I could do was stare. I was fascinated and had to go in. The girls were beckoning me to come see the store they had in mind, but nothing could drag me from going inside the Medjugorje store first.

 

I learned a lot from the clerk inside but not near enough. I bought books to read about Medjugorje. I found out that every month on the 25th the Blessed Virgin would appear in that place and give the children a message, a message for all of us. After moving to Lindsborg, if I couldn’t get into that store to find out what that month’s message was I’d call from home and ask them to tell me. Medjugorje wasn’t the only site I was interested in. I bought books and books on all apparitions, those of the past and those currently happening all over the world. My life was changing for the better. I would say the rosary, I would say a routine of daily prayers, I would fast and abstain from meat on Wednesday’s and Fridays. The blessed Virgin asked her “children” to do these things. Howie decided to fast with me on those days. We’re still doing that and have for well onto 10 years. Even before the house was ready we drove around looking to see if there were a Catholic church. I don’t know why, I just had to know if there was one. I copied the phone number down and the name of the pastor, Father Doug Campbell. I didn’t even know if I would call him, but I did. During all of these years living outside the church, I didn’t know about Vatican II. From my earliest days of learning catechism, at age 18, I’d known that a divorced person who had remarried after having been married first in the church could not receive the sacraments. Maybe that’s why I never tried to resume even going to church. If you think about it, it is not a good feeling to know that you’re outside and can’t go in, and I’m not talking about the physical church, itself, I’m talking about not being a member, who can receive God in the sacrament of communion. And that’s what you need. When I dialed that number I’d copied down off the sign at St. Bridget’s church, I heard a message from Father Doug asking the caller to leave a number. His voice sounded kind and inviting. That made a huge difference in whether or not I would continue to pursue this avenue. He chuckled when I explained that very thing to him, that he sounded kind so I wasn’t afraid or intimidated.

 

Howie and I responded to Father Doug’s invitation for a conference in his office. I explained that I was the Catholic and Howie had never been, but that he had said that he wanted to join the church if it was possible. We submitted our “forms” after suffering through hours of heartbreaking memories. Father Doug gave us hope, he thought we might be accepted as candidates and we would begin studying in the next RCIA class in the Fall. What a wonderful feeling; to have hope.

 

What I call the Ultimate Miracle happened on May 18th, about a month after Howie and I repeated our marriage vows in the Catholic Church. It was an ordinary day of doing household chores and preparing clothes to wear to our grandson’s graduation. As I waited for the iron to heat I sat at the dining room table simply allowing my mind to wander. I thought of how my children and my grandchildren had all grown into worthwhile citizens that anyone could be proud of. Yet, I also thought how things might of been easier for them if I’d had more education, myself, and had been able to give them more support especially as far as their education. All of them went to college, some finished with Bachelors, Masters and one granddaughter even got her doctorate, and they all did it on their own. On this day of the ultimate miracle when the ironing was finished I carried the clothing upstairs to the bedroom, and as I passed by a hall closet, a voice spoke to me. It was an inner voice as plain as day: It said, “I am your Father.” At first I was frightened and wondered who this was, could my own father have found a way to reach me from the grave? That was scary. Then I knew it had to be God speaking. To this day that is what I believe.

 

One doesn’t go around publicly announcing to people that God spoke to you, I knew that much. So, I told no one at first. Eventually I confided this miracle to a few, those who might be helped on hearing that there is indeed a God who cares. I could not tolerate this subject to be debated, it was my own treasure to be kept in my heart. That message had it’s influence on my life, and it caused me to look at myself and decide just what I wanted of myself. I decided that I wanted to be like God, and his saints. I wanted to please God above all others. He was my true Father. Boy, did I have a long ways to go. It’s not easy to rid oneself of old habits, lifelong habits such as worrying, criticizing others, and name calling, gossiping and a jillion more faults, but, I’m working on those things. Like I said, I still have a long ways to go, but with God’s help I can do better. More miracles were yet to come. First let me tell you about “miracles”. I found this quote by Albert Einstein, who says: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” 1995 was a year of many happenings and changes. In June of that year I accompanied, my youngest daughter, Teresa to Philadelphia. Philadelphia, the city I’d always wanted to go to, Joe’s hometown. Prior to leaving I made myself dig out Joe’s old letters from the bottom of the cedar chest where I’d put them long ago. I was hoping to find a clue as to where the family may have moved. It had been 3o some years since I’d had any contact with the family. My goal was to find Joe’s grave. I had known his mother intended to bring his body to the states but I’d never known when or where. If there was time on this once in a lifetime trip I hoped to visit his grave.

