(The business of the Christmas season has interrupted my ability to post stories regularly, hopefully I can get back on track now.)
On September 23, 1944, Private Edwin Boone left Camp Bowie, TX with the 415 Medical Collecting Company under concealed orders, destination unknown. His address was APO 17100 New York, NY. (APO stands for Army Post Office)
At the same time on the home front, his parents, Alva and Allie Boone, were getting on up in years & starting to have trouble managing the farm. His nephew, Arza Clark Millikan, a US Marine, was in a hospital in California with pneumonia.
Edwin’s first letter after he left was from “somewhere in the Eastern USA” dated September 28. He wasn’t allowed to write about where he was or where he was going. He could only write about “the food, the weather & recreation.” So “the food is excellent, the weather is a little cloudy… & I took a walk to the movies last night.” The next letters gave no more news until mid October.
October 19, 1944, Edwin sent a letter from “somewhere in France.” He commented on the constant rain and the “people are mud splattered & hungry.” He also mentioned how much he appreciated the “picturesque buildings” of France. He stated that most of the towns they hiked through were “practically ghost towns.”
By this time, the Allied forces had progressed from the D-day landing to liberating Paris in August. The forces were moving on toward the German border.
Edwin’s letters tell very little of what he is involved in. He said they spent time cutting & gathering wood for their fires. They constructed a stove out of empty meat cans. They had church services in the field. He asked his Mother to teach his wife, Pauline, how to knit sox so they could send him some. He interacted with a young French boy who taught him the ABC’s in French. He showed much concern for the plight of his parents. By November they had moved in with his sister, Mary.
In Mid November, he wrote that he was “making Christmas cards for some of the fellows.” I wonder what kind of drawings he did. November 22, the day before Thanksgiving he sent a V-mail letter. (Victory mail was a way to decrease the amount of space needed to transport mail from soldiers by transferring the letters to microfilm and then reprinting them for delivery.) The reprinted letter is about 4x5inches. In the letter he let his family know what he was thankful for.
By early December, he had moved again. Mail censors limited what he could tell the folks back home, but he was allowed to mention that he had visited Valognes, Paris & Cherbourg. The next week his APO address had changed to APO 403 which connected him to the US 3rd Army lead by General Patton. At this point he said he was “sleeping in permanent buildings (on the floor), enjoying warm fires, & eating our chow with a hospital unit.”
There was an interesting card in Edwin’s papers:
“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.”
From what I could find this card was issued to all members of the US 3rd Army, reportedly 250,000 cards were printed. Rain had been a significant problem for Patton’s forces throughout the Fall months. On December 8, 1944 he requested the Chaplain to find a prayer for improved weather conditions. By December 20, the weather had improved. On the back side of the Prayer card were Patton’s Christmas wishes for the troops.
“To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God’s blessing rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.”
December 16, 1944 was the start of the Ardennes campaign, otherwise known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” US forces worked to push the German army back through Belgium and Luxembourg toward the German lines. The “bulge” was the shape the battle line took initially as the Germans had pushed through the Allied lines creating what newspapers reported as a bulge in the lines. By January 16, 1945, the Allied forces had pushed the “bulge” back and the Germans were forced back to Germany. Heavy casualties were sustained on all sides of the fighting. It was considered one of the most desperate US battles in Europe.
I can’t find much information specifically about the 415th Collecting Company and their role in the European campaign. However, it is pretty obvious that they were assigned to support Patton’s 3rd Army forces during the Battle of the Bulge. Edwin may have been at the hospital base or closer to the front lines, transporting wounded. Regardless, I’m sure he was overwhelmed by what he saw.
His letters during this time tell of moving frequently, sometimes sleeping in buildings & sometimes in “squad tents” holding 16 men. On January 4 he wrote of being promoted to P.F.C. (Private First Class) and receiving the Good Conduct Medal. January 11 he wrote from the “ETO or European Theater of Operations or Somewhere in France.”
With the Battle of the Bulge won, in 1945 the US forces moved on toward the Rhine River & Germany.
Edwin moved on with the Army…
© MJM 2016