Tag Archives: WWII

Terror and Raids: WWII War Bride (Excerpt III)

The German soldier was on the left side whom received this war bride's letters.

The German soldier was on the left side whom received this war bride’s letters.

Sitting down slowly, the war bride dreamt of happier times. As she pulled out her pencil and paper from her desk, she felt herself lifting out of a fog. Perhaps it was for only a few minutes, but the letter writing allowed her to escape reality. It was so difficult tending to all aspects of running a household without her husband and father of her children present. Yet, she did it without complaining.
The process of pen to paper allowed her to feel her husband and to sense his presence. He was right by her side. Even if only for a short time it took to write the letter. The war bride needed this outlet. It was all she had.
The paper was placed on the table neatly. Pressed by her hands each fine sheet was straighten out. This gesture was done lovingly as if she were touching her husband’s own face with a tenderness that at times she was beginning to forget all too soon although never to admit out loud.

This excerpt was taken from January 19, 1942 in Potsdam. You can begin to catch a glimpse of some alarming events as the war bride moved to be near family as she was about to give birth to her second child.

(Historical facts about this time frame in the war was that the Germans were starting to deport Jews to concentration camps. Extermination of the captured was to follow rapidly. Also the first American forces were beginning to arrive in Europe on the Northern Ireland shores).

“My dearest Willy! Saturday I received your letter #4, that was my greatest Sunday pleasure. In your last letter you had several wishes….partly already taken care of. I have been able to get the soap holder with cover and for your shaving soap. A can opener and pocket calendar is yet to be found, but I think I can get a calendar tomorrow or day after. I cannot get Rosodont at all, we have not been able to get toothpaste for a long time. Knitted gloves I was able to find, but I cannot send any packages right now. Everything is blocked again, nothing goes through…”

In another section of this letter, “… . But since two days ago the trains were all blocked again. But maybe that only affects transport trains. Willy, listen, we have already used 51 P. from your small card. For 1 nightgown,30, and 21 for Opa’s pullover. If you need more later, we can use Opa’s allotment card for purchases. His P’s are usable only after February. Your allotment was 80, total. You bought boots? That is very important, it would be unthinkable if your feet would freeze…..”

In a final section we read, “….. Last night was Terror attack in Frankfurt. It was awesome outside, everything was lit up like daylight. But nothing happened here….I hope that times will change for the better soon and that you can come home to your family….”

The Art of Letter Writing: WWII’s German War Bride Excerpt II

Our letter writer as a teenager preparing for her confirmation in the church. circa:  ~1920.

Our letter writer as a teenager preparing for her confirmation in the church. circa: ~1920.

The initial introduction of the German war bride was shared with great anticipation last week on my blog. Today’s post has one idea in mind.  It is to introduce that young bride.   When receiving an overview of these letters, I spoke at length to her daughter.  It is with great appreciation and her understanding of her mother I bring her to life.  Here are some of her words about her mom:

“I can’t imagine the heartbreak, the shattered dreams and the deep despair which must have been a part of her young life.  After five years of marriage, her husband is sent off into a senseless war. Many brave young men were lost due to a crazed madman’s atrocious notion and his inhumane methods of achieving a “pure German race.” Thousands of young widows became living monuments to the German people.  They persevered in surviving Hitler’s insanity.   They did this by keeping their family together and raising their children with good solid foundation and roots……My Mom was one those women….”

