This is part of our “Letters from War” series documenting the World War II letters of Irvin Schwartz of Pine Grove, PA. The letters were all published in the West Schuylkill Press-Herald between 1943 and 1945.
In the United Kingdom,
January 2, 1944
Dear Miss Bashore:
One of the week’s greatest headlines forced me to sit down here today and drop you a line. One particular day, I think it was Wednesday, I came in, sat down on my bunk, and there lay a British newspaper right in front of my eyes with a headline, “U.S. Faces New Year With Strikes,” which undoubtedly was read by thousands of American soldiers both in the States and overseas.
Since then, I have heard quite a number of soldiers tell how they felt upon reading such news, only two or three days before the birth of 1944, which we are hoping will see victory and thus peace for the people of the United States, Great Britain, Russia, and the numerous small allied countries. I’m not going to write a column on this subject, but at times I wonder whether some people do realize that the U.S., Britain, and Russia are fighting Germany and Japan, and that they themselves have sons, other relatives and neighbors right on the front lines.
Now, can the war be won with strikes? Only with the “strikes” of our armed forces; and without the full home support of our shipbuilders, miners, farmers, factory workers, coal truck drivers, and the thousands of others, we will not accomplish our designated mission.
Thus far I haven’t received the Press-Herald here in Winston Churchill’s land, but I know you have my address and I expect them to be on the way. My mother sent the November 12th and November 19th editions, and I spent one full evening reading these two copies. It’s the greatest way to fill in the few spare moments we enjoy. Thank you once more for the fine work you are doing in sending the paper to all corners of the world week after week.
American forces enjoyed big turkey dinners on New Year’s Day, as was the case on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day. However, it was just another day to due to the fact that England doesn’t consider New Year’s Day a holiday. Up in Scotland, the day is strictly a holiday.
All one could do on New Year’s Eve was attend a movie and visit a Red Cross service club. Songs as “Auld Lang Syne” and “Pack Up Your Troubles” were sung by Uncle Sam’s boys here in the E.T.O.
On New Year’s Day, services were held in famed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and were attended by American servicemen. Conversations and exchanging of “Happy New Year” greetings between the British people and ourselves were to the effect that 1944 would see victory in Europe and probably in the Pacific area. I’m sure many soldiers listened to the great football bowl games played back home.
It was midnight in London five hours before 1944 arrived in New York, but next year this time we will all greet the new year at the same place, at the same time, and in the same way.
I looked over a Red Cross register last night and I saw that boys from Pottsville, Frackville, and Shenandoah are here. Also boys from Lebanon, Manheim, York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Reading, Allentown, Hazleton, and from all over Pennsylvania. Ever so many hail from “Penn,” and after this conflict, I want to secure figures on the number of men each state sent to the service. I know the Keystone State will be first by a very great margin. Miss Bashore, you would be surprised to know how many of my buddies know about Pine Grove. The old town’s pretty popular.
We do get plenty of tea. The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee, but Americans don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. As you know, England is the largest “tea drinker” in the world. Nine pounds is drunk annually by each person in the United Kingdom. That is on an average.
Tea was first drunk here in 1657. Most of it comes from India, the world’s largest tea producing country, and from Ceylon, second in rank. The Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1776, should have taken place over here, because that tea which was thrown overboard sure would have been welcomed by any Englishman.
I’m glad to know the road to Bethel is nearing completion, which will greatly shorten a trip to Reading. I’m also glad to know that the Pine Grove Boy Scout camp will be vastly improved, and that the town will receive a playground and probably a swimming pool.
Miss Bashore, many times when folks back home are asked to contribute to any organization they contribute with a thought a in mind. “Will our boys ever benefit by it?” Well, let me say, U.S.O. shows are plentiful over here, an they’re good nine chances out of ten. They’re doing a great job, and I can say, support them as much as possible. The American Red Cross is exactly what you’re told it is. This organization is found all over, and its services are very helpful.
We do attend English churches, and have cinemas which show mostly American pictures. Throughout a picture, the British ask us numerous questions about the States, whenever they are outstanding U.S. scenes on the screen. After the war many will pay the States a visit for the first time and they’ll see where their food, clothing, etc., came from in World War II.
Yes, the English people realize most of their food and clothes are coming from Uncle Sam and they admit it. So they are anxious to see the “home of the brave.” They pay the strictest attention to our National Anthem, and we pay the highest courtesy to the Great Britain National Anthem, “God Save the King,” sung to the same tune as “America.”
At all gatherings for U.S. soldiers, such as shows and dances, the program closes with our National Anthem, followed by “God Save the King.” The British National Anthem is also played at the close of all theatre performances, and all American soldiers stand at attention until the final note.
The people are very glad to know of Mr. Churchill’s improvement and are anxiously awaiting his return to England. They hold the highest respect for their leader.
Well, Miss Bashore, you have heard of the sinking of the 26,000-ton German battleship Scharnhorst, which is but a brief example how Germany is rapidly moving to its end. Yes, only 36 and a half hours ago came the birth of Victorious ’44. One year from now, Germany will be something of the past.
The best of luck, success, health, and happiness throughout 1944.
P.S. – Don’t forget the “letter”!
Pfc. Irvin Schwartz
Featured Image: An illustration from the December 31, 1943 edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph.