This concluded Dan’s first-hand account of action from 1943 when he first arrived in London, France and several other places in Europe.
Continuing from yesterdays end:
But from that night on, never a moment of the day or night was free from the threat of the V-1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-1_flying_bomb
I saw my first one on Wimbledon Common where we went to practice surveying on that first morning. Anti-aircraft began firing. Quickly flashing across the sky appeared an unusual-looking plane, making a very loud roar. Puffs of AA fire followed harmlessly in its wake. Suddenly a flash of fire lit up its tail and the motor conked out. The plane drove straight to earth. A loud explosion and a pall of smoke marked the precipitate conclusion, and the AA battery on Wimbledon claimed a direct hit. They had seen the fire in the tail! But when every strange plane went through the same tactics it became clear that the “planes” were robot bombs and that night, upon seeing them flash across the sky, you realized that they were jet-propelled. There began a night-mare of nervous tension that became worse as the buzz bombs increased. A fire bell system in the billets chimed every time a buzz bomb came near, keeping us awake all night and keeping us nervous all day. Added to the local den was the roar of the approaching bomb, sounding like a whole fleet of heavy bombers passing close and shaking the air. Then the motor would speed up, cut dead, and shortly thereafter would come the distant (or close) boom and the characteristic pall of smoke drifting upwards. Things got so bad after a few days of this that we were sent out every day to assist in moving bombed-out families. We saw damage at first hand, and it wasn’t pretty. In the movies, whenever the soundtrack omitted a noise resembling a roar, people would become fidgety, wondering if it might not be a buzz bomb on his way. Richmond was hit. Wimbledon was right in line, as was all of South London. That was why we were glad to set off for the peace and quiet of the Normandy bridgehead. Later we learned that a buzz bomb had made a direct hit on the Kew billets, killing three and wounding many.
3 – Beachhead bombing. While we were near Isigny, the field next to ours was hit by a bomb one night. A fire was started but soon extinguished. No one was killed. We all settled back to sleep. Some minutes or hours later, while it was still dark, I was startled by a loud explosion from the same field across the road. We learned next morning that the belated explosion was a delayed-action bomb which killed several men.
Those are the only times I have been in danger.Some of our outfit were near Liege during the Arnheim Bulge last winter and suffered from a great number of buzz bombs, but none of our company has been killed by enemy action. I saw one of our officers killed in a truck accident back in Normandy. I believe he is our only loss by death. As is so frequently the case, he was our best-liked officer.
At the present we are living in Maastricht in southern most Holland. Our billet is a Franciscan school — part of a convent. Our work takes us to Belgium and Germany quite frequently.
During the past two days many Dutch “slave laborers” have come to Maastreicht from Germany. For the most part they are from Amsterdam and Rotterdam, which cities are so badly damaged that they cannot yet handle their displeased citizens. Truckload after truckload of dirty and decrepit but cheering and smiling man, and even women and children, have arrived in our neighborhoods to be billeted temporarily until homes can be found for them.
Tomorrow and Sun day, in a Tribute to Arla, more letters of condolence received by Grandpa after the death of his young wife.
Next week I’ll be posting letters written in 1941. Lad has finally come home from Venezuela, Dan and Ced have been in Alaska for about a year and Dick has been with them for a few months after delivering a car to the frozen north.