Letters of a German bride-excerpt two from March 14, 1940, 8 pm:

( Historical fact about this time frame in the war is that  Adolf Hitler was planning his invasion of Norway and Denmark.  The Swedish government permitted German troops to travel its railroads to Norway in June 1940, and to transport a whole division from Norway to Finland for its invasion of the Soviet Union.   This German War Bride’s husband was sent to Norway during this time of the war.  I will speak more of his duties on another post)

“…..You know, your mom’s letter was so sad and cut deep into my soul. Just think, a mother raises a child with all her love and care until he is grown. Then she must send him off to war, and all her heart and riches are within that child, blown away with the wind, like a flower in a storm.  Oh, life can be so cruel. Please, calm her aching heart, Willy, so she will find some peace.  A little card to her will let her know you are all right, you will find time for a little card, won’t you?  My dearest Willy, my only love! My heart yearns and misses you so much.  I can’t wait until Easter. Sometimes I am overcome with the desire to see you, I am tempted to take my child and hurry through the night and wind to you and into your arms. But this idea is so absurd, and then I feel so insignificant and small at the same time. I must remind myself to accept the fate that keeps us apart,  and the fact that I can change nothing. We must trust God, that everything will turn out all right. I love you so much, my dearest Willy, like no other person in the world. My heart belongs to you and my child. For you two my heart beats and bears the pain …until the morning dew appears, a small star still twinkles in the morning sky,  and you have been in my dreams all through the long and lonely night….”

Part I can be read here:  https://alesiablogs.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/misguided-views-and-attitudes-the-german-war-bride/

Misguided Views And Attitudes: The German War Bride

This is one of the original German letters written during WWII.

This is one of the original German letters written during WWII.

This blog has been honored with a unique historical opportunity. It is to share letters written by a WWII German war bride to her beloved husband. These letters capture images of a time long ago. They give us a face to German life and war that perhaps our own history books have not shed a light on. Her masterful letter writing spans five years. These correspondences are one-sided since the husband’s letters were burned, but we do hear through the wife’s voice pureness that transcends time.
During the next several decades after WWII, daughter and mother discussed those letters at different intervals. He never returned home and his body was never found. The author of those letters loved her husband more than life itself and never remarried. She cried insufferably at times to her daughter. When it seemed so unbearable for her to go on, The daughter finally said, “burn them.”
As time went on, the mother did get rid of the letters that were written by her husband. She did not destroy the ones she had written to him. As you travel along with these excerpts, remember that by the end of the war the German women outnumbered their counterparts by over 7 million. The atrocities of Hitler’s regime impacted everyone.
The letters not burned were preserved by that daughter.

Letters of a German bride-excerpt one:

February 20th, 1944 ( historical fact we know is that American and Russian forces were advancing on Germany.)

“My beloved Willy – our sweet, dear Vati! The days are passing here in anxious anticipation of what the future will bring. Whatever it is, my love, we must accept it. We cannot change the course of this mighty occurrence in this troubled time. We feel that something big will happen, feel that all this will come to an end soon. In my heart I hope that it will end well. It would be hard to understand that our great Germany will fall. This great nation, so strong – no I can’t and won’t believe that. I wish, and this is egotistical of me, that we will survive this war, that it will have a good ending for us, Willy, that I can again wrap my arms around you, be happy with you and my children, and be safe. Do you think this is too much to ask for? My heart is so homesick for you and I long to let you be strong for me again, protect me and spoil me. I need you so much – you are missed everywhere!”

July 4, 1944 (WAR TIME)

Babe Ruth and Baseball an American Sport's Past time. Photo owned by your blogger.

Babe Ruth and Baseball an American Sport’s Past time. Photo owned by your blogger.

There is irony in knowing that half across the world July 4th, 1944 was celebrated by a number of American POW soldiers at Stalag 17B by playing baseball. In America on that very same day, those soldiers’ loved ones were not so celebratory. There were no fireworks going off in the small towns that many of these soldiers grew up in.
Roy and his wife Hilde McGinnis enjoying a summer day in 2014.  Quite different from his POW days 70 years ago.

Roy and his wife Hilde McGinnis enjoying a summer day in 2014. Quite different from his POW days 70 years ago.

