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Mail Comes by the Truck Loads

Posted by on September 18, 2016

November 23 and December 3 and 10, 1944: Stanley writes a few letters from Deenethorpe to Dad who is stationed in Topeka. There is not much news from Stanley. He writes a short letter on the 23rd which is Thanksgiving. Stanley is writing his letter as he and the rest of the guys in the barracks “…are all sitting in a circle around the stove which has started to throw out some heat.”

He writes that he “feels pretty good but today somehow I feel blue.” He reports on the Thanksgiving feast that they enjoyed, “We had our turkey for supper today and there sure was a lot of it. We also had ice cream, cranberries and other items of food. I did not feel like eating much and I guess it was because I felt somewhat blue. I hope that by the time next Thanksgiving rolls around that we may all be home to enjoy our Thanksgiving Day with our folks.”

On the 3rd he writes a longer letter which he “postponed” knowing that he would have some time ”because I was expecting to pull CQ today.” On the 10th he writes a longer letter as well. Since both letters cover the same basic themes, I’ll take the liberty of combining them here.

He feels “pretty good at present.” He comments that the nights are getting colder and there seems to be an increasing reliance on the wood burning stoves in the barracks and other buildings. While he does not know the long range forecast, he notes that “last winter we had very little of snow but had plenty of rain and sleet.” For now, he states that “I wasn’t forced as yet by the cold to wear my longjohns but I am wearing my winter undershirt. The wind can sure be cold at times. Today we had our first snow but it was that wet stuff and soon as it hit the ground it was gone. It lasted for a short time then it started to rain.”

In contrast to the cold weather, he writes that “The fire in our little stove sure feels good and we are hugging it but when it goes out during the night it sure gets cold. I put my mackinaw and raincoat on the bed when I go to sleep so I can keep warm during the night. When I get up in the morning and hop into my coveralls it is like jumping into a bucket of cold water.”  

He also writes that he has “been pretty busy the last week or so and now I don’t know when I will catch upon my work. It looks like the Christmas rush. In my work I guess you can never catch [up] but are always back.”  He continues, “Anytime I turn around it is time to start the payrolls. If you don’t hear from me for a short while you will know that I am typing the payroll.”

The most recent letter that Stanley has received from Dad is the one that Dad wrote to him on November 19, meaning that it is taking about 2 weeks for letters to get from Topeka, Kansas to Deenethorpe, England. He writes, “Mail had been somewhat slow due to great number of packages being sent over here. When the mail comes to the field it comes by the truck loads, and I mean truck loads; that is, not all the time but recently within the last two or three weeks. Not very much first class mail comes in at the present time.” Among the packages was one that Stanley received from the choir back in Albany. He comments that “it was a very nice package. It sure had a lot of useful items in it. I’ll have to write them a letter thanking them for it.”

A cartoon from Yank Magazine the was enclosed with Stanley's December 10, 1944 letter to Dad which lampooned the goings on in an Army mail room.

A cartoon from Yank Magazine the was enclosed with Stanley’s December 10, 1944 letter to Dad which lampooned the goings on in an Army mail room.

Before closing he tells his brother “This afternoon [I] saw crates in which were chickens and on the outside of the crates it read ‘Packed in Topeka, Kansas’. For supper we had roasted chicken and it sure tasted good.”  There is no revelation as to how the chickens got from Topeka to England. One hopes that they traveled by a means quicker than the mail.

As we wrap up November and start getting into December of 1944, it’s time to take a look at what’s been keeping the 401st Bomb Group so busy, despite the seeming calm and routine nature of Stanley’s letters. November 1944 marked the one year anniversary of the beginning of operations for the 401st.  Historical resources show that they’ve been hitting a lot of oil refineries as well as other targets in support of Allied advances in Europe.

  • Nov. 2, 1944: Synthetic Oil Works, Merseburg
  • Nov. 4, 1944: Crude Oil Refinery, Harburg
  • Nov. 5, 1944: Marshalling Yards, Frankfurt
  • Nov. 6, 1944: Crude Oil Refinery, Harburg
  • Nov. 8, 1944: Leuna Oil Works, Merseburg
  • Nov. 9, 1944: Ground Troops Support, Metz
  • Nov. 16, 1944: Enemy Gun Positions, Eschweiler
  • Nov. 21, 1944: Leuna Oil Works, Merseburg
  • Nov. 25, 1944: Synthetic Oil Works, Merseburg
  • Nov. 26, 1944: Oil Refinery, Misburg
  • Nov. 29, 1944: Oil Refinery, Misburg
  • Nov. 30, 1944: Synthetic Oil Plant, Bohlen

As can be expected, crew members who have flown their quota of missions are being rotated out and new members are being rotated in, all of this impacting Stanley’s workload in processing payroll. The history of the 401st shows that in addition to the usual cadre of air crews and ground support, in November, 1944 there were 29 new squadron members assigned to crews, 15 officers and enlisted men transferred out to other assignments and 13 men receiving promotions. Each change meaning more work for the payroll guy.

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