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 September 15, 1944 edition of the West Schuylkill Press-Herald appears a letter written by Pfc. Irvin Schwartz to his family at home near Pine Grove, Schuylkill County. The editors of the Press-Herald, Schwartz’s former employers, had permission from the Schwartz family to publish the letter.
The 19-year-old anti-tank gunner wrote the letter to his parents, John and Alma Schwartz, and his brothers, Donald and Curtis, at their home in Pleasant Valley near Pine Grove. In the letter, he writes about getting out of an army hospital for a stomach ailment and what he experienced in a “replacement depot,” a sorting center where men were returned or attached to units near the front line. While there, he met a fellow soldier from his hometown in Schuylkill County.
In another letter, written to his family in Pleasant Valley, Irvin wrote some more of his observations on France, and about a meeting with Dennis Hesser, a soldier from Paradise, Pine Grove R.D. His parents gave us his letter and we are happy to publish it below:
August 26th, 1944
Well, it’s Saturday evening and I guess you are wondering where I am after I wrote that I was resting comfortably in a hospital due to an upset stomach. And probably you are worrying, but there is absolutely nothing to worry about. To think what the past was like and when I compare it with the present manner wherein we are defeating the Jerries, I should think there’s not a single thing to worry about.
Well, I’m at a Replacement Depot awaiting transportation to my outfit which today I really don’t know where they are. The reason a group of us are here at a R.D. is to get some new clothing and equipment and the necessary transportation.
Today I had my second haircut since D-Day (so you see I leave them become quite long these days) and it was given to me by a boy who came from the States only a short time ago. He told me he was spending a furlough at home when the news came over that we landed on the shores of Normandy.
Yesterday a large American Red Cross clubmobile paid us a visit and gave us hot coffee and doughnuts, and furnished recording music. It was the fist time I saw American girls since I left England just before the big day which has gone down in history. The girls hailed from New York, Iowa, Illinois, and Oregon.
I met my first hometown friend in France. I met him here last night and I talked with him again today. He is Dennis Hesser of Paradise and he was sure glad to see me, as I felt the same way toward him. He just came form the States and we had a long conversation. He tells me his cousin, Bob Hesser, was to receive a discharge from the Navy.
I never knew Dennis’ name, but I saw him many, many times before I came into the service. So I knew that this soldier hails from Pine Grove. I walked up to him just prior to him grabbing several doughtnuts from the attractive Red Cross girls, and in addition his cup of coffee, and I asked him where he was from. He answered my question – “Pennsylvania.” I asked what part of Penn and he said “Schuylkill County,” which immediately told me he was “it.” I again talked with him today and we talked about some of our friends of Pine Grove who are in the service today.
I asked him if he’s getting the Press-Herald and he said he hasn’t received a single copy since leaving the States. But that’s because he is going through a Replacement Center and I told him to send Mr. Reber his regular outfit as soon as he is assigned to an outfit.
You need not send anymore handkerchiefs or any clothing at all. I now have plenty of everything.
I will surely have numerous letters and packages greeting me when I return to my company and I shall answer all my mail as soon as possible. So you will be hearing about the mail (letters and packages) which I received, in another several days.
Last night we enjoyed a very good musical show given by a group of soldiers before a huge crowd of soldiers and French civilians in a large open field. It was given on a little stage and was the first of its kind I witnessed here in France.
I’m sure you welcomed the big news of Paris. I just read where newspapers back home used three inch headlines to spread the news. Yes, things are going fast and it can’t be too long now. I wish you could only see these French civilians. They are so happy when they first see us that they are forced to cry. And they are willing to give us every last thing they own, when at the same time they have little food after four years of Nazidom in this country.
Today I felt like reading some story so looked over a great number of pocket-sized story books for servicemen and I happened to discover “The Trees” by our hometown author, Conrad Richter. I have the little book here and I will send it home some time. It is the complete story, only it’s put up in a smaller book, as hundreds of others, and we can carry these comfortably in a pocket at any time. I remember reading a big article in the Press-Herald some time ago on “The Trees.” Many of my buddies read it and enjoyed it.
Had I told you that last Sunday I attended church and also took communion? It was administered by Chaplain Johnson, who in my opinion is an excellent speaker. It was my first communion for a long time. I had saved some British coins (shillings and pences) and I was tired of carrying them with me ever since D-Day, so he sent them home for me which I highly appreciated.
Remember that a shilling is worth 20 cents in our money and a pence is worth exactly 1 2/3 cents in U.S. money. Pence and penny are the same thing. A half-crown simply is 2 ½ shillings (50 cents). A florin is 2 shillings or 40 cents. And a six-pence is, as you see now, worth exactly 10 cents. There are both silver and bronze three-pence coins as you will see when you receive the coins.
A half-penny is worth ½ of 1 2/3 cents and a farthing is ¼ of 1 2/3 cents. I can also add that there are 12 pences (12 x 1 ½ cents) in a shilling or 20 cents. I sent a complete set except a crown (5 shilling coin worth $1) which I couldn’t obtain. It looks almost like our silver dollar. I didn’t send any pound notes (20 shillings – $4), nor 10 shilling notes – $2.
I also sent a franc (French coin) worth 2 cents.
I have eight nickel bars of candy at present, all of which I received right here, and furthermore, all eight are the best, Hershey, Mounds, etc. So I am spending this Saturday night eating and writing.
Tomorrow morning I will definitely attend church which will be held by Chaplain Johnson. If possible, I will spend the rest of the day reading “The Trees.”
Well, I shall close now and I will answer my mail when I get there, which will be any day now.
Until next time – So long,
Featured Image: A Red Cross clubmobile distributing coffee and doughnuts in 1942 (Library of Congress)