As a matter of opinion, the understanding of individual experiences as related to collective memory of the past have always interested me. There is no other way to describe a day in the life of a POW soldier unless you have asked him. As a way of remembering what July 4th should mean to all of us, I spoke with my dad POW Roy McGinnis. Here is his take on what he was doing on July 4, 1944:
Roy was 22 years old and had just been woke up by the usual prison guards making their rounds and yelling at the soldiers. The treatment at Stalag 17B was never good and at times brutal. It was a beautiful summer day and besides being July 4th, it was a great day to play a competitive game of softball. The Wehrmacht (German soldiers) had much friction with the Americans, but they did let them play their games.
The GIs’ loved playing ball. It passed the time by and it was one of the only real morale boosters the soldiers did have. The International YMCA almost always fulfilled requisitions for sports equipment for the American soldiers in prison. It is also noteworthy that the Wehrmacht let the Americans have their things to play and enjoyed watching the fierce competition of the American GI with his brother in captivity!
“We formed our teams. You know the North Versus South. I was of course on the southern side since I grew up in Alabama.”
I laughed with Roy and said, “Yes. Alabama would certainly make you a southerner. No doubt.”
“Well, the game was very competitive. We bet our rations from the Red Cross. This was serious business and you better believe I wanted the south to win!” Roy stated as if he could still hear the crack of the ball being hit by the old wooden bat.
Chuckling I said, “Seriously, you did not take the other soldier’s food over a game.”
Roy said sternly,”You damn straight we did.”
I guess that answered that.
In fact, the rations were like betting your life’s savings. The normal ration included:
Bread, Potatoes, Cottage cheese, Sugar, Jelly, Coffee, and Raisins. The International American Red Cross would try their best to supply what the soldiers needed at that time.
There was a large recreation area in the camp that sports did take place. Pride was taken in teams formed and thus the first POW baseball league was born.
On the playing field that July 4, 1944, the south and north began their game.
“Who won?” I asked
“Well of course, we did. You know the south.” Roy stated.
“Did you really take the Northerners’ rations?” Half seriously I wondered.
“Yes we did. They lost.” Sternly Roy stated as if the war could still be going on.
In fact, as he and I talked of a time that was over 70 years ago, I could see in Roy’s eyes that he was taken back to that ball game and that ball field. It was still war-time to him at that very moment when we spoke. There was nothing else going on at all.
Happy July 4, 2014 to all my readers. May you know how free we are because of many who fought and gave their lives for us. America-what would you have been if not for the brave soldiers of times gone by? Would you have been at all?

Corn Patch Hiding Place

This is an actual photo of my dad's  B-17 that was shot down over Germany during WWII!

This is an actual photo of my dad’s
B-17 that was shot down over Germany during WWII!

Roy McGinnis, a WWII POW, remembers vividly hiding in a corn patch after sliding through mud from a crash landing in his B-17 over Schweinfurt, Germany. The day remains etched in his brain which was October 14, 1943. More than 53 B-17 planes were shot down to the ground from the clear skies over Germany on THAT day. War historians would come to call this day BLACK THURSDAY.
Roy and his crew of 10 service men were on a raid during WWII to destroy ball bearing factories. Instead they ended the day’s mission captured as war prisoners at Stalag 17 near Krems an der Donau, Austria, 43 miles from Vienna. In fact, Roy recalls thinking all of the military planes must have been shot down because of the amount of soldiers he saw captured.
Roy remembers vividly the RED CROSS packages he got that kept him somewhat sane for a short while. It was something to look forward to. It contained coffee, salmon, sardines,cheese, crackers, chocolate and cigarettes. This was a big deal to a soldier. But as the war lingered on, the red cross packages diminished and mostly were stolen by the guards. The packages also had a lot less in them. Roy remembers the bread contained 20% sawdust and 10% straw!
As the war came closer to the end, Roy and his fellow soldiers who had survived were made to march 280 miles. This march led to his freedom. General Eisenhower had at the time set up processing camps in France. This liberation took place on May 5th, 1945 after a painful walk to freedom. In fact many had no clothes and had to use bark from trees to cover themselves.
This story is told in remembrance of many men who did not come back as Roy did. He considers himself one of the lucky ones. If not for his story, we would not really understand what our soldiers went through. Roy volunteered for his service. This was an honor to him to be doing what he believed was the right thing to do and that was to fight for the cause of freedom.
Today Roy at the age of 91 and his wife and my mother, Hilde, live in Montgomery, Alabama. They attend church regularly and live full lives. Roy is asked to speak on regular occasions to the active and retired military throughout the country.
I am lucky to be able to share tidbits with my readers at times so you understand a bit of American History through the eyes of one that lived it.
Thank you for dropping by my blog. It is a versatile blog and I try to share on many topics that typically are about my family. This is one of those stories.

