All good things must come to an end, so here I am again back with the boys, back from the beautiful girls, clubs, dances, movies, drinks, lights, laughter, and music. In those glorious hours of luxury I completely forgot the present, forgot the past, its hardships and sufferings, forgot the things that had yet to come, I only lived, lived with myself alone in a world of light and laughter. Can you see, can you possibly understand how I felt during those days? No! No one can, you have to live it yourself before you can understand thoroughly. Here is my story:
This was the day our C.Q. came and told me to get ready for 72 hours in Paris. I was to leave at 7:30 am Sat. the 10th! The first thing I had to have was money, so I went to each of my buddies to borrow. When I had finished my rounds I had collected one hundred and forty dollars cold cash - then I had to have clean clothes - another trip followed - at last I was ready, ready for the biggest event in my life. Sharp at 7:30 am we loaded up on a two and one half ton truck for the first leg of our trip, that was to reach the city of Reims before dark. Across the country of Luxembourg we went, entering into France once again.
One of the first things I noticed upon reaching France was how the people of France had cleaned up their beautiful country it certainly was amazing, they had done a wonderful job, you would never have known a war had passed through except for a few overturned tanks and etc. So much for that.
Upon reaching Reims it brought back all the memories we had in the Liberation of the city it certainly had changed; when we first entered the city back in '44 the people were giving away champagne by the bottle, now it is a different story. ($14.00 per. Bottle)
Early the next morning we started out to finish the last leg of our trip, to the city of Paris! We reached here in time for our first meal in Paris. Guess what hotel we had? The Grand Hotel!! The best and the most beautiful in all Paris located between "Madeleine" and "Opera". In the pre-war days, one would spend a great deal to stay at this hotel. To us it was free. The only thing we paid for was the meals.(10 Franks per) (20 cents.)
When we entered the hotel we were assigned our rooms then taken to them. Each man had one room to himself, a double bed, bath and etc.!! The rooms were really beautiful. The hotel was a lot better thank any I have seen in the United States, so you can imagine how this hotel was. After washing up, we went down for dinner in the dining room we found a huge room with a vast amount of tables, a waiter took us to one of these tables and had us seated then very quickly we were served by other waiters. The food was wonderfully prepared and served to a tee. As you know the French love their music so of course we had music with each meal
After finishing our meal we started looking around our hotel next to the dining room we found a very large bar where we could get all the cokes we wanted, along with donuts right out of the pan. It has been almost two years since I last tasted a coke, and, boy, did they taste good!
Outside, one of the first things I noticed was the beautiful girls. After being away and not seeing a really beautiful girl, well, you can imagine how I felt toward them. As you know Paris is noted throughout the world for its smart clothes, now I can believe that, for I have seen it with my own eyes, these girls have the American girls out-dressed 100%, they certainly know how to wear their things, really and truly they are and always will be the best dressed people of the world. This first day in the city was Sunday and of course everything was closed, just the same as it is there, Monday also.
Since it was Sunday we did a little window shopping, and found everything from soup to nuts. Prices as you can imagine are sky-high and the quality not so good that's in the line of jewelry, but as for perfume, you can't find anything better. I am sorry to say I didn't buy any, yes, I had the opportunity many times to buy it, but if I had spent a lot of money on a bottle for you and when it reached you it had been broken of it was just a cheap brand and you didn't like it, all that money would have been wasted, so I thought, if I could find something else more useful and less chance of breaking before reaching you, it would be a great deal better all the way around.
When we finished our, so called, window shopping it was time to head back for our supper. Finishing that we once again stepped out and to our surprise we found Paris very brightly lighted! After being constantly under the strain of blackout, this was like a beautiful dream. After an hours reconnoitering I had found a beautiful girl about eighteen years old to take to a dance and the many clubs. She was very nice and spoke a little English, so I was set for the rest of the evening.
The next morning I started out on a sight seeing tour by bus.(10 franks) throughout the trip I took notes so I could make this letter when I got back.
Our first stop was "The Opera". A really beautiful piece of work by Aime' Millet. On a flight of ten steps is an entrance hall, or covered gallery, into which one comes in, through seven semi-circular arcades, supporting a first floor. On each corner there is the bronze work showing "Harmony", and "Poetry". The next stop was, "Sainte Madeleine". A Greek temple-looking church. It was made by the architects of Louis XV.
next was, "Place De La Concorde," eight small pavilions around the place
support gigantic statues each after France's great cities, columns supporting
large street lamps complete the decoration of this place. In the center
is the Monument Napoleon brought from Egypt.
Then came the Eiffel tower you have to see it yourself to really see its beauty. There isn't anything I can say about this that you already don't know.
"The Colonne Vendome", really nice, it was awarded to the Grand Army (french) by Napoleon 1st , and decided to use the bronze of twelve hundred guns taken on the Austrians and the Russians to erect a triumphal column. On it , it has the 45 main feats of Arms during the campaign of 1805 and on the pedestal it has the military uniforms of the French and enemy armies.
The greatest thing of all came next, "Notre-Dame", No words can ever tell you how beautiful this church is. With its stain glass windows and great work of all time in sculpturally. I could go on all day about this place but you have seen many pictures and read many stories about it so I won't go into it again for you. They had a hard job of getting me away from there tho. I just couldn't stop admiring it.
From there we went to, "The Arch of Triumph", A great frieze which is on the four faces represents the departure and the return of the French Armies. Under and in the center of the Arch is the unknown soldier and on his tombstone is the " Remembrance Flame".
"Eglise Saint-Louis", or "Les Invalides". This monument
is beautiful and in the center under the dome of Louis XIV rests the body
of Napoleon 1st. The emperor's sarcophagus is made from red
Finland granite. From the windows around the monument there is a light
blue lighting which spreads throughout the room. Directly opposite the
entrance across the main room is an alter of gold, from the windows on
each side, gives the alter a gold tint. From here I took in most of the
famous stores where the famous designers have their studios.
"Chaillot Palace", These buildings are in built in a semi- circular style. So called moorish style, they were built for the 1878 International Exhibition and was transformed in 1937 for the International Exhibition of that year. Looking from the Eiffel tower in front of these buildings you see a beautiful garden with fountains and pools. Very nice.
This was our last stop and the end of the tour, and a very interesting too.
When at home I have traveled on New York subway's and while in London also. I had thought London's subway's were far better than ours and in the world, but after being on Paris' subway I found that theirs is far better than London of New York. Cleaner and very modern. Of course it takes a little time to get onto how it works but in time you learn and it becomes very easy. It was free to all allied troops, see we just walked in and out whenever we wanted. Along with the subways (metro in French) they have their many taxies and two decker busses. Another thing that was interesting were the carriages used as taxies, and the many bikes pulling little carriages used as another form of taxi. That finished our first day, you know, one could spend a month in Paris and still you wouldn't see everything there of interest.
The night before I made a date with the same girl, so I went back to the hotel to get dressed. After dressing I had another delicious meal and then to meet my date. Another night of clubs, music and drink. Remember way back when: I took Joan to New York City for a good time? Well this time it was the same but with another girl. Champagne and all!! Some fun and plenty of money is needed when you do the things I did.
The next morning I took a shower and then down to breakfast what consisted of fried eggs, ham, coffee, and dried cereal. Afterwards I started out to find something for you people back home. I found just what I was looking for and I have already mailed it on to you So expect it in a few weeks, maybe it will reach you before this, I hope it does. Another thing I did was to have my picture taken. So I'll send them on to you when I receive them myself. Inclosed you will find one picture and neg. They aren't so hot so I had those others taken. I'm going to keep the other five until I get the others. Then I'll pick out the best ones and send them on to everyone. At noontime I went back to the hotel to have dinner. Had chicken, soup, coffee, pie, and etc. Very nice, then after I had your gift sent home I had supper, of steak! Very, very good too. In Paris the A.R.C. has a store where all G.I.'s on pass can take their gifts and have them wrapped and sent home. Saves a lot of time and they are censored at the same time. After having supper I took off for the show named, "The Follies", something on the order of the "Zigfield Follies", only the girls in this show didn't have as many clothes as the Zigfield girls. Other than that it was very good. They had short scenes done in French and English. The scenery was really very beautiful and I enjoyed the whole show.
The A.R.C. has a office that gives us tickets free of charge to any of the shows and opera's just the same as it is in New York and throughout the states all the theaters are on the same order but over here its entirely a different story. These places are really beautiful inside, down stairs they have these big arm chairs with cigarette ash trays and a thick rug, it was something I have never seen either in the United States or England.
In a way I was lucky I had this girl with me, because, she took me to all the well known and the best clubs and cafe's. Yes, it did cost money but that was the least of my worries at that time. If I had tried to find these places myself I would be still looking and have had a rotten time. Things turned out differently and I had a swell time with her. Reached the hotel about, well lets say, in the early morning, and had breakfast and then for more shopping.
While a G.I. is on pass in Paris he gets to get into a P.X. that is just for such G.I.'s. I went and received my weekly rations and also to find anything from books to pens. It was really a wonderful P.X. better than any I have seen so far.
The few days I had in Paris are over and it is hard for me to believe, to think that I had spent so many wonderful hours doing what I pleased, eating when I liked, and sleeping when I wanted, so quickly the time passed. That is the way of life continues, the end comes very quickly and once more we go back to the normal way of life. Gone are the things that took away the past and its memories, gone are the things that made me laugh deep within my heart. Back once again to the present, back again to the ones I work with, pray, eat and sleep with. Once more to the things I knew, to the things that made a man out of me, and to my job I know so well.
When I reached here I found waiting for me a great deal of mail. Mom-(Sec. 29th '44- Jan. 5th '45 - Jan, 17th '45 Jan, 29th '45 -Feb, 9th '45) Dad-(Dec 17th '44 - Jan, 15th '45 - Jan, 29th '45) So I'll get busy and answer them now along with bringing you up-to-date with some news from, and about me.
Mother, when we get any boxes we just can't hang on to them without opening them. When your hungry and want candy and there might be some in a box that is marked "Do not open until Christmas" Well, do you see my point? I have written to you along way back thanking you for all the boxes and things you sent for Christmas, those letters must have been lost because I did receive all you sent and wrote to thank you for them.
Look! Many times when you don't hear from me you jump to things that aren't true. I write on the average once each week and I try to make those as long as possible. So, Please, when you don't hear from me don't think I'm not writing because I am. In these last weeks I've received many letters telling me to get on the ball and write home. When I get that stuff from outside the family it makes me sore. Sore, to think that they think I'm not writing when I am.
This army looks out for everything Mom and Dad, we have plenty of warm clothes and blankets. Its getting a lot warmer now so the worst is over as far as cold weather goes.
Hey, Dad, when you get stuff like those Commendations or anything pertaining to the 150 engr. do me a big favor and keep it out of the paper. It's a swell thing to do and it lets a lot of people know what I am doing, but it has one big disadvantage. That is a lot of men in this outfit are giving their folks back home a ring around the bush and when something comes out in a paper about the 150 it smashes everything these men had built up to save their people from worrying. Can you do this favor for me? When you do put something in the paper try and leave out the no. 150. How about it? Thanks Dad.
About this Matheus Park deal, I've asked quite a few men this question: "What would you want in your city if you had a choice of two things, either a stadium of a club for returning veterans"? Myself and the rest all agreed on one thing. That is" Why have a club for returning veterans? It would be just a novelty for about two weeks and then forgotten, besides, none of us would want a club. What in the hell would we do with one, sit around and talk of the past? No! None of us want to do that, once in a while it would be ok but not for any great length of time. Whereas, a stadium would be beneficial to everyone in the city, including every veteran of the wars. Sports will go on forever and has our city a stadium? No! We haven't anything in that line. If they want something for memories of the men who served, build a stadium and dedicate it to all veterans of this and the last. That is how we Engineers feel toward that question!!
So the wedding was a great success and I'm very happy it was. From all you wrote and from the article you sent, it sounded and must have been a beautiful wedding. Yes, I wish I could have been there but my day is coming, Mom, and it won't be long before we are all together again. At that time we can swap stories. Ok? I'm very glad to hear, Bill received my letter and in 18 days too. Not bad I say.
After returning from Paris, I found all your mail waiting, along with 18 more from my girls and friends, so you see at this time I am way back in the mail, so it will be some time before I can get caught up, but when I do I will write to your friends over here. Ok? I've gone so long without mail and now it all comes at once gives me a large job to do.
You bet I still want to go to college when I get back, Dad, I think I have forgotten a lot, that's one of the things I'm worrying about now. "Will I be able to make it without a refresher course? I sure hope I can, and this G.I. bill" will help out a lot on the money angle. Right? Don't ever worry about me not going to college, Dad, I want to go even more so now.
About a month ago I lost my truck ("Mad-Jack") because of drive shafts connections to the housings. So they turned it in for another one. About two weeks later I received another truck and it was a honey. About two weeks ago I had the same trouble and had to turn that one in, now I'm waiting for my third one. The last truck was ok except a mother shell landed very close while I was rolling along and put a few holes through the sides and tires (flats of course, followed) then I had it parked along side of a building and it received more holes from direct enemy fire. But she got me and a platoon out of the place while under fire. When I reached camp I took a look and I found four flats and holes throughout the truck that was one time she didn't let me down, if she had, we would have been dead ducks for sure! Good 'ol "Mad-Jack II". I can go into that in more detail in a few weeks so I'll drop it for now. Right?
That's swell you received Commendations I was sort of worried that they were lost in the mail. Something else for the scrapbook, right!
Dad! "How often do you get to a rest camp?" Ever since we have left the states we haven't seen the inside of a "rest camp". Anyway I wouldn't want to go they are to G.I. they even put you on K.P. they're so nuts to that stuff, but, I wish we could have a good rest tho. Don't worry about washing and sleeping, we get time for that. In my next letter I go into more detail about our living conditions. Ok? Charl is nuts to ask for combat but no one can tell him what it's like so what's the use of trying?
I'll go into that German Break Through in my next letter also.
Hope your right, Dad, maybe I'll get home soon if everything turns out the right way. Thanks for the map it came in handy. No trench foot Dad, with warm weather coming on it looks as if I won't get it. Lucky as I am. If they offer me a 30 day leave, the only spot I want to go is back to my, Mom and Pop and I will turn down everything else until I get that trip, back to you both. This is all for now, I hope I didn't make this too long.
With all the love in the world,