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 a letter written “East of the Rhine” in April 1945, Sergeant Irvin Schwartz took aim at a fellow Pine Grove soldier in the ranks of the United States Army. In the columns of the West Schuylkill Press-Herald, servicemembers published letters, many of which were in communication with each other through its pages. In this way, wherever the Press-Herald went across the globe, friends and former classmates could keep tabs on each other.
But sometimes, things could get a little heated. In this April 1945 letter from Irvin Schwartz, you can sense his frustration with Private Warren A. Koppenhaver. Private Koppenhaver referenced Schwartz’s many letters to the Press-Herald and wrote that Schwartz had never seen anything like the mud Koppenhaver was fighting through in Italy.
Sergeant Schwartz was not pleased and his response makes that quite clear. He took it personally.
East of the Rhine
April 16, 1945
I received three more Press-Heralds in today’s mail. Your editions in my opinion are becoming more and more interesting as we go deeper and deeper in this country. It may seem every bored to you hearing this statement, but again I write – thank you for your vast contribution to the war. The Press-Herald is highly appreciated not only by myself and all Pine Grove, Tremont, and vicinity men and women at war, but also the men in my anti-tank company from 31 states in the Union.
One day I shall have them express their thoughts and opinions regarding the fine little newspaper we boast in our little communities in Pennsylvania.
I read Pvt. Warren A. Koppenhaver’s letter from Italy with respect. But I can add a few remarks in connection with the MUD we have had and have at present, compared with Italy’s land of water.
Pvt. Koppenhaver’s letter stated that “Schwartz probably was never in Italy to see the mud here,” and he went on to remark that Italy’s mud is far worse than France’s or Germany’s. He failed to mention what he thinks we encountered in the Battle of the Bulge when we licked the bulk of the German Army in World War II.
He failed to mention the MUD we fought sitting in the English Channel June 5th and the mud we encountered on the bloody beaches of Normandy June 6th. He failed to say anything in connection with the mud of France’s farming section of Normandy – the Battle of the Hedgerows. He failed to write about the mud we came on our advance across France, Belgium, and through the defenses of the Seigfried Line. And the German breakthrough into Belgium last December was fought fiercely and halted fiercely in snow so deep it covered tanks completely and at certain points it was plenty deep, sufficient to compare with any weather handicap Italy may have had at any time.
And if Pvt. Koppenhaver thinks we crossed obstacles such as the Seine, Roer, the Schwammanuel Dam and the Rhine, dry, I wish he could have been with me. If Italy’s mud compares with Normandy, the River Seine, the Meuse, Schwenhutte, or the Rhine, then I’ll swim the Rhine with Pvt. Koppenhaver on my back.
I am fighting with men who have seen practically all the mud in Italy and they have fought in it over here. Yet I have heard few of them say Italy’s fighting conditions to be any worse than ours. And right today I have in my possession pictures of tanks, jeeps, trucks, and huge artillery pieces practically covered completely in mud here on the Western Front.
Undoubtedly Anzio and Cassino were tough, but what about the Normandy invasion, the Seigfried Line, the Battle of the Bulge, and the crossing of the Rhine? Not mentioning the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest – which numerous experts claim will turn out as the fiercest phase in the Second World War.
No, I have not fought in Italy, and never hope to. In my opinion, I have seen hell long enough, missed too many shells, shots, and bombs by a matter of seconds and inches on too many occasions, and in my opinion I have seen enough MUD since November ’43 for another 20 years.
Again, thanks for the paper.
Irvin R. Schwartz
Featured Image: A tank crossing a creek in Germany in 1945 (Reddit)