The Bombers

My teenage son wrote the following post in honor of his grandpa by describing what this picture meant to him.

My teenage son wrote the following post in honor of his grandpa by describing what this picture meant to him.

The sky is a light blue.  Clouds sparsely decorate the top two-thirds of the picture; and the bottom third of the photo has almost what appears to be a blanket of clouds.  The sky has a wonderful pleasant look to it; and it almost looks like something you would imagine to see in heaven, if it weren’t for the bomber planes.  This could have been a beautiful day in Europe.

The first plane in the photo is right near the camera.  You can only see about half of the plane which is a B-17 Bomber.  The primary color of the plane is olive drab, which was the typical color of the U.S. military at the time, but the underbelly of the bomber is practically snow-white.  The propeller turbines are just in sight of the photo and the propellers are spinning so fast that they are barely visible.  The aircraft has multiple windows.  Some are lower or in the middle of the plane and some of the windows contain machine guns poking out.  The top part of the bomber has a cock-pit like area.  This is where the pilot is controlling the bomber.  Behind the pilots area there is a ball turret.  You can see sparks and flashes coming from the gun’s mouth.
The second bomber is in the upper left hand quadrant of the photo.  This plane is at a higher elevation than the first aircraft, so much so that you can actually see underneath one of the wings.  This plane displays its different markings.  For example, the tail has a blue “C” on a white square which presumably indicates that this plane belongs to Squadron C.  You can also see a white star on a blue circular background obviously signifying that the bomber is American.
The third plane is in the upper right quadrant of the photo.  Compared to the other two planes, this one is much more blurred out.  You can’t make out any details, but it must be in the same squadron as the other two bombers.
This photo gets even more riveting.  Near the bottom of the photo right above the “heavenly” clouds there is a disastrous scene.   A plane, potentially American, has been shot and has caught fire.  The pilot appears to have lost control and the plane is starting to make a nosedive, while nearly half of it is covered with fire.  Yellow and orange fire explodes out from the back of the aircraft leaving behind a plume of black smoke.  Furthermore, in the bottom left section of the photo you can see a number of other aircraft coming near the bombers.  The planes look German based upon their shape and obscured insignia.
The most amazing thing about this photo happens to be what had been added to it more than 60 years later.  On the left side of the photo there is a transparent almost ghostly looking figure of an older man.  He is wearing church clothes and has a bald head.  He has few wrinkles, but still retains the look of an experienced wise soul.  He also is smiling and looks happy.  This man is a WWII veteran who flew on one of those B-17 Bombers.
Why was this photo taken?  One reason could have been to show how dangerous flying in these bombers was.  The B-17 was called the ‘flying fortress”.  In reality if bullets hit just the right spot on the plane the whole thing could explode.  Airmen never knew for sure if they were going to survive that day’s mission.  I think this photo is trying to convey that these airmen had to work together to survive.  These B-17s were large targets; and if the German planes spotted one flying solo they could probably zone in on it and shoot it down quickly.  This explains why the bombers were flying in a formation in the photograph.   Also the way the photo is shot from the side view, makes the sky look more open.   During the war you could be attacked at any angle at any time while in a plane.   I think it is important that a plane is shown being shot down, and presumably it is to try to get the reader to think about how scary it would be to fall thousands of feet through the sky.
Another reason this photo may have been taken was to show us how aircraft have changed.  In WWII most planes were powered by propellers.  Jet engines were a thing of the future,   and very few counties in the world had developed jets.  Germany happened to be one of the first to do so; and therefore the German jets probably scared the living daylights out of the Allied airmen.  Most war planes during WWII did not have proper heating, and the crew had to wear heavy wool clothing and jackets just to stay alive at higher altitudes.  Another interesting thing is the manner in which this picture was taken.  Presumably the camera had to be exposed from outside the plane to get this kind of shot.  So imagine all the potential dangers of taking this photo back then.  Taking all this into account, as well as the fact that planes were being shot at and blown up all around the photographer, it is amazing that this photograph was captured.
           I think the main reason this photo was taken was to remind us what WWII veterans had to endure.  The inclusion of the WWII veteran in the picture shows these brave men are still alive today.  The photo also shows that veterans have not forgotten their wartime experiences; and it must be hard facing death in wartime and then live longer than all your comrades, only to spend days later in life with people who don’t truly understand what it was like.   By the way this is my grandfather Roy McGinnis.  He was a gunner on one of the B-17 bombers.  On his fourth mission in Europe his plane was shot down.  The whole ten man crew survived and they were all taken to Stalag 17 a German POW camp.  My grandfather spent 19 months there.  I think this photo is a reminder to him how close he came to death, and it is a reminder about how he served his country bravely.  My grandfather doesn’t regret serving and he never will.  This photo is a testament to the bravery of our armed forces and everything its men and women have gone through.

