December 22 and 25, 1943. Two V-Mails to Dad from Stanley detailing his first Christmas in England. This will be the last letter that Dad gets from his brother until the New Year. There are very little details about Stanley’s duties or what the 401st is tasked with doing, for very obvious reasons.
Apparently, it is common practice for the radio to be on while he is writing. Stanley notes that he has been listening to “the Wednesday night Kay Kyser program”, “Fred Waring’s choir singing ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’”, and “the Bob Hope Program”.
Stanley makes a special note that “Just a few days ago the good ‘Old Glory’ was hoisted for the first time on the flagpole on our camp. It sure felt good to see it going up after not seeing it for a while.”
On Christmas day he writes, “Merry Christmas to you. This is Christmas Day and I am sure you are spending a joyous Christmas weekend. As for myself, I’m doing pretty good. Well after all we have no White Christmas, just another one of those cloudy days. At times the sun shone through the clouds and highlighted things a bit.”
A group of the soldiers went to Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in “some distant city. It took us some time to get there.” On top of the time to get to town, they got a little lost until one of the locals got them back on track. “…some woman asked us where we were going and she said follow me. So about one hundred people marched in back of her and went into church. It was pretty crowded in church. It was a small but nice church. It was early morn when we got back.”
After getting back to camp late, he slept in. “Today I slept to about eleven o’clock and then went to dinner. We had a turkey dinner and it sure tasted good. We had a lot of turkey.” He adds, “Today I took off the first day since we are here.”
At the risk of providing too jarring of a contrast to the Christmas V-Mails, I wanted to take the opportunity of Stanley’s last correspondence of 1943 to address the mission of the 401st Bomb Group. At this point, the 401st has been in England nearly two months. While Uncle Stanley’s duties, as far as the letters let on, were involved with processing payroll. the job of the 401st Bomb Group and the four squadrons that it consisted of, was to hit strategic Axis targets in Europe. From their arrival through the end of 1943 the missions that were flown were as follows:
- Nov. 26, 1943: Bremen, Germany
- Dec. 1, 1943: Aircraft Part Plant, Solingen, Germany
- Dec. 5, 1943: Aircarft Engine Plant, German Occupied Paris, France
- Dec. 11, 1943: Shipping Center, Emden, Germnay
- Dec. 13, 1943: Kiel, Germany
- Dec. 20, 1943: Bremen, Germany
- Dec. 22, 1943: Marshalling Yards. Osnabruk, Germany
- Dec. 24, 1943: Rocket Installations, Gorenflos, France
- Dec. 30, 1943: Chemical Plant, Ludwigshaven, Germnay
- Dec. 31, 1943: Airfield, Cognac, France
A more comprehensive history of the 401st can be found at the website of the 401st Bomb Group Association.