 

When my kids asked what I was doing to get ready to go I told them about my hopes of finding the DeLaurentis family. They were shocked when I explained who the DeLaurentis family were and why I wanted to find them. It was my turn to be shocked. I was so used to not talking about Joe that I had forgotten that they never knew about him. With his letters spread out before me, I began to read: where once I’d read these sweet words of love that had brought hope and talk of the future, now I felt intense pain. The tears and the memories came flooding back. I would try to read and then have to put them down. It had been 50 years since his death. Don’t try to tell me there’s closure with time. There’s no closure for real true love. Perhaps that was the most shocking thing of all; to find that my feelings were as raw and tender as the night I learned of his death. From my search through his mother’s letters I found a link to New Jersey, so I wrote to churches, cemeteries, and followed leads they would send me. I found nothing more. While we were in Philadelphia, Teresa and I made a long trip by train and bus out to his old home place. His mom had written to me from 6263 Merson ST.. We found the house, saw the barber shop where his dad worked, took pictures and found a neighborhood pizza place for lunch. One visit to Joe’s old parish church, St Timothy’s did give me a clue as to where Joe’s younger sister might be. Bernice DeLaurentis and Joe Donato had been married there at St. Timothy’s and his address was listed as being in New Jersey. The Secretary, Helen, suggested I try looking for her there.

 

A strange thing, as we left the secretary’s office she said, “Joe knows your here.” I told her that I felt that she was right, I did feel like he was with me. This feeling continued until the plane landed back in Wichita. The secretary’s clue as to where to look for Bernice was right on. She and her family were living in New Jersey, and my first letter to her was sent on July 31, 1995. Bernice told me where the grave was, and all about the family to date. Bernice was so excited to hear from me. She had only been 10 when Joe was killed, but, she remembered Joe as being a great big brother. She said he was one tough and talented dude. He had taught her to box, he carried her on his shoulders to the movies when she was only 4. Because of these fond memories, his death had to have been a terrific blow to her. She did, also recall the trauma that the family suffered when the telegram came. Now, I knew where he was at last.

 

 

TERRY’S REPLY AND EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS

 

 

The message I had sent to Terry Janes, the Historian, was timed at 10:26 AM. At 12:43 I received this reply:

 

From: webmaster@thetroubleshooters.com

To: Lela Eitel

Sent: Tuesday, February 18, 2003 12:23 PM

 

Hello Lela,

What was Joe’s last name? Actually, the title of the book is “Patton’s Troubleshooters”. I also created a video series on CD-Rom showing the “Patton’s Troubleshooters in action. I live not too awful far from you, in Kansas City, MO. My records show Tech 4 Joseph F. DeLaurentis, and Sgt. Joseph R. Thier as the only “Joe’s” killed in February, and I presume that DeLaurentis must be your Joe, as he was killed on the 18th, and Thier was killed on the 20th. From my understanding, both were killed instantly, so I can assure you he didn’t suffer long. If he was DeLaurentis, he would have been in Lt. Ike Walker’s tank. His death occurred just north of the Sauer River, early in the morning (European time) (this would have been late at night US central time. )

 

You mention this being an answer to your prayers, and I believe that. My family also lost our Red Devil, my Uncle S/Sgt. Frank L. “Pappy” Ream in September ’44. For 40 some years we did not know what happened to him. I began this project as a search for my uncle, and continued it as a way to provide answers for people exactly like you. I have always felt as though this is something the good Lord wanted me to do. Throughout the years, I have felt as though I have been guided. Whenever I came to a dead-end (and there were many), and could go not further, I would pray. Then, out of the blue, something would happen to open my path again. So, you see, I do believe what you say about your prayers.

 

I look forward to hearing from you again. If I can be of any help, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Thank you ma’am for making my day very special!

Respectfully,

Terry D. Janes

 

And at 5:38 of that same day I received this e-mail from the historian:

 

Hello Lela,

 

Don’t you worry one bit about bothering me. I’m glad to be able to help. Your Joe was killed during an attack, when a anti-tank gun shot his tank in the side. The armor plate is thinner on the side, so the enemy shell could easily penetrate it. His death was instant, and likely he didn’t know what hit him. His commander, Lt. Walker was wounded. He, too, would have died, except he was up in the top commander’s turret, and was likely blown clear. Joe DeLaurentis was one of the original 702nd tank members, and as such was highly thought of and respected by his comrades. He was a brave man, and we all owe him a great debt. They were all heroes, these Red Devils. When I learned that they had been forgotten by their own country, it broke my heart. I’m determined that for as long as there is breath in me, I’ll keep telling their story so that people remember. Meeting people such as yourself is my true reward. Thanks for warming my heart!

