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.
With the United States Occupation Forces in Germany
July 4, 1945
Fourth of July is being observed as a memorial holiday by troops of the American Occupational Forces here in Germany. The day is cloudy and the picture is a simple one.
Today roads are jammed with American convoys, and one can see vehicles of all types – jeeps, tanks, trucks, half-tracks, bulldozers, ambulances, gasoline trucks, armored cars, and others moving slowly but steadily toward redeployment camps in France from where many will go to Le Havre for shipment to the States, or to Marseilles, from where troops leave directly for the Pacific.
German soldiers and Wacs are seen in large numbers along the roads, carrying heavy clumsy packs, heading for home. American Prisoner of War camps are working overtime to check all prisoners and give them their discharge papers so they can get started as soon as possible on their long trek back home. Many have a 500 mile walk to cover and there’s no transportation, excepting few bicycles.
Huge C-47 Transports are leaving here every five minutes carrying soldiers on furlough to London and Paris, while many others are flying to America. Flying beside these big transport planes are our Flying Fortresses such as short time ago used by thousands in numbers to crumble Germany and today being used to take troops homeward.
German soldiers now look up at these bombers with warm hearts after years of air raid sirens and falling bombs all over this country.
Baseball and softball games will mark this holiday and there are contests being played this morning, afternoon, and night. Thousands will attend.
GI’s here are preparing for home. Many with 85 points and above leave tomorrow. Others will be forced to remain here. I can see thousands of Americans piling on 2 ½ ton trucks waiting to leave for the Jack Benny Show in Nurnberg [Nuremburg] this afternoon. Benny will show before over 50,000 troops at the famous Sportsplatz in the big German city.
And now as I was just about to call it quits, I hear the music of the “Star Spangled Banner” being played by an Army Band, and in the distance I can see with the aid of a pair of binoculars a small group of soldiers raise the Stars and Stripes.
That’s our 1945 Fourth of July. Last year’s, remember, was spent in the Battle of St. Lo.
Irvin R. Schwartz
Featured Image: People, including WACs, maneuver through the devastated city center of Nuremburg in the summer of 1945 (National Archives)