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US Army

Letters to Home

Letters to Home

 
December 23, 1944
 

It is 0930 hours and cold.  I am writing with my gloves and overcoat on, and my earmuffs down.  We have been up all night, so this will only be a quick note to let you know I am OK and wishing I could be shopping for a Christmas present for you.  I got your box of figs, peaches, and grape juice.  Dried apples would be nice in the next one.  Hint!  I must close for now.  Don’t worry about me and tell Butch his daddy will be home by the time Santa come again.

 
 
Lt Russell Kelch, Les Batty, Belgium (January 1945)
 
Christmas Day, 1944 
 
I have been thinking of you so much today, but writing had to be put off as we were busy.  It’s bitterly cold, so I have to write with my gloves on.  Our canteens were froze solid this morning, but we dug most of the night so stayed fairly warm.  It is almost dark now, so I am crawling in the bedroll to keep warm.  There was a church service in our position area, and the singing of carols sounded nice from a distance.  It is rough to sleep in a hole that water seeps into and crawl out and try to pull on frozen overshoes with chapped, bleeding fingers.  We don’t drink after 1400 hours because our bathroom doesn’t have central heating at night.  Ha!  Guess we will have to get the thermostat fixed. 
 
December 28, 1944 
 
It is so cold.  This is strictly a test of endurance.  Our shelter here is poor as we are out in the open with only a barricade of poles, frozen mud, and a tarp on top.  In the mornings, our breath turns to frost on the ceiling.  Naturally, we can’t have fires at night, plus we have to be careful in the daytime as the smoke make targets for Jerry.  There is a big, full moon at night, and I think of you when I look at it.  Jerry likes the moon too.  One of the men shot a wild boar here the other day. 
 
December 31, 1944
 
It is snowing now, so blots may appear on the paper.  We are trying to keep warm by a tiny 5-gallon oil can heater.  It’s either red hot or out!   Yesterday, I saw all my old buddies from the 195th Field artillery Battalion, the unit I was in before going to Ft Lewis.  It was really a nice surprise to see them all.  Next to coming home, I think it was the nicest present I could have had for Christmas.  I have a “delicious” can of “C” rations (hash) heating on the stove, so will close for now.
 
January 1, 1945
 
My first letter of the year naturally goes to my best girlfriend, namely you.  I haven’t any news.  We’re freezing as usual.  I haven’t had a letter for two weeks.  I hope you and Butch are feeling fine.  Don’t feed him too many vitamins; he will rattle like a bean bag.  I thing they are fake anyway.
 
January 2, 1945
 
The ground is now frozen 6” deep, so foxholes can be dug into a bank and have a self-supporting roof.  However, the first 6” is all pick work.  We are sleeping in a barn allotting some space to a horse, a cow, and a goat.  Last night, the goat walked over my face.  No damage!  Night move are hell.  It gets about 10”, and time drags as we creep over icy roads.  It is snowing again.  I guess our winter training was useful after all.  I drank coffee last night and had to get up twice in the middle of the night.  Ugh!  My hips ache so in the morning from the cold, hard ground that I can hardly move; it takes the romance out of soldiering. 
 
January 5, 1945 
 
By the way, if you are running out of ideas for filling boxes, you can always put in French’s mustard, sweet pickles, ripe olives, spudettes, and cranberry sauce in a can.  The candy isn’t so good because we always eat too much, and the peanuts make us thirsty.  However, anything is welcome that’s edible.  Just now, it’s snowing quite hard.  There are 11 of us crowed in a tiny room here trying to absorb a bit of heat and writing letters.  Two men are field stripping telephones.  The cold weather causes the moisture from our breath to freeze in the mouth piece.  One man is polishing an ashtray made from a 105 case.  I am enclosing a newspaper article on my cousin, Cpl Dean Kelch, who is a parachute rigger for the 8th Air Force. 
 
January 6, 1945
 
An old woman who lives near here was baking bread this morning.  Her beehive-shaped, brick oven is intriguing.  Her loaves are round (about 14” across) and hard as rocks.  The old man flailed out the grain the other day from bundles in the barn where we sleep.  Apparently, they thrash it is they need flour.  Every animal is a pet, even the pig.  He is always talking to his cow and scratching its ears.  He talks to the horse too, like you would talk to another person.  The manure pile is in the front yard, and one pet chicken is allowed in the house.  The old lady scrubs real hard though, so it isn’t like a chicken house.  All of the houses in Europe have the barns attached to the house.  I had a little wild boar meat last night.  It tastes like a cross between pork, beef, and bear.
 
January 7, 1945
 
It is trying to snow again this morning.  The countryside is a glaze of ice.  I found out as soon as I stepped out.  Nothing hurt except my dignity.  The old man who lives here is 62, and his wife is 60.  She has adopted us and fusses over us.  She worries about us sleeping cold in the barn and tries to give us milk and stuff.  Actually, they are starving.  Their entire worldly goods are tied up in this small farm: one horse, three cows, a pig, a goat, a dog, and about a dozen chickens.  They have a walking plow and a homemade harrow, and two two-wheel carts. 
 
January 9, 1945 
We have been having heavy snow the last few days.  The roads are very slick.  I know, I fell down five times the other night besides falling in a shell hole while looking for a place mark for my aiming circle.  Holes look flat when covered with snow.  Then I fell into a bomb crater (also unseen in the snow), and I topped it off by falling through the ice in a ditch.  Remember when…. Oops, we just lost all the glass out of the small window here; the concussion from our guns really wrecks window panes and tile roofs.  Now the plaster is coming down.  What a life!
 
January 12, 1945
 
It snowed again last night.  I had a haircut yesterday, and we had a new drink for breakfast this morning.  It is called V8.  It’s a mixture of tomato juice and vegetables—very good.  Have you tried it?  Our radio operator just opened one of his packages from home and found of all things a shoeshine kit.  Is he ever browned off.  It’s almost chow time.  We had chicken last night.  I sure would like to be sitting down to one of your roast pork meals with carrots, spuds, and apple pie.  We are taking it easy and not working too hard now.  Our battalion has now tossed out over 60,000 rounds or three million dollars or about 55,000 pounds of ammunition.
 
Source: Fire mission, 591st Field Artillery Battalion, March 2004 
By Lt Russell KELCH

591st Field Artillery

Battalion

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium