DMH Spotlight - Warrant Officer Carl Henry's letters from World War II, January 23-31, 1945 Back

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Here's the official 80th combat division website and other links:

http://www.lonesentry.com/gi_stories_booklets/80thinfantry/index.html


Today, January 23rd, seems a particularly auspicious day to start the daily publication of Carl Henry's letters from the European front in World War II. On January 23, 1945 Warrant Officer Carl Henry learned that he was awarded the Bronze Star. It's also the birthday of the Grand Duchess and " the streets were literally drenched with flags..." He writes about "the Red Cross girls" and "the nurses, too, go on month after month and year after year. Incidentally, the first nurse to be killed in this theater died recently, a Jewish girl, struck by a German shell." The song he likes is "I walk alone." He rues the fact that other members of the family (except for his wife Edith) have not gotten into war work and the internecine drama with his Cincinnati family goes on.

 

He also asks, "You don't write me in any of these letters of your German [studies]-you're not losing interest in that, are you, honeybunch? All you tell me is that your teacher said you had beautiful eyes and that the lesson was on anatomy - now isn't that a fine summary of your progress in the study of German, one nicely calculated to leave me unconcerned about this phase of your activities?" and he closes with "It's all for YOU, little green eyes, all this I'm going through, and I bring the day's treasures, laying them at your feet like a little puppy dog or a small child, waiting patiently by for praise from the master or the God...Make the days fly by, darling, and you'll never regret it."

 

 

 

 

Note of thanks probably signed by Horace McBride

Horace L. McBride.jpg

From Wikipedia

From April 1942 to March 1943, he served as Commander of the 80th Infantry Division Artillery. McBride was promoted to Brigadier General in May 1942. He assumed command of the entire 80th Infantry Division in 1943 and was promoted to Major General March 1943.

World War II
European Theater of World War II
Battle of Nancy
Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)
Rhineland
Central Europe
Battle of Kassel

 

See the Blue Ridge official history prepared for soldiers to send home....

 


Here's how Carl Henry narrates his learning that he had received the Bronze Star: "I had a pleaasant surprise today. To back-track for a moment, yesterday I had occasion at dinner to inquire of the AG [Adjutant General] officers what the proper order was for wearing decorations like the Bronze Star as well as the theater ribbons we have accumulated. This was sought at the request of the Colonel (M), who asked me to find out. It was a rather peculiar question, for, over here, no one is thinking much about wearing their ribbons and decorations - there's not much time for that. The fellows were ribbing me about it yesterday.

 

To-day, at noon, as I walked in to chow, about half a dozen of them opened up on me again, saying,'Now we know why you were so interested in those decorations' and started to congratulate me. ...Since Cap and another officer (personnel) from the field artillery were leading the barrage, I immediately suspected a trick and refused all congratulations.

 

But when I got to the office, I discovered sure enough that they were right, that I had been awarded the Bronze Star on Division Order #22 of 22 January 1945.....This must have been the Colonel and nobody else, for his is the one who decides who gets the citations in the battalion. He really must like the work I have been doing. I was quite flattered, for at the date of writing I am the only personnel officer in the division to be awarded the Bronze Star Medal....." [see home page of Front Seat to War for why he doesn't want to publicize  this honor]

 

 

 

The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth-highest individual military award and the ninth-highest by order of precedence in the US military. It may be awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone. (from Wikipedia, for which I am no longer providing links because their image of the Bronze star is infected with a virus/malware. 3/8/2014.)

 

 

Undated but from the January letters....Carl Henry's signature in his wife Edith's hand.

She tried to get his poems published, in the New Yorker....

 


 

Carl Henry also sent cables home to his wife, here at her mother's residence (in Brooklyn, not indicated!)

Edith wrote down a few words on it: harangue, misspell, welfare (written twice.)


On January 24, 1945, Warrant Officer was moved out with his division from one town Somewhere in Luxembourg [OBERFEULEN] to another, Somewhere in Luxembourg [WILZ].

 

"As a souvenir of our friendship, they [the family he had been staying with] an album of pictures which they made up in the last few weeks just for me...This is the nicest souvenir I have gotten over here....I turn now to answer the two letters of yours which I have on hand, the first being that for January 8. In this one you seem particularly lonesome, just as I am tonight, sitting here alone in a strange land, with no one around that I can really consider a friend, writing to my wife far, far away. I suppose we'll both be better people after having gone through this heart-rending experience, but that's mighty small consolation for what we're sacrificing. No one who has gone through this which we are both going through will ever be satisfied with such platitudinous reflections....Darling, here is what I drew since I became a W.O. [Warrant Officer, promoted from Warrant Officer, Junior Grade/WOJG] ...for each month overseas $282 for a 30-day month and $283.40 for a 31-day. I believe that my uniform allowance is deductible from income tax, that is, is not taxable, and also the 75 cents a day (for 365 days a year) that I must pay for my meals over here (also in the States.)...."

