Letters from War – Reflections on D-Day and the fighting in Normandy, June 1944

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. 

Read the previous letter here


Nearly a month after D-Day, Pfc. Irvin Schwartz reflected on his service in Normandy, the war-time role played by people on the home front in his Pennsylvania hometown, and praised the D-Day edition of the West Schuylkill Press-Herald that he read on the frontlines in France.

Schwartz 1944 (1)
A 1944 photograph of Irvin Schwartz

From the July 14, 1944 edition of the Press-Herald: 

Soldier in Normandy Lauds Press-Herald D-Day Issue and Praises Folks at Home

Writing from Normandy, France, where he has been fighting since D-Day, Private Irvin R. Schwartz of Pine Grove congratulates the publisher of the Press-Herald on the newspaper’s D-Day Invasion issue, published on June 9, 1944, stating that it is one of the best within his memories.

Pvt. Schwartz was correspondent for the Press-Herald from the Pleasant Valley section before he entered the service, also serving as sports reporter for the Pine Grove High School and since he has been in the army he has kept in touch with the news at home through his hometown newspaper. He has been most faithful in his correspondence, writing interesting letters to the Press-Herald and describing the many places he has seen since he left his home to serve his country.

His latest letter, written in France on Friday, June 30, is copied below:

“Dear Miss Bashore:

The Press-Herald is being read in France ‘beauceau’ which in the French language means none other than plentiful, and it is enjoyed immensely, even though the conditions surrounding in most cases are none too pleasant. Thank you.

Your edition following D-Day I consider one of your best within my memories. Let me tell you that President Roosevelt’s words of prayer, Governor Martin’s D-Day proclamation, your front page D-Day article, and your various articles referring to this great military enterprise, the businessmen’s advertising, simply ‘hit the nail on the head’ and very nicely; their contents fit right in with the vast picture of the war here. Some of your advertisements especially described the war excellently.

D-Day Newspaper
The June 9, 1944 – D-Day – edition of the West Schuylkill Press-Herald

Miss Bashore, very soon it will be a full month since we landed in Normandy. These will have been one full month since we landed in Normandy. These will have been four full weeks of what any Yank over here would call ‘darn tough going,’ and yet D-Day seems to us as if it were yesterday. What we have encountered, what we are encountering, and what we will encounter, we shall never let pass from our remembrance.

How well I can remember and picture in my mind how we trained very hard for months over on the other side of the channel’ how ‘Ike,’ ‘Bernie,’ and Churchill, as well as other great military leaders, together with the King and Queen, watched the Allied forces prepare for Normandy. How we finally had to bid farewell to our polished shoes, clean, neatly-pressed dress trousers and shirts, neckties, OD dress caps, etc., and attired in gas treated work clothes, which none of us know when they’ll be replaced by some other suit of clothes.

How we boarded ship. How we started across the English Channel, thousands of ships of all sorts, thanks to the soldiers and sailors, folks like you and other folks back home, whose Stamps and Bonds gave us these landing craft. How we saw in early morning that French coast coming nearer and nearer and becoming clearer and clearer. How our big Naval guns cracked the famous Atlantic Wall. How we stormed the beach, thousands upon thousands of American, British, and Canadian troops; and how we immediately to push the boys in ‘dirty blue-gray’ toward Berlin where they will land as soon as possible.

USsoldiersbeforebattleofnormandy (1)
Men of the 1st Division – to which Schwartz’s 26th Regiment was attached – as they boarded ships for Normandy. (NARA)

It shouldn’t be long.

Our hearts felt warm as we glanced frequently at thousands and thousands of planes overhead, from when we left England until this very day. Yes, there are Uncle Sam’s fighter planes – Thunderbolts, Mustangs, Lightnings, and others; his medium bombers – Mitchells, Marauders, Bostons, etc., and his heavy bombers which consisted mostly of Flying Fortresses and Liberators. Also the Royal Air Force’s famous fighter planes, the Spitfire, Beaufighters, Typhoons; and Great Britain’s medium and heavy bombers including Wellingtons, Lancasters, Halifaxes, and Stirlings. It’s a sight.

B-26 Marauders D-Day
B-26 Marauders over the D-Day landing fleet on June 6, 1944.

Miss Bashore, all of us realize that the many War Bonds you back home are buying are the birthplace for these planes, without whose services this enterprise could not function. Had it not been for our aircraft, we’d probably be sitting out in the channel to this day.

No, we aren’t enjoying civilian life here on French soil where our fathers ended World War I, but we’re satisfied until we reach the heart of Germany. Cold C and K rations are not a chicken dinner, and the ground isn’t the bed in my bedroom at home. But as I said in another letter, America is worth fighting for.

Coffee World War II (1)
A US Army soldier drinking coffee (National Archives – accessed through https://tomharperkelly.com/breakfastkration/)

As long as Pine Grove and Tremont keep going over the top in War Bonds, Waste Paper, Tin Cans, Red Cross, U.S.O., and Salvation Army drives, the situation in Normandy will be well in hand. Ample proof -the Battle of Cherbourg.

The French are glad to see us. Yes, these kiddies like gum as you have seen in the papers, and all give us wine, cider, fresh milk, flowers, etc. As we advance, it means the end of Jerry and the return of freedom to them, us and all the other allied countries.

It’s getting dark and the anti-aircraft fire in the skies is beautiful but does not provide sufficient light to continue this letter.

Until next time, good-bye,

Sincerely,

Irvin R. Schwartz”


Featured Image: Troops wade ashore from a LCVP landing craft, off Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944. An anti-tank gun like the one used by Pfc. Irvin Schwartz can seen on the beach at left – National Archives

This is part of a series titled: “Letters from War.” Read more of the letters written by Irvin Schwartz during World War II


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