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


G-2 Section, 3rd Armored Division
A.P.O. # 253, United States Army

4 May, 1945.

Dear Dick:

I got a couple of your letters yesterday and I was glad to know that you were at last receiving your letters. 48 hunks of mail isn't bad at all. The best I've ever done was fifteen. But then, I never fell in a rat hole and broke my leg either.

I hope that leg takes an awful long time in healing. In fact, I was thinking I might get a pass to visit you, and then I could rap you with my stout walking stick, and break the leg all over again. Tell me, how bad was the fracture? Was it the entire shin bone, or was it just chipped, or what?

I know all about those 120mm mortars. I got pinned down by those things one day just after we had broken through the Siegfried line back in 1944. I think those big mortars are about the worst things to face in any action. Of course, direct fire from those high velocity 75's and 88's is no picnic either, the kind that go BLAM-whee, the whistle trailing along behind! We've had it all, but of course I know that the infantry gets the same thing and more.

I'm still in the pink of condition, still the most handsome man in the ETO. I'm writing stories for the outfit, most of which go home to the newspapers. However, I have just finished the work copy of a new booklet, a sequel to CALL ME SPEARHEAD, and it's going to look nice in print. I have a nice office with good heat and lights and I live like a king. Right now I have a bottle of schnapps on one hand, a canteen cup of beer on the other, and a blon - no, no, my God! What am I saying! We don't fraternize in Germany.

The war is over, I think - at least for all practical purposes the Jerries are finished. I hope that it's completely sewed up and all the firing finished by the time you get this letter. But, of course, we've got to remember that there's another war in the east. We're all sweating that one out, and you'd better start sweating too. Would you like me to come over and break your leg?

Okay, it was just a passing thought.

You asked me whether I thought I'd do any bike riding after the war, and the answer is no. I'd like to ride again, but Dick, how could I whip up any speed with my long, old grey beard getting caught in the wheels all the time?

Don't worry too much about your camera. There's a fifty-fifty chance that they'll hold it for you along with the rest of your personal equipment. However, if they don't, the hell with it. If I were you, though, I'd write to the supply sergeant and ask him about the things you want. Maybe he can send them to you at the hospital. If I were in the infantry I don't think I'd even try to carry a camera or anything else extra. You have to travel too light for that. Still, a camera's nice at times. I haven't picked up any cameras at all excepting a big 4.5 Agfa job that I found in a wrecked German half-track. It isn't anything specially good. I've found boucoups of cheap cameras and given them away. But aside from that I've never run across anything better than my own old Speedex. It's still taking crackerjack pictures, and that's all I'll ask of any camera. I don't care if it hasn't got no chromium plated fittings and knobs!

As far as the booby traps go, I am a pretty cagey customer. When we first landed in Normandy we ran into a few and I learned to be cautious. In those days I never touched a damned thing before it had been thoroughly examined. Usually, though, you'll find booby traps where the Krauts have made a long stand, and then pulled out. In our armored drives they just don't have time to do anything but get their long asses out of the way of our tanks. I have never gone out of my way to look for souvenirs. It isn't worth it.

I agree very fully with you about that house we will have after the war, but I can think of a few other refinements. We would have the house built in good hunting country, right on the bank of a nice trout stream. Then we could look back in our chairs with a fish rod out the window, like an anchor slinger, and just pull in fish after fish. All the undersized ones we would pop right into a meat grinder and grind 'em up. Of course, we would also have a shotgun mounted on a ground mount and jacked up so that we could poke it out the window and guzzle any game that happened around. This business of going home after the war has me worried, though. I'm afraid we'll have a terrible time after all these months in a combat zone. Why, can you just imagine what would happen if you were walking down the street when some jerk in a Buick had a flat tire nearby, - one of those Whee-Whee-Whee-Whee Ssssssss- BANG, kinds of flats? Why, naturally, you'd jump right quick for the nearest cellar. Then after you were in there you'd say to yourself, Hmmmmm, wunder what's here? And you'd reach around and take your GI flashlight out of your hip pocket and start hunting for cognac! Like as not you'd pick up a bottle of bleaching water, take one drink and say, Ahhh, just what I used to love so well in Germany!

Well, as you may suspect, I have a few ideas up my sleeve about booby trapping them scissorbills back home when we return. I figger I'll get 'em right and left. I'd leave a pull type detonator in the stem of a good tight bicycle valve stem. Then I'd say to Pappy: "Hah, nobody can get that valve stem out ­ it won't come out!" And he'd say, "Hah! Won't it!" Just like that, I'd have him.

Or, I'd take a nice new flower pot and fill it with nice flowers, all except the middle, which would be full of TNT extra strong mixture. Then I would put the flower pot, with the flowers, and the TNT, out on the back porch and wait for the Bates kids to come down. Down they would come, the little dears, and they would immediately see the flower pot and say: "Oh Boy, just the thing to break over mama's head when she comes home from the beano party.

And they would beano mama when she comes home. And I would get several birds with one TNT block, not to mention a Dicky bird.

Or, I would just casually booby trap a cupboard somewhere, and then wait for results. Pretty soon Ted would begin to howl, "Somebody has stole my enlarger! I've looked everywhere, and I can't find it!" And this time he'd be right, because I would have stolen it and buried it in a foxhole somewhere.

But Ted wouldn't know this. He would just figure that, as usual, he had put it somewhere, and maybe by a lot of yelling someone else would find it for him. But nobody would, because who would think to look in a foxhole for an enlarger ­ and no-body but Ted would open up the cupboards, because everybody but Ted would realize that how the hell could you cram a big enlarger into a cupboard.

That's where I'd have him! Sure enough, he'd figure that some low character might have dismantled his enlarger out of spite and shoved it into a cubby hole. So he'd yank open all the cupboards and finally get to the one I trapped. Simple, isn't it. Two dollars, please?

I got all the angles figured on this going home business. After all, Stars & Stripes says they may let out the Gees after they have been in five years. I only got one and a half to go. I might get out yet before I'm too old to walk without a cane. If I do get out I will rent me a house in Florida and a house in Maine. When the landlord comes around to collect the rent I will say --- Ohhh yasss, seems I heard the finance officer talking about that little thing. I'll have him attend to it. And then I would stroll off until they caught up with me again, and then I would say. "Of course! How could I forget that? Come back to see me on the 31st of the month. Then when he'd come back I'd glare and say: "You bassar ­ you didn't even sign the payroll this month, and here you are. Get out! And next time you come in, be sure to stand at attention!"

Nobody I know in this Army intends to do any work after he gets discharged. What a bunch of bums we will all be. The trouble is, of course, that most of these chere Gees are thinking that they will be interested in a blonde or two, and maybe a new automobile. Wait till they find out that the Red cross Clubmobile don't come bowling up East Piddle Street in Gooeymuck, Maine, every now and then! For that matter, wait'll they go to the nearest automobile dealer and try to get a car out to do a little scouting and patrolling ---"Psssst, Mac, I know where's they a hunnert gallons of cognac in a keller. Nuttin' to it! But I need a vehicle."

It won't work after you get them discharge papers. Life'll be hard in the ATO (American Theater of Operations). That's a place 3,000 miles thataway, and turn right. You can't miss it!

I will now have me another slug of beer and a chaser of corn likker and go to bed. Take it easy with that wheelchair, or for goodness sake, get up a good head start and bash into a wall, breaking the other leg! Who wants to walk anyhow? It's very tiresome with all this here equipment the Army gives out. I'd rather be a 4-F.

The guys here, in fact, say that I am a 4-F, but that is just jealousy I guess. They call me the "Mask"! The jokers.

Be lucky, /s/ Frank

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