Letters from War – Responding to letters from home and commenting on Pine Grove high school basketball – February 1945

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

*In future weeks, these posts will appear on the blog on Tuesdays as we launch a new project that will go live each week on Thursday*

Schwartz 1944 (1)
A 1944 photograph of Irvin Schwartz

Somewhere in Europe

February 14, 1945

Dear Mr. Reber:

The Press-Herald is arriving regularly in fact in less time than ever before. As I am moving more and more miles from home its contents mean more and more, and I express my appreciation once more. May I say that it is entirely impossible for you to ever realize what all the “Letters” mean when they arrive at their destinations all over the globe – in England, France, Scotland, Luxembourg, Italy, Holland, Newfoundland, Alaska, Burma, and on all the Allied-held islands of the Pacific.

The Press-Herald is winning this war as much as is my rifle, plus all the ammunition in my belt. Again thanks for the grand favor. To us, it means more than eight or ten sheets of paper and the articles printed on them. It’s more than a morale builder.

26th infantry regiment February 1945 Close up newspaper
Soldiers in the 26th Infantry Regiment reading a newspaper near the front lines in Germany, February 1945.

In a recent letter a Pine Grove friend asked me what I accomplished in order to receive my second front line promotion. He made reference to killing 100 or more Germans as an example. Well, Mr. Reber, I am not writing this as a “tap on the back,” but when the day comes that I can so write, my friends will discover I did just slightly more than kill 100 or more Germans. All I may say as for the present, I, myself, played a part in stopping the German breakthrough into Belgium.

The same night I received the above-mentioned letter I received another which was far more pleasing. One reason, it failed to mention war, and every soldier anywhere near it usually disregards a letter wherein he reads nothing but war. This letter had a very simple but impressive beginning which still sticks in my mind and I guess always will. “There’s good news tonight. Ah, yes, there is good news, tonight.”

No, it wasn’t America’s Gabriel Heatter, but my own hometown friend, Al Hummel. For quite some time Al has been writing regularly, regardless how many times I receive time to acknowledge his correspondence, and his letters are just the type a combat soldier wants to read. I wish many more would follow his footsteps. Mail would be more highly appreciated on the receiving end I am sure.

Al went on to say, “On Tuesday night Pine Grove beat Port Carbon and on Saturday night we beat Hegins 31-19. Pine Grove, Tremont and Port are now tied for first place, 9 wins and 2 losses, while Hegins is next with 8 wins and 2 loses, plus a postponed game to go. All games draw large crowds and you can imagine the tension that rests in these basketball towns these days.”

Well, all I can possibly do for a letter such as this is sit down and drop Al a paragraph or two. That’s the only way I can show him my appreciation as long as I am so far from home.

But here’s hats off to another great Pine Grove High School basketball team. Hats off to a couple of leaders, Coach Carmine Pepe and Athletic Director Bruce Henninger. And to the boys as Sonny Neal, Bob Clements, Roy Aungst, Ken Moyer, Charles Davis, Guy Heinbach, Bob Haldeman, and all the rest. We over here also realize our current Jay Vees area  crack outfit and they hold our attention as much as does the varsity. Because this year’s Jay Vees are the ultimate “big team” we’ll be following after coming back from the wars.

Regardless how our 1944-1945 team scored wins or losses after the Hegins upset, in my opinion, the new and inexperienced boys stamped themselves as another fine time – typical Pine Grove – and deserve credit as such. To score victories over Lebanon Catholic, Myerstown, Alumni, Branch, Cass, Reilly, Minersville, Schuylkill Haven, Port Carbon, Hegins and Orwigsburg in a fashion we have is plenty of work for any coach. Yet Mr. Pepe came through, and furthermore I am confident one can’t hear him complain of the long hours he put on this year’s teams. Besides possessing a keen knowledge of the game, Coach Pepe puts it to the best possible use at our Alma Mater, and we here on the battlefields are proud of and often talk about a man back home by the name of Carmine Pepe. To him, hats off.

Mr. Reber, the snow with its many beautiful scenes has disappeared, a result of recent heavy rains. Today we look at nothing but H20 mixed in with earth. And this mud is far from pleasant.

It is time for chow and I’ll be closing. But before signing off again thank you for the “Letter From Home.” Keep ‘em coming and in a short while we’ll be coming.

Wishing you the best of everything.


Irvin R. Schwartz

Featured Image: Members of the 26th Infantry Regiment in Germany in February 1945 – Reddit

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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