The most exciting part of what I received from my grandfather is the letters which he wrote to my grandmother while he was in Europe. They saved them and eventually gave them to me after my grandfather passed away. They're in a nondescript cardboard box labeled "Letters from Jack: WWII. Give to Scott."
I've opened the box a couple times over the last decade and gone through a letter or two. They aren't easy to decipher. They're in cursive. They reference family members who I don't know or cultural phenomena I'm not familiar with. Who knows what conditions they were written in, both physically and mentally. Still, I need to go through these and capture my grandfather's experience. This is why they were left to me.
My grandfather was in the 489th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. The description below is of September 17th,1944.
The tanks and infantry started a forward movement at 0800 on September 17th. The weather continued bad and progress was correspondingly slow. Artillery missions were relayed to higher headquarters, but enemy counter-battery continued throughout the day. By 1800, the CC supported troops occupied their line of departure, Marieulles.
My favorite thought in my grandfather's letter below is the comment about candy. My great grandfather was a candy maker and my grandparents have an amazing caramel recipe which I took for granted as a kid. Towards the end of his life my grandpa returned home from the hospital after a battle with cancer which he won for a couple years. I was there to see him return. He sat in his favorite chair in the family room.
After sitting the first thing he did was ask where the candy jar was. It was usually on the end table right next to his chair. Grandma said the doctors told her that he needed to stay away from candy so she'd moved it. Grandpa looked disgruntled and then said something along the lines of, "No problem. I've got my secret stash." He then put his hands underneath the cushion of his chair, pulled out a couple pieces of wrapped candy and smiled as he ate them.
September 17, 1944
Believe it or not, I’m keeping a promise by writing today. I’m also going to write mom as it has been some time since I wrote her. I received three letters you sent yesterday. One of your letters claims that uncle Charlie has written me. I can’t remember receiving a letter from him since I’ve been over here.
Betty, it started to rain at five this morning. It’s now almost 5 pm and it has rained hard throughout the day. I sure don’t know what I’ll sleep in tonight because everything is wet. It reminds me of Tennessee.
Maybe I should tell you certain things, maybe I should not. Tell me whether you want to hear about the different people in the unit. Some time ago Captain Maise was killed. I don’t know whether I spelled his name correctly. He’s the one that lived in the downstairs apartment while we were in Tennessee. I know your mother had met him and you can write that he’s gone. Everything is okay with me. Only this rain sure does get me down.
I had Irish hamburger for all three meals today. I’m really getting to be a meat eater again. Honey, go to South Bend and go to the Philadelphia shop and get me some chocolate covered candy. I believe it’s cool enough now, you can send it to me. I sure miss my candy. I got a box the other day and I think I’ve done pretty good. I only ate four pieces of it although I nearly ate more. I sure could have. You can send that as often as you like.
I’m glad you went to Chicago but Betty all those stories you heard about Elaine may or may not be true. Anyway, it is water under under the bridge by this time. If you like her and she is nice to you, what do you care what she did a year or so ago. Now don’t take this as me being too liberal. I don’t want you to get any ideas so you understand.
Did or didn’t Warren get his commission? Nobody has told me anything. Let me know which way it is will you? What is this system of discharging the Army has? I haven’t seen anything about it. I sure would like to know where I came in on it. So in your next letter you can explain it all to me.
I’ve got to get started on a little work now so I’ll close and come back to this letter in a few minutes.
I’m back but I can’t think of much more to say. You know exactly how I feel about things for sure.
A little French girl came over a dozen times yesterday. I gave her everything I got I didn’t want. This morning she brought over a pie. I gave her four packages of cigarettes for it for her papa. She left all smiles.
Honey, this is all for today. I’ll try to do better in writing. Maybe I won’t get a chance tomorrow but if I do, I’ll write.
All my love