Irvin Schwartz grew up on the outskirts of the Schuylkill County community of Pine Grove in the 1930s and 1940s. A budding and skilled writer, Schwartz graduated from Pine Grove High School in the spring of 1942. He found work at a local factory but his love was writing the high school sports column for the area’s newspaper, the West Schuylkill Press and Pine Grove Herald. 

His stint with the local newspaper was short-lived. In the spring of 1943, Schwartz was called up for service in the US Army. As the Second World War raged, many residents of Pine Grove volunteered or were drafted in the American armed forces. Irvin Schwartz joined many of his friends in the service.

Irvin Schwartz in England
Irvin Schwartz in US Army uniform (Schwartz Family)

When Schwartz left Pine Grove in May 1943, he began a remarkable correspondence with the editors of his hometown newspaper documenting his service in the US Army. These detailed letters, 50 in total, documented Schwartz’s service with the Army’s famed 1st Division. They reveal Schwartz as an excellent writer with the ability to capture the essence of the American experience in the European Theater of the Second World War.

Irvin Schwartz in England 2
Irvin Schwartz in England before the invasion of Normandy (Schwartz Family)

In 2020-21, Wynning History endeavored to share these letters and contextualize Schwartz’s experience during the conflict. We hope you’ll find these letters as fascinating and enlightening as we do.

Prologue – Irvin Schwartz’s Farewell Column for the West Schuylkill Press-Herald, May 7, 1943

Letter 1 – On the train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi in May 1943

Letter 2 – From the training camps of Mississippi in the summer of 1943

Letter 3 – On the train to Fort Meade, Maryland in October 1943

Letter 4 – Letters from War – At a “Northern Camp” in November 1943

Letter 5 – From Somewhere in England, November 1943

Letter 6 – Preparations for a war-time Christmas in England, November 1943

Letter 7 – Feeling homesick around the holidays in England, December 1943

Letter 8 – A powerfully written letter on Christmas Day, 1943

Letter 9 – Irvin Schwartz welcomed New Year 1944 with the hope that it meant Allied victory

Letter 10 – A high school sports pundit from a US Army base in England, January 1944

Letter 11 – A report about British newspapers in February 1944

The West Schuylkill Press-Herald reports on Schwartz’s 1944 visit to war-time London – March 1944

Letter 12 – A description of the English countryside, 1944

Letter 13 – A powerful Memorial Day letter on the eve of D-Day, 1944

Letter 14 – The first letter from the battlefields of Normandy, June 1944

Letter 15 – Reflections on D-Day and the fighting in Normandy, June 1944

Letter 16 – Receiving letters and picking up war souvenirs in France, July 1944

Letter 17 – Scenes at a joyous party in liberated Normandy, August 1944

Letter 18 – Witnessing a massive bombing raid and fighting near Saint-Lô, 1944

Letter 18a – A letter to the Schwartz family at home in Schuylkill County, August 1944

Letter 19 – Dining with a French family before returning to the front lines, September 1944

Letter 20 – Checking in with the staff of the Press-Herald from Belgium, September 1944

Letter 21 – The first letter from inside Hitler’s crumbling “Third Reich,” October 1944

Letter 22 – Holiday greetings from the front lines in Nazi Germany, November 1944

Letter 23 – “Our Battle for Aachen,” 1944

Battlefield promotion and war souvenirs, December 1944

Letter 24 – A delayed letter describing the German “Siegfried Line” and celebrating Ernie Pyle, 1944

Letter 25 – A meeting of Schuylkill County natives on the front lines in Europe, December 1944

Letter 26 – No peace for the holidays as the Battle of the Bulge raged, December 1944-January 1945

Letter 27 – The Battle of Dom Bütgenbach, December 21, 1944

An account of Irvin Schwartz’s participation in the Battle of Dom Bütgenbach – December 21, 1944

Letter 28 – A note from the front lines to a World War I veteran in Pine Grove – February 1945

Letter 29 – Receiving mail from friends and fellow servicemembers on the front line in Belgium (delayed) – 1945

Letter 30 – Responding to letters from home and commenting on high school basketball – February 1945

Awarded the Bronze Star and wounded in action – 1945

Letter 31 –  A letter from an army hospital describing wounds received in Germany – 1945

Letter 32 – Ideas for a World War II memorial in Pine Grove and a dislike of monuments – 1945

Letter 33 – “I believe the end is coming soon,” March 1945

Letter 34 – A chippy letter in response to a fellow Pine Grove soldier serving in Italy – 1945

A photograph of the Nazi panzer destroyed by Irvin Schwartz in the Battle of the Bulge

Letter 35 – Irvin Schwartz’s response to the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1945

Sergeant Irvin Schwartz receives the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry during the Battle of the Bulge

Letter 36 – Irvin Schwartz’s V-E Day letter to the West Schuylkill Press-Herald – May 8, 1945

Letter 37 – Two letters written on the eve of the first anniversary of D-Day – June 1945

Letter 38 – Sergeant Schwartz’s farewell to General Eisenhower – June 1945

Letter 39 – Sergeant Schwartz discusses his position in the US Army after the war – Summer 1945

Letter 40 – Celebrating Independence Day 1945 in occupied Germany

Letter 41 – Irvin Schwartz goes on vacation to the French resort city of Nice, July 1945

Letter 42 – Returning from a post-war vacation at the French Riviera, August 1945

Letter 43 – An interview with a First Division newspaper about the French Riviera, August 1945

Letter 44 – Learning of Japan’s surrender at the “GI Olympics” in Nuremberg – August 1945

Letter 45 – Irvin Schwartz prepares to leave Europe from the United States, August 1945

Letter 46 – Preparing to leave for home and a last look at war-ravaged Nuremberg, September 1945

Letter 47 – Beginning the journey home through Germany, September 1945

Letter 48 – Camp San Antonio near Reims, France, September 1945

Letter 49 – Return to the United States delayed by a broken ship propeller, September 1945

Letter 50 – The Final Letter from War – The voyage home from war aboard the USS Mount Vernon, October 1945

Irvin Schwartz’s first sports column after returning from World War II – November 1945

Life After the Letters from War – Irvin Schwartz (1924-1992)

Epilogue – Irvin Schwartz and his remarkable letters from war

Featured Image: Members of the 26th Infantry Regiment’s anti-tank company in service during World War II and Irvin Schwartz in his military uniform.

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