From the Woolner Family
© Leslie Woolner Bardsley
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Frank Woolner
Journalist, Headquarters, 3rd Armored Division


Company "A", 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion
A.P.O. # 230, United States Army

Panther tanks a specialty. You find 'em. We kill 'em.

8 October, 1944.


Dear Dick:

It has been so long since I wrote you a letter that I thought I'd make it a big one. If I waited for you to write to me I would probably wait until the war is over. What's the matter with you? There you are, in the infantry, with plenty of time on your hands nothing to do all the time but sit around drinking coca cola and eating ice cream. I hear you don't have to get out of bed until nine in the morning and that you only train three hours a day. Now, in the old Army, when I joined up, sir, it wasn't like that. We used to work for our 21 dollars a month. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for taking life so easy.

Since you are in the infantry and will probably never see the front line anyhow, now that the armored forces have arrived, I will tell you what its like. All day long we sit around drinking beer and eating beefsteak. The beefsteak is always fresh, because our boys have a man on detail. Its called the meat detail, strangely enough. This guy goes out every once in a while and sprays a cow once over lightly with a Tommy gun. Then he drags in the pieces and throws them on the fire. In the afternoon, when things get dull, we all grab our catchers mitts and go out in the back yard to catch flies. You'd be surprised how easy it is to snag an 88 out of the air. The trick is to let it hit the glove sideways so as it won't go off. One of our men, a rookie, tried to catch an 88 by the nose. It stung his hand something awful. He never was much good at cutting paper dolls anyhow.

I had a letter from Jack the other day. He's still laying around back there in France someplace, probably wishing he was in England with those two girls he used to call Barracks Bag "A" and Barracks Bag "B". Well, maybe he didnt call them that, but that's what they looked like. Of course I am different. I have the sweetest little girl she lives in the Siegfried line underneath a pillbox. We call her pillbox Annie. She's built like a Browning machine gun, .30 caliber, recoil operated, belt fed. I think she must be air cooled because I havent seen any water jacket on her. I just love beautiful girls, don't you? Tell me, do you think Ted's girl is modeled after a BAR or no, she aint, she's modeled after a gas alarm. Of course Gota is sure enough first cousin to a tank retriever, as long as were on the subject.

Well, Sir, I figure the war is all over but the shooting now, and I am making plans to go home after the war, maybe. In fact, if President Roosevelt doesnt get this business over soon I swear I wont vote for him in 1948 and 1952. I figure Ill get my discharge any time now any time in the next five years. When I do Ill go home, build me a good foxhole in the back yard. Then Ill throw my clothes in the corner, open up a can of C-rations, carefully flavor the stuff with sand and a couple of unidentified bugs before gobbling it up. It'll be different after the war. We wont be able to sleep in those soft old beds, so well just sleep on the floor under them and be comfortable. A good pisspot sitting beside us will make everything seem right. Except of course, if a car should backfire suddenly, a old soldier might grab the pot, thinking it was his helmet, and pull it down over his ears. We must, therefore, remember to use the pot only as an ash tray. A cigar butt behind ones ear, and a few cigarette butts in ones hair will not be considered a breach of etiquette in the brave new world of tomorrow.

We will also have to warn our wives not to come and wake us up suddenly in the night, because if she does, we might leap out of bed and shoot her forty-four times while yelling "Call out the guard! Were being counter attacked!"

Of course, the best idea would be to sleep without a gun. This would make me restless, but I think I could manage. Then, all I would do to the wife when she wakes me suddenly is gouge out an eye or two and kick her in the stomach. Of course, if she was a WAC, I'd probably get murdered on the spot and no purple heart either.

It'll be grim going home and having to live with all them civilians. No reveille, no first call no place to report to all day long. I think I'd just go down town and find somebody and report anyhow. And I could salute doormen and policemen. Don't worry, Bub, Ill get along.

But I'll kill the first shopkeeper who tries to stick me fifteen cents for a package of butts!

Everything is fine over here, Dick. I make the finest paper dolls you ever seen now, and I can drink a barrel of beer without a pause for station announcements. The only thing that bothers me is the way these here Jerry shells whistle. I distinctly hear them say: "i --- waaaaaant youyouyouyouYOUYOU BARRRRUMP! Gaddammit, missed again." But they keep trying. And I hear that these Germans have a new secret weapon too! I think I know what it is. Shhhhhh. The German secret weapon is American officers. Shhhhhhh.

Seriously, though, we have some wonderful officers. Lots of them are young. We have one so young that he carries his hand grenades on the handlebars of his tricycle and he insists on taking his scooter and yo-yo along on the road marches. He didnt mind when a Jerry shell took all his front teeth out, because he was beginning to teeth anyhow. It felt good, he says, "and now I can let the first Sgt. keep my teething ring."

The front is kind of quiet here now. Last night a company of Jerries came in and yelled: "Do you guys want to fight or shall we go up to Munich and have a beer with Hitler?"

We said, "No," we didnt want to fight that night, but if the Germans would come back right after the election we might give 'em a bit of a rassling match.

"Well," they said, "You guys want to snap CENSORED, because Hitler is running out of rugs to chew and besides he had to send his personal detail off to the front." (That, I suppose, is the rug detail.) Hitler used to have twenty men handy just to bring in rugs for him to chew on. But after we got through in France, and Joe Stalin got through in Rumania, Hitler only had four guys left in his Army, and they was fooling around with the fraulines instead of attending to business so he had to send his rag detail to hold the Siegfried line. Boy, would we clean up Hitler fast if he had to call that rug detail back to Berchtesgaden.

Well, my boy, I am enclosing a couple of photographs taken in the blitzkrieg across France. We caught the Jerries with their panzers down and they never did get em up. We travelled across Europe at about forty miles an hour. Boy, didnt the infantry have to walk to keep up with us. I saw a guy with no legs the other day and he'd never seen action at all. He just wore 'em off trying to keep up with the armored force. The big six foot infantrymen who started off with us in Normandy is all little shavers now about four feet tall. They all wore themselves down trying to keep in sight of us. We saw lots of action and plenty of the Germans best secret weapon that's a long pole with a white flag tied on top of it.

You ought to get more exercise, Dick. Why don't you walk a few miles every day.

Love, /s/ Frank

[note penciled later:] Be sure to open anything you want that comes through the mail to me - Dick.

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