The Letter

Roy in 1967 in another war- Vietnam.  He served our country for decades upon decades. He was a true American Hero.

Roy in 1967 in another war- Vietnam. He served our country for decades upon decades. He was a true American Hero.

Dear Mom and Dad,
How are you? We have been assigned for five combat flights with our B 17 Bomber plane and have completed three of them. I am very scared. I am writing this to tell you I love you, but I do not think I will come out alive. We are losing a lot of men after their planes are being shot down over Germany. I don’t think we will make it. When you are in the sky dropping bombs, the germans are right above us to see what we are up to and then below on the ground they are shooting anti-aircraft flak at us. We can’t see a damn thing from the black clouds the flak make. No one has our back. It is not a good thing. I hope one day to see you again, but if I do not I want you to know how much I love you.
Your son,
Roy

On Roy’s 4th combat flight as a gunner of a B-17 Bomber, he was shot down. Something in Roy told him that his days were numbered. Roy’s parents received the news he was missing in action by the Red Cross as was customary in those days. No one knew for sure what had happened except the 10 member crew on that fateful day in 1943. The Bomber was shot in several places, but with the handiwork of Coles, the pilot, the plane was able to be crashed landed in a field. The crew all survived and ran for their lives. All were captured alive.
Roy then spent the next 19 months in the notorious Stalag 17 camp. The Americans occupied five compounds. There were at least 4000 American GI men in the overcrowded barracks. Hollywood has made films about this camp and what our American soldiers had to endure. Roy recalls many times when they were forced to stand outside in extreme cold weather for long periods. He lost a huge amount of his body weight during this time, but did survive to come home and tell his story.
On April 8, 1945, Roy was among 4000 POW forced to march to where freedom was at hand. He with his fellow soldiers were finally liberated on May 9, 1945. General Patton’s Army had arrived on May 2nd to where they were closely located, but it took an additional week before Roy was finally free. Roy said he never prayed much before in his young life, but after being captured he prayed ALOT. Roy still prays alot. He can not believe he is still alive! Tomorrow is his 90th birthday. Why don’t you leave a comment on my blog and I will send it to him tomorrow with all your well wishes for his birthday. Roy has been married to my mother for 20 years when they both lost their respective spouses. If you ask Roy today what he thinks of Germans. He looks at my mother and smiles and says, “I love them. I married one.” My mother was born in 1939 in Berlin right in the middle of war. Roy knows his life was spared and he thanks God everyday as I do. When I call him and ask how he is doing, I always get the same answer which is, “I am better now that you have called.” It makes me smile every time.