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 late March 1945, Sergeant Irvin Schwartz had rejoined the anti-tank company in the 26th Infantry Regiment after a brief stint in a military hospital. He wrote home to the West Schuylkill Press-Herald’s publisher in a later he intended to have published in the newspaper.
In this remarkable letter, Schwartz lays out how Nazi Germany continued to fight on despite Allied victories and the smashing of German cities and industry. He points out that the war is drawing speedily to a close, but that Germany’s “total war” mentality was proving incredibly costly in American lives. Despite the losses, Schwartz and his comrades could clearly see “the end” of the war rapidly approaching.
With the Allied Forces
Tuesday, March 27, 1945
The war is going strong. Russian troops across the Oder; American, British and Canadians across the Rhine; The American, Red, and Royal air forces in the skies; division after German division being destroyed; city after city being reduced to rubble. How do the Germans stand it? Why don’t the Krauts give up? Such [are] the questions being asked by combat troops this day.
In my opinion, one answer is Germany’s secret weapon. A weapon many of us – even after years of bloody war – still fail to acknowledge. A weapon which unless we appreciate its power may prolong this European struggle and hinder the peace.
That secret weapon is total war – a war of the very young – 13- and 14-year-olds – and a war of the very old – 60- and 70-year-old males. A war of women and a war of girls, of grandmothers and 4-year-old great grandchildren; of replacements flung into battered divisions about as fast as we kill them.
A war of factories and fuel dumps dug in underground through years of secret but strenuous preparations and today manned by slave labor torn from countries, among them being France, Belgium, and Holland. Then Poland, Russia, and the others. Factories designed for the production of guns, not butter or other foodstuffs. Also vast warehouses crammed with fuel, arms, ammunitions, etc., enough to feed armies when there should be no more soldiers left to feed.
Another of Hitler’s secret weapons [are] his youth. Kids who became inflamed to “Der Fuhrer” and who are dedicated to death.
We are beating them as we beat them in the past. We will beat them to a thorough finish. But we are paying dearly in the loss of men, not mentioning equipment, ammunition, and thousands of other war commodities. And if we understood, and did not minimize, the enemy’s list of secret weapons, we could beat these Krauts more cheaply, in life, time, and treasure.
But today we are chasing the Wehrmacht over Germany in a manner almost as spectacular as Montgomery chased Rommel over the sands of North Africa a few years ago. But men are giving their lives so that others may live in a peaceful America in years to come.
We need a secret weapon of our own. More now than ever before. A weapon with the power of total war by the total people with the total wealth of the total nation. War without strikes, and war without some drafted, others on their own. War with dead on some beaches while sunbathers lie on others. War wherein the sacrifices and suffering are shared by all. Such a secret weapon is one we should throw against Germany’s total war, Hitler’s youth, and his grandmothers and 4-year-olds.
Hitler and Company have discovered very fittingly that his own Von Runstedt failed to show the ability to cope with our speed and fighting technique, and as you know he has ben replaced.
Today we face Kesselring, formerly commander in chief of the German forces in Italy. It’s Hitler’s last big man, and after we show him the way to play the game Der Fuehrer will have no more.
Yes, the war is coming fine, and today I heard American doughboys say for the first time since D-Day “I believe the end is coming.”
They said this after they watched our paratroopers jump and 10,000 planes fly overhead.
Irvin R. Schwartz
Featured Image: US Army forces fighting in a German town, 1945 (NARA)