 

He quotes a very loving and intimate message from Edith and expresses his appreciation for it....

 

Three corrections in two pages...and Carl Henry typed, very fast, with one finger of each hand.


On January 25, 1945 Carl Henry writes: "Darling, this is our 37th..." [he is counting the months since they were married, December 25, 1941. He closes with] "looking forward to 37 more years together". [They were married for 43 years - Edith died on September 5, 1984.]

Also: Our officers' mess is in a priests home in this town, and starting to-day, we had the unusual service of sitting down to a set table and being served our food, rather than going through a chow line... I was just kidding when I mentioned 1949 as the year in which my army service would probably end. I've stopped speculating on that question.....I think most of the American soldiers realize that there can be no compromise with the Boche - incidents like Malmedy are now too familiar to all of them. I never hear anyone suggest a soft peace or an immediate peace with Germany , deeply as we all hate this war...."

 

 

" ...we are occupying a large farmhouse with a Luxemburgian peasant and his wife....They have moved into one room of this house and leave us to occupy the three other bedrooms upstairs and two rooms for office space downstairs. Toilet facilities are provided by a wide, rolling field in the rear of the house wich is with snow to the depth of about 18 inches...

Donald Nelson is going to have a prominent part in the government's CTP...Wallace's appointment to take the place of Jesse Jones....I'm getting my newspapers quite regularly, and so keep well-informed on the news back home- although these papers are dated almost three months back.

....one of our first sergeants was up to visit us today. He admired your photos very strongly which I have prominently displayed on my desk . Next he suggested you looked like a certain movie actress and fumbled for the name. I suggested Margaret Sullavan and he quickly sprang to assent. Some of the boys in the office chimed in - the first time I have heard any of them comment about you - and agreed it was a correct comparison. Surprised? I'm not...

Studio publicity Margaret Sullavan.jpg

Just took a half hour to open up a jar of caviar with O'Toole, who is working late, and we annihialted it with the melba toast which came in one of your packages. It was extremely delicious. Incidentally, this first sergeant had not seen me for several weeks and thoght I looked as if I were getting fat...."

 


 

See transcription of Carl Henry's poem, "Faith," at 1/28/1945

 

 


"Somewhere in Luxembourg, Saturday night, January 27, 1945

.....last night, I became involved again in a bull session which lasted til about midnight....This officer who is being reclassified is still hanging around the office, waiting for orders....Tonight after supper, just for the fun of it, I engaged him in an argument, trying to prove to him that there was no progress in human affaris, no grounds for optimism in the outcome of history. He didn't take me too seriously- just seriously enough to make it interesting. Afterwards he started to quote poetry, so I handed him my Oxford Book of English verse. Then I handed him my last poem, which he thought was not too bad. Suddenly one of the boys in the office whipped out a poem that he had written - and I want to tell you that it was not too bad....There must be something in this lonely life that makes poets of us all....O'Toole.....Murray, one of my men, was having a lot of fun with me during the discussion..He asked me why, if there were no progress, did I get married....'Those books you write her - and still you're not happy!'...Well, there's not a darn thing else to write. One more dreary day nearer something better; for the future will be better, of that I am convinced..."

 

[January 28, 1945: FELS]

 

"...Last night after writing to you, I...drafted the enclosed poem...I polished on it as I undressed, also before I turned out the lights as I lolled in my bedroll; then worked on it again as I dressed, right before dinner, and right after supper. I'm disappointed in the last verse, [see below]...have not been able to figure out anything better....PX rations again tonight-always once a week. 7 packages of cigarettes, 3 Milky Way candy bars, gum, soap, razor blades, shaving cream and so forth (also toothbrushes). So far as that type of supply is concerned, we are more than well taken care of....I'm enclosing an S+S..." [Stars and Stripes, the army newspaper]

 

 

 

 Faith 1/27/45

The mantled white of winter's crust

Has locked the earth away,

Sealing that turbulence of life

That flowed through yesterday.

Here where this sea of silent cold,

Has flooded in muted peace The contours of a wamre land

Beneath its icy fleece,

Deep in this rigid realm of death,

This soulless glittering sight,

Prepare the portents of the spring,

Dark Seedlings of the light.