Terry

[Terry Notes: I was incorrect about Walker. He had left the tank prior to it being hit, and he was not wounded.]

 

That was the very beginning of our correspondence that has brought us to today, July 26th, where at this point we have concrete plans and sound framework for a memorial to Joe and all the guys in the 702nd tank battalion. During this time period from February to now in July we’ve both recognized that there is a certain sense that we are following orders to another’s command. It is both mysterious and wonderful.

 

 

The Construction of a Memorial and Orders from Headquarters

 

 

For me, and I suspect a lot more people, Terry Janes has been a true blessing. Here is a guy who cares deeply for those men of the 702nd. He has listened to their stories and when they’d become overcome with their memories, Terry would weep with them.

 

I’m sure that as he heard my story that he felt the pain as I did. But, he nor I, will resort to self pity, we both want to do something positive about our feelings and that pain. At first he thought he’d write my views on life during WW II, but upon studying all of Joe’s letters and those of mine which had been returned with the word, “deceased” on the envelope, he felt the need to tell the whole story.

 

Terry already knew of the battles and the hell that Joe had lived through because of studying the 702nd activities and government documents for many years before I ever met him. His interest developed out of his own Uncle’s death as a 702nd Red Devil. What he found amazing was when he read Joe’s letters and found no complaints, to speak of, no alluding to the horror around him only sentiments of love and planning for our future.

 

While Terry has been constructing this memorial he has received and benefited from help that seems to be sent from beyond. “Out of the clear blue”, he often tells me, that someone will call and fill in the information that he’s been looking for. People that he’s never heard of. His stories of this nature are fantastic. He says that it’s like the shots are being called by someone else. Sort of eerie, but in a fun way, and so welcome.

 

For my part, I offered as did my daughters, to transcribe the handwritten letters onto the computer. Some of the letters to be transcribed were in my own handwriting. Those letters were returned to me by the US postal service and marked as “Deceased” or “KIA”, back in 1945. They were never opened or seen by Joe.

 

It was so disturbing to have them returned. I remember grabbing them and sticking them in the cedar chest with the others. I didn’t want to read them. To me they meant nothing now. But, fortunately I did keep them along with Joe’s letters.

 

I say “fortunately” because when I did open them and read them in order to transcribe to the computer I found a huge, huge gift that had been there waiting for me for 58 years.

 

THE GIFT

 

 

The gift that I received during the construction of this book, had been there waiting for me for 58 years. If it does anything it shows how blind people can be to the graces and miracles of the Lord. Miracles are all around us, everyday. Let me tell you about mine.

 

When I transcribed to the computer, the handwritten letters, that I’d written to Joe back in 1945, I was forced to read those words that I’d written. I didn’t enjoy doing this as these were the words of a 16-year-old girl, and not the choice of words that I’d choose today.

 

The letter dated February 19, 1945 is the one with the huge gift inside. As I read it I began to realize it’s meaning and nearly burst with excitement. I’ll reiterate here the paragraph from that letter which holds the gift.

 

” . . . Last night I dreamed you dropped by our house in your tank to say Hello, then were gone. I ran after you, but couldn’t reach you and I cried like a baby. Then I heard you consoling me, saying you’d be back.”

 

Joe died on February 18th, I had that dream that night and wrote to tell him about it the next day. I firmly believe that Joe was allowed to come to me in my dream one last time with the message that he’d be back. He didn’t come to say “goodbye” because he wouldn’t use that term ever in his letters. He came to comfort me, to help me, to let me know that this was not the end.

 

As I read this message I was stunned. I don’t remember having the dream or of writing the letter. If I had opened this letter when it was returned to me in 1945, I doubt that I would have understood its implication. Since those days of thinking that when a person dies it’s the end, period, and everything turns black, like my mother told me long ago, I have been enlightened with a different understanding of death.

 

Death is a part of our life. The act of dying is not to be feared. It is a sacred time. There is inside of each of us the real us. The real us, our spirit never dies. When we die to the world and our bodies live no longer, then we, our spirit, returns to whence we came and life begins anew.

 

These things written here I firmly believe.

 

 

I was born Lela Mae Bush, I married and became Lela M. Hephner, and now I am Lela M. Eitel.

 

Lela Finally Got To Visit Joe’s Grave In 2004 After Attending The Red Devil Reunion

Lela M. Eitel Died Oct. 22, 2008 at the age of 79, after A Long Battle With Cancer

 

 

 

This photo of Lela was found on Joe’s body and returned with his personal effects