March 8, 1945
Epinal, France

No. 19 (conclusion)

Dear Folksies,        

         Why is it that the Army at home doesn’t seem to want to profit from the experiences of those who have been through various things over here and know what they are talking about?  Strangely enough, even over here, in a lot of things, paperwork, etc., we are back to systems that were rightly discarded a year and a half and two years ago by higher headquarters when we were in Africa.  But no, those who have spent their time in England and now come over to rule the roost did not gain anything from the African and Sicilian experiences on that score, and so we have to go backwards.  Thank goodness that doesn’t apply to the forward front-line troops so much — yet the newer units had to and did learn by bitter experience rather than from the experiences troops could tell them, at least not until recently when a different method of teaching was instituted.  But that’s the way it goes.

         For instance, one story that Skinny [St. Claire] came back with concerned a person we all knew.  When this person got back to the U.S., after not only a long time over here but a long time in the lines, he was sent to one of the Army schools, and there he was told that they didn’t want to hear anything about how things were done over here — that things were being done all wrong, etc.  So he kept his mouth shut.  But, one day the class was told to make up a tactical situation and describe how they would meet it — it could be a situation they had heard of or anything — and then their methods would be criticized.  So, this officer gave a description of a situation and how he would meet it were he the one involved.  After he got done, the instructor lit into his plan and ended up his violent criticism by saying that if there had been that situation and it had been met as the officer described that he would do, his whole outfit would be wiped out.  The officer merely said, “Well, that all may be so, sir, but the plan worked: we were not wiped out, and I was decorated for it!”  If that story were the only one if its kind that we have heard, I wouldn’t be mentioning it, but ‘tis only one of many similar ones.  This whole attitude is even evident in our own kind of a unit when one finds these new gangs coming over with ideas as to running their unit, built along the lines of the Army-manuals dated somewhere around 1918!

         Why is it that not only man, as the individual, but great units, such as the Army, and nations themselves, do not seem to profit, or want to profit, by the experiences of others…but would much rather learn by bitter personal experience???

         Know you must feel, too, the way we feel about the strikes we keep hearing about. Only two or three divisions worth of men out on strike back there! A mere nothing! Don’t imagine that a strike of two or three divisions over here would have much effect on the opinions of the people in the U.S.! No —just take the three that we know so well, what would have happened had they struck at various times? ‘Twould have meant nothing, except, of course, that Sicily would not have been taken, that there would have been no Salerno, no Anzio or Rome, and absolutely no liberation of 2/3 of France by the Southern route. That’s all!! Just a handful of men, a bunch of Indians, a group of cowboys from Texas, or the boys from the Presidio and the coast! Huh, and then people wonder why the boys over here get so disgusted with those “oh so delicate”, and so lousily managed, labor disputes and strikes!

         I know you people don’t look at things the way most seem to. How about others you talk to, however? How about Gram, Dave, Lou? If all my ravings here get through, don’t just file it, use it! Enough of that for now…

         The Col., as I told you, took Klein to Paree with him. On the way they did see and spent some time with the Col’s son. Klein was a bit disappointed about his trip, for the Col., “showed” Paree to him in the short time that they were there. They toured the city in the jeep and didn’t see any of the nite-sights, etc.

         Mattie is fine these days – spending his time, like everyone else, in the prone position for lack of anything else to do. The rest is probably doing him, if no one else, some good.

         Chappie and Schuster were out fishing yesterday, spending the whole day at it, and they did better than Bret, for they caught enough to supply them with lunch and supper. They took a little gas stove along with them and cooked the fish out by the river.

                         Loads of love,



Watch for my next letter
March 10, 1945

Russell Klein (above) went to Paris with Colonel Bolibaugh (below), but since they mostly toured the city in the jeep, Russ didn’t get to experience the city as he would have liked.

In other news, René reports that Mattie [Carleton Mathewson] is “fine these days … spending time, like everyone else, in the prone position.” Perhaps like colleagues Wally Greene, Marv Hodgson and Serge Bryner (below – from top to bottom of the photo).

Meanwhile, Chappie (Elmer Chappell) above, and Emile Schuster (below) went fishing yesterday, but evidently cooked and ate all the fish they caught.