Soon will this sea begin to move,

Descend and fade away;

And flame to being once again,

Green summer's poetry;

The humming hundreds in the grass,

The traffic in the air,

The sweet perfume of world's abloom

With breezes deboniar,

The fertile plush of grassy lush,

The rollicking of streams,

The dancing dew beneath the dawn

As each new morning gleams.

So let us melt the hearts of men,

These mighty masks of cold,

Start somewhere in their crusted depths

The dreams we would unfol.

Men were not born to lie asleep,

Moulding from Womb to dust,

Without the thrill life should instil,

Content to sulk and rust.

Believe that in the tangled depths,

The maze that is the heart,

There must be roots, some tender shoots,

Formed for a larger part.

 


 

Then, on January 29, 1945, a V-Mail to Mrs. Carl Henry, PO Box 92, Long Island City, NY

"From WOJG [Warrant Officer Junior Grade] Carl Henry W-2132018 H+SCo305 Engr (c) BN...Doll Babe: Just a few lines tonight, for, unexpectedly, I was called late this afternoon to come down to the Battalion for a little ceremony this evening. Nobody told me or would tell me what it was all about. After supper at H+S Co, I and three other officers from H+S Co went up to Division headquarters. Lt. E and I spent about 15 minutes in Lt. Col. Clayton's office going over business relative to personnal matters. Then we went over to Lt. Col. McCollam's office, spent a few minutes talking and drinking beer. The Colonel called all the officers and enlisted men in our battalion staff sections into the room and asked me to step forward. He then read the citation awarding me the Bronze Star and afterward pinned the decoration on me with a few further words to the group about my work....

 

The lettter from Gma was nice, but, considering it to be the first on in 6 months....Darling, I tried your shaving lotion for the first time this morning, the Sportsman brand, and it is swell....

[Carl Henry was never a hunter.]

Was thinking of you, babe, when the colonel pinned on the decoration and what a lucky man I am...."

 

Lt. Colonel Albert E. McCollam, who pinned the Bronze Star on Carl Henry, was himself awarded the Bronze Star in May 1945:


"Somewhere in Luxembourg, January 20, 1945 I'm now only 16 letters behind. Don't let me fail to mention also that I received another package from you yesterday. This one contained chicken, package of prunes, 2 bags of toll house cookies, can of apricot nectar, can of green asparagus. This food is getting to be a serious problem, I don't know where to put it all, and I can't consume it quite fast enough. The meals have been very good lately. Tonight, we had roast chicken, and I secured a large, tender drumbone...I helped Lt. E  censor mail.....I have decided to try to reward the boys in the section for the swell work they have done for me by getting a sergeant's rating for the company clerks...You had several interesting articles enclosed with your Copa picture [where Edith's brother Jack Entrattter was Maitre D'] especially on on the opportunism of our foreign policy. Childs foresees only the ambition of the President as a safeguard against this opportunism. I wish that some of these writers would think a little more in terms of the people and a little less in terms of one man - the President.....What am I going to send my babee for a valentine? Wish I knew. Will you be my valentine? That is the first thing which I have to find out. Guess I'll just have to assume that YES is the answer and go ahead and try to find something. Please write me if YES is not the answer. Darling, my combat jacket is not torn - that was my field jacket...."


Somewhere in Luxembourg Wednesday January 31, 1945 - 10 p.m.

"....a most delicious breakfast. First, we were served corn flakes with condensed milk and sugar, plenty of both. Next, the lightest and tastiest pancakes I've tasted in the army with plenty of fresh butter and syrup. Hot spam, bread, and plenty of good hot coffee. The climax was a fresh orange. Not bad for combat troops eh what?....[regarding his family] You're darned right when you say 'no more errand-boy jobs' - at least I've discovered on thing in the army and that is your and my true worth...Darling, you never have to send me wax paper - this onion skin [which he is using for his letters] can be used for any purpose such as wrapping up left-over food. Regarding billeting arrangements, all these billets which we occupy will eventually be paid for by the Army through Lend-Lease - that is how these people will be compensated for their trouble. Of course, the candy and so forth which we give them in the meantime means more that the money that they will get eventually...Regarding your comments on unconditional surrender - I don't think it does mean the same thing to all countries concerned. The way things are going now it looks as though, to me, the Russians will overrun Germany before we do, set up their Free German government, and leave us holding the bag with our own indecision...."

 


Carl Henry writings are Copyright © Diana Mara Henry / dmh@dianamarahenry.com

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The originals are in the Carl Henry special collection at the Du Bois Library, U Mass